Storm Front by Jim Butcher (book review)

Happy Monday!

I hope everyone had as good of a holiday weekend as I had (I consider Friday the 13th to to be a holiday and a decidedly not-unlucky day).  After a weekend full of psychobilly and general excitement, I figured given that something equally creepy would be in good  style.  I have been reading The Bootlegger by John E. Hallwas and had ambitious plans to have it finished by Thursday last week and be ready to review today…however as it’s a good book (BONUS MINI BOOK PREVIEW) it’s about as dry as a wrung rag: it’s not dripping with excitement but it’ll do.  What was also adding to the lack of dampness were the other 3 books I was nibbling on the side, Storm Front being one(1) that, like the other books I’ve read in the Dresden Files series have been, ends up being too good to just nibble on(2) (I seriously feel like trying to nurse a Dresden Files novel is like, for me, trying to eat a soft oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, my favourite cookie for anyone taking notes, in no less than 200 bites: I’m not a strong enough man for that).

(NOTE:  My friend Brad Evans, same guy who originally recommended the Dresden Files to me in the first place, wrote a great post on the graphic novel omnibus that covers the first three books of the Dresden Files (including Storm Front, obv) which can be read here: “spoiler free book review dresden files graphic novel omnibus one”)

storm front

Fun Fact: Jim Butcher never mentioned Harry Dresden wearing a hat but there was a miss commutation between him and the cover artist.  I’m glad Butcher gave the hat the green light.

Storm Front begins the Dresden Files, a hard boiled detective noir style story series, which follows a fellow who’s yellow pages advert reads:

Harry Dresden – Wizard

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable rates. No Love potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

The series falls squarely in the urban fantasy sub genre being set in an okay middle American city called Chicago(3), which this series as a whole plays as an interesting counter part to a similar series (also urban fantasy, also a detective/action series) I read called Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter which is set in St Louis which I may revisit at some point.

The novel opens as one would expect a detective noir story to open: “Hard Luck Harry” sitting in his office killing time whilst waiting for work to come in when something disrupts his waiting

“I heard the mailman approach my office door, half an hour earlier than usual.”
-Storm Front, 1

Which sets an interesting president for use of common tropes for the rest of the novel which, despite how that sounds, is a really “good-interesting” thing.

I do like to complain about over used tropes in books(4) mostly because the fact that a motif becomes a trope is because it works however for it to continue to work in an interesting manour one has to make interesting use of said trope(5) and that’s  something Butcher excels with in this first book.

Storm Front follows the format of a good detective novel: the A-story explores Harry Dresden’s “day life” as a consultant to the CPD Special Investigations unit investigating the mysterious and brutal death of a couple whilst the B-story explores Harry’s “night life” as a private eye on the case of a missing husband.  The character line up is classically balanced with a “good cop, bad cop” duo, a few femme fatales, and a healthy number of potential threats and suspects that intertwine both the A and B stories.

I cannot recommend this book enough, nor can I write much more without spoilers, so with that if you haven’t read this book or any Dresden Files book (they are all in a continuous story line but each book works pretty well standing alone) I encourage you to to treat your self to an excellent read.

Tune in Friday continuing The Adventures of Fin and Louie.

-fin

 

Footnotes:

  1. I’m also reading The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson and Letters from the Underworld by Dostoevsky both of which will get book reviews in the coming months.
  2. Before I started writing this blog I had read a few Dresden Files books starting with Skin Game, which is the current novel as of this writing, and from that first novel I was FUCKING HOOKED! I normally read an average of 100-200 pages in a good week and that book was 454 pages.  I finished that shit in 3 days.
  3. The fact that St Louis consistently lives in Chicago’s shadow despite St Louis’s important and historically significant contribution in the development of the United States and the westward expansion plus the fact that we, as a city, are older than the United States as a fucking country is a constant sore spot culturally for St Louis folk.  At least our baseball team doesn’t suck.

    cardinals

    I’m not even a sportsball fan but that shit’s funny.

  4. Mostly. I generally just accept that most TV and Movies have to be held to a lower bar than the average book (in my personal opinion) however I do deeply appreciate a well crafted movie and watching video essays channels on youtube such as such as Lessons from the Screenplay, Every Frame a Painting,  and Now You See It, that pick apart movies on technical levels of aspects I just don’t appreciate because I have no experience with film making.
  5. I’m not entirely convinced that we can write stories that don’t at all rely on some sort of trope or another since these bits of culturally or historically familiar archetypes seem to help ground the story in literary reality or in a cannon of understood story telling because even some of the most enigmatic stories I’ve read had some sort of possible archetypal understanding of the characters whether it be reading House of Leaves as a modern interpretation of Odin’s addiction to wisdom and Frigg’s journey of self-realisation through disassociation or Infinite Jest’s use of Socratic Dialogues via Marthe and Steeply as mouth-pieces.  I’m  sure they’re out there and I’d love to read one, if you think you know of one feel free to leave a comment or sent me a message.

 

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Stream of Consciousness Theatre presents: Friday the 13th

Happy Monday!

I’ve always been fond of the day Friday in general.  For example, I was born on a Sunny Friday just past 12noon. Growing up I had an interest in norse and greek mythology and since then I’ve discovered an interest for etymology(1) which has since lead me to appreciate Friday more as the day was named after the Norse Goddess Frigga

Friday (n.)
sixth day of the week, Old English frigedæg “Friday, Frigga’s day,” from Frige, genitive of *Frigu (see Frigg), Germanic goddess of married love. The day name is a West Germanic translation of Latin dies Veneris “day of (the planet) Venus,” which itself translated Greek Aphrodites hemera. Source: “Friday” Etymology Online

 

I’ve always, also, been fond of the number 13 in general.  For example, the number 13 is a “happy number” mathematically(2) but also it makes me happy because it’s the baker’s dozen (there’s gotta be a “test pastry” for the baker, right?).  Fin and Louie also like pastries. 

Copy of Wanted Western Themed Party Invitation Flyer Template   

Given the sum of the parts Friday, a day celebrating love and beauty, and 13 being a number with such happy connotations, Friday the 13th should be a good day.  And it is depending on what you’re taking into consideration.  

friday-the-13th-movies

Given how well this movie franchise has done, I’m starting to question how much Americans actually dislike Friday the 13th


Despite, or rather because, the fact that so many Americans have a stigma for Friday the 13th, it’s one of the best days for driving because the superstitious are less likely to be on the road leaving the rest of us sociopathic vehicle operators which sounds like an amusing day on the road.  However in reality, I couldn’t find statically significant data proving whether it’s a safer day for driving or robbing a bank or anything.  

The main reason this day has any “significance” is because of various rumours and pieces of propaganda throughout history involving legendary figures like Knights Templar and King Harold II and their demise, none of which has any significant historical basis other than in the Christian tradition of demonising non-Christian symbols, mythologies, and deities in a quest for spiritual world dominance (which does have a significant, and rather bloody at that, historical basis).  

These pieces of sensationalist legend about Friday the 13th being a satanically evil day can be called conspiracy theories or propaganda but since they lack any significant factual basis there’s a more modern term appropriate for it: Fake News.  Don’t let people others tell you how you should feel about a specific day because that’s submitting to a form of mind control.  I’m serious.

One of the key challenges for me on a regular basis, and I know that I’m  not the only one who struggles with this, is knowing when and to what extent to question myself and my beliefs.  Over the course of the last 5 years I’ve been forced to examine, dissect, and reassemble almost every aspect of my life (it all started when I turned 24 and I took my first solo trip cross country and realised a few weeks in “What’s my end game here?”).  Welcome to The Quarter-Life Crisis: The Millennial Generation’s individual and collective struggle to find meaning.  

quarter-life-e-card

2 real 4 me

I’ve always been a worker but I haven’t always sought meaningful work.  For the first 5 years of my working life I did whatever made me money and I used to pull in(3).  Then I went off to my second music festival and I came home dirty broke, beautiful, free, and in the mood to quit my job and become a hobo (find work that took me traveling) because despite my new found feelings of freedom I was still trapped just in a cage of a new making.  

The process took years to fully manifest and for me to become deeply aware of what it was that was driving my incessant need to escape.  My first reading of the book Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace was like a light that caught the bars of cage in just a way that sparked my sense of self-awareness.  I began the book 4 months before I decided to stop drinking (for a long while at minimum)(4) and finished it after 3 months sober(5).  One of the motifs in Infinite Jest (IJ) is this concept of “The Cage”.  

“The Cage” as I understand it can be summed up in a joke one of the side characters tells Don Gately, a main character

“Bob Death smiles coolly (South Shore bikers are required to be extremely cool in everything they do) and manipulates a wooden match with his lip and says No, not that fish-one. He has to assume a kind of bar-shout to clear the noise of his idling hawg. He leans in more toward Gately and shouts that the one he was talking about was: This wise old whiskery fish swims up to three young fish and goes, ‘Morning, boys, how’s the water?’ and swims away; and the three young fish watch him swim away and look at each other and go, ‘What the fuck is water?’ and swim away.  The young biker leans back and smiles at Gately and gives an affable shrug and blatts away, a halter top’s tits smashed against his back.” (445)

The way I understand The Cage is not only the physical presence of the water, in this situation I am a fish, but also becoming aware of it’s overwhelming presence and what to do about it.  

IMG_20171009_081240

A fish sticks joke AND a Ghost in the Shell joke? hahaha…I crack me up anyway


Once I became aware of the scope of The Cage, it became very clear to me that I would have to begin the long process of finding what “meaningful work” means to me and then once I’ve defined it, beginning the journey to find (or more likely create) that job.  This blog is a step in the right direction.

Thank you for helping to be apart of that journey.  

Tune in Wednesday for a Hellbound Special Edition of Rewind Wednesday (returning for a limited time, future posting unclear).

-fin       

 

Footnotes:

  1. I can pinpoint the precise moment when I became intrigued by the concept of etymology, of which I had a blithe indifference towards prior, and how a precisely chosen word can  add to the flavour of a text. October 2006, the first time I read House of Leaves and I got to page 114. I posted about it on Labour day a few weeks ago on Instagram.
  2. And this is why I love math and wikipedia: “A happy number is a number defined by the following process: Starting with any positive integer, replace the number by the sum of the squares of its digits in base-ten, and repeat the process until the number either equals 1 (where it will stay), or it loops endlessly in a cycle that does not include 1. Those numbers for which this process ends in 1 are happy numbers, while those that do not end in 1 are unhappy numbers (or sad numbers).[1]

    Or applied to our example:

    13 is happy
    1^2 + 3^2 = 10
    1^2 + 0^2 =  1

    Also, thankfully, the proof for 13 being happy is much shorter than the proof for 7 being happy (I was hoping it wouldn’t be…)

    IMG_20171009_064303

    I gave up after 9 steps. 9 is an unhappy number.

    For more information, see the WolfRam page on  Happy Numbers.

  3. I used to work in speciality retail on commissions and despite my love for the word “fuck”, I made a pretty fucking good salesman (consistently top in the company for the 2 years I worked there).
  4. In spirit of transparency, I was sober collectively for 12 of 14 months and just before returning home to the US I decided I had cleared my head enough to suss out some deeper concerns and now I do have a few beers some times.  I still don’t really do hard liquor except on special occasions.      
  5. Now that I’m thinking about it (this is all strange coincidence) I started Infinite Jest a second time because after reading it for the first time whilst trying to go sober, whilst working full time, whilst going to school full time (English Lit, reading a lot for class), whilst trying to get paperwork and self (mentally, emotionally, physically) ready to travel abroad for a year or so, whilst dealing with an expiring lease and trying to work out couch surfing plans for the month before I left the country whilst trying to think about organising a birthday/going away party at the end of the summer before I left (birthday: 23rd September; fly: 1st October) whilst starting a new blog, I had a lot on my mind.  So after the first time finishing it, most people I’ve spoken to who have finished it think “…what the fuck, man?”, I couldn’t even manage that.  I was pretty sure I had missed literal chunks of the narrative from drunk-over or sleep deprived reading.  I decided to start reading the book again the day I flew (or intended to) and finished it for the second time just after getting home (which was around the same time I same time I decided to crack a cold one with the boys, after getting home that is not finishing the book despite the ending).  

The Pesthouse by Jim Crace (book review)

Happy Monday!

As I mentioned last week I have for you today a very spirited book review of The Pesthouse by Jim Crace, another one of those books that “…the kind of book that when you finish it, you want to toss it against a wall” however in this context that’s not a particularly good thing and it disappoints me to say that.

The Pesthouse, a post-apocalyptic story set in the United States, opens up with some of the strongest writing in the entire book. Consider the opening paragraph:

“Everybody died at night. Most were sleeping at the time, the lucky ones who were too tired or drunk or deaf or wrapped too tightly in their spreads to hear the hillside, destabilized by the rain, collapse and slip beneath the waters of the lake. So these sleepers (six or seven hundred, at a guess; no one ever came to count or claim the dead) breathed their last in passive company, unwarned and unexpectedly, without any fear. Their final moments, dormant in America.” (1)

However this is from the preface from a character named Nash, who is never revisited and very loosely related to the story in a rather irrelevant way which is a shame as he might have been a more interesting or likable character than the lot Crace has cast for us. Once the narrative proper starts with chapter one page eight, the quality of writing

the pest house

Instead of ‘The Pesthouse’ this book should be renamed ‘The Passivehouse because almost the ENTIRE novel is written in the passive past tense voice.

goes down for me because nearly the rest of the book is written in this slow dead-paced passive voice

“Franklin Lopez had not been sleeping in Ferrytown, though [he had] wanted to. [He had] not been sleeping anywhere, in fact. [Could not] sleep. [He had] weathered such pain the day before that [he had] been forced to consider…” (8) italics for emphasis

Notice in 3.5 sentences Crace uses “had” 5 times (I count conjunctions ie the original quote reads “he’d” and I extrapolated it for emphasis as [he had]) and another passive past tense word “could” once. I’ve had creative writing teachers who would not accept your story if it was written entirely in the passive voice unless it was used for specific reasons (an example that comes to mind is the story format of the frame story where a character, usually a lead is remembering back and telling us [both the reader and the audience in the context of the story] their story complete with

pat rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss can grow a sexy beard

foreshadowing because of hindsight insight, an excellent example of this story structure executed masterfully is The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss and The Pesthouse does not present a reason for this stylistic choice.

Without giving spoilers, I found the story to generally drag on until about the final act when the story converges with a strange religious sect when both the story and writing quality improved enough to help me push through to the rather anticlimactic ending.

Overall I really didn’t like this novel because it felt like a first draft of something that could have been much more interesting rather than a cash grab at the Post-apocalyptic America-land trend(1). If this was Crace’s first novel, I’d be much more lenient because this novel does have potential to be something more interesting however it’s his 10th novel in 20 years and not only but he’s an award winning author and a member of the Royal Society of Literature. I haven’t read Crace’s other novels but if after 20 years this is what he can produce, I am not impressed.

Footnotes:

  1. Whilst in the UK and talking with one of my friends on the subject of post-apocalyptic stories, she pointed out to me a distinct lack of non-american set post-apocalyptic stories particularly none she could think of taking place in the UK [I failed to remember, somehow, that Children of Men takes place in the UK] and whilst on the subject of the post-apocalyptic trend in media I do want to note that I would really like to see more stories set in places that are not america for a change or maybe more interesting types of apocalyptic events like H.P. Lovecraftian monsters enslave the human race or aliens visit the planet, unbenounced to humans, and grant all the octopi super high tech helmets that allow them to build structures and complex tools which leads them to creating an alien atlantis which then leads them to land excursions and demanding rights leading to interspecies civil war (they create helmets for dogs and pickles and things too), or maybe all the water on the planet turns to jell-o (or jelly for my UK readers) and it’s like a science thriller race against time to figure out a way to turn the jell-o into water again or something fucking original (zombies are cool and I will likely never get my proper fill of zombie media but seriously there are other interesting crisis to subject fictional humans to).

SPOILERS BELOW

Continue reading

Never Let Me Go (Book Review)

ANNOUNCEMENT My housemate and I were attacked whilst riding bikes around South City on Friday night.  After giving our statement to the police they told us there’s been 13 reported assaults (also my friend was robbed and my next door neighbor’s house was broken into all on Friday night).  I know not all of you are St Louis based but if you are please stay safe out there folks.

Happy Monday!

Just before leaving the UK a friend of mine, a fellow foreigner (I being American, her Thai), gave me a few books that she’d read and didn’t want to take home with her when her time came.  My friend she described this and another book, The Pesthouse by Jim Crace (which I will also be writing a review about), as “the kind of book that when you finish it, you want to toss it against a wall”.  I’m not entirely sure what she meant by that, whether she meant she liked or disliked them so much to cause a burst of such passion but these books did evoke a strong emotional response, one in each direction (one good, one poor).  Originally I was planning to do a double review both books seem to tell similar stories but I ultimately nixed the idea because I found I had too much to say about each book.

never let me goNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is what I call a “light dystopian” novel or a novel where the dystopian aspect isn’t entirely prominent in the story’s setting but still plays a vital role in the plot.(1)  The story follows a trio of friends (Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy) from childhood in a boarding school to adulthood in a narrative that can be equally classified equally as an coming of age or mystery or love story.  

 

The dystopia angle of this book wasn’t clear to me from the beginning as it took me until about chapter 7 (p70 – 81) to appreciate what was happening and why, however I believe that subtlety is intentional in Ishiguro’s enigmatic stream of consciousness type writing style presented in Never Let Me Go.  Ishiguro’s attention to detail from the chapter lengths nearly all being a measured 10 pages in length(2) to his ability to weave extremely non-linear story without losing narrative focus is extremely impressive.  

I’m going to be honest: I didn’t fall in love with this book right away but what gripped me from the beginning was Ishiguro’s drumhead tight prose and conversational style that feels so very casual, as if Kathy is just having a conversation with the reader about her memories, that a trick is played where it looks as if storytelling is an effortless endevour that anyone who’s ever told a story can embark on.  However now that I’ve finished the book, in the process it wrung a pint of tears from my eyes, I realise that my reluctance to love this book didn’t come from any lack of quality or resonance but that like the characters in this book, I was holding on to previous feelings about the last book I read (The Pesthouse) and not letting myself be entirely receptive to what Never Let Me Go could offer until it was nearly over.  I say this with intention of being the highest of compliments: I will be re-reading this book at least a couple more times.   

 

Footnotes:

  1. Contrast this with a “heavy dystopian” novel such as The Road by Cormic McCarthy and the distinction becomes clear (or so I hope).
  2. This technique adds to the subtle power of the style by reinforcing expectations for each chapter to be a specific length which when that pattern is broken in later chapters leaves an unconscious impression on the reader.         

***SPOILERS BELOW***
Continue reading

Stream of Consciousness Theatre Presents: Letting go

Happy Monday!

Letting go is something I think about frequently, mostly because I have such an issue with letting go (or so I’m told by just about everyone I know).  Shoes are an excellent example.  I’ve never been much of a driver, I briefly had a car(1) for about a year between the ages of 19 and 20, and after I got kicked off my school bus at the tender age

shoes

These shoes have seen hundreds of ran miles, 1000’s of walked miles, 10’s of bicycling miles, 3 countries, 4 states, and countless hours of work at two different jobs since July 2016. 

of eight for fighting too much(2) I became an avid walker and later bicyclist.  However when you walk and ride literally everywhere, coupled with an on-and-off running habit, you chew through some shoes.

 

I need new shoes.  It’s not a problem of money (I do okay between my day job and side work), it’s not a problem of transportation (my relaxed crusing speed is  about 20mph, I like to go fast), and as much as I may bitch about time that’s not it either (I work an average of 40 hours, have a very active social life, and the blog eats up another 15 hours) the problem is: letting go.  For me I develop this ambivalence of disgust and endearment the more beat up and torn and generally wreked my shoes get.

I mentioned getting new shoes to my boss and he said “What’s wrong with you?! Those shoes complete this ‘hobo-chic’ look you got going on.” (3) I still don’t know if he was being sarcastic.(4)  Comments like this don’t help motivate me to get new shoes because I feel like I hold on to things (not just material objects, honestly not even most stuff I hold on to are material(5)) and people and emotions and stories I tell about my self and the things I’ve done and the people I’ve met and known as a way to some how solidify my identity.

I’ve always lived by phrases like “You are what you do” (I work, I am a worker; I write, I am a writer; I create, I am a creator) and “You can tell a lot about a person based on the company they keep”(6), and my favourite “You can learn a lot about a person based on their shoes”.  Sure they’re cliche but I feel like they’re bits of wisdom that resonate with how I shape my identity.

I work for a living and my shoes reflect that.  I’m not bothered with material possessions and my shoes reflect that.  I rather be underestimated so I can surprise people and my shoes reflect that.

Logically I know I’ve well gotten my money’s worth from this pair(7) and I also know that winter is coming.

winter is coming

The idea of Jon Snow shoveling my sidewalk is as funny as it is hot.

Soon my shoes will be new and so they will say different things about me.  I’m pretty adaptable and don’t usually resist change but letting go of some things like old shoes, old friends, incompatible partners, toxic feelings, and all the other things we feel we deserve mostly because we’ve invested so much time and effort in them is hard even if we consciously recognise their less than productive effects.

The one thing I’ve struggled with the most in this regard, referring to letting go, is recognising that time invested does not equate to quality of investment whether that be relationships (friends, family, partners, etc) or literal investments of things (such as shoes).  I am learning to let go, slowly, because I believe it’s going to become a critical skill to my future as an entrepreneur and a generally healthy human being.

Speaking of letting go, tune in next Monday when I post my review of “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro.

-Fin

 

Footnotes:

  1. 1988 Corsica, she was a beast.  Lived for a solid 20 years before she got too decapitated due to, honestly, poor upkeep from both my father then me which is the story of how I bought a car for $1 once.
  2. I got bullied a lot (surprise surprise) and I don’t take shit (chat shit, get hit).
  3. I’ve had more than a few partners tell me “I don’t know why but you have this kinda dirty look about you that’s really fucking hot even though I feel like it shouldn’t be”.  I don’t know how I feel about all that but I have kinda embraced the whole hobo (not to be mixed up with a bum, hobo’s work for a living but they travel where the work takes them) thing over the years.
  4. I struggle with sarcasm for some reason which was another layer of culture adjustment when I was in the UK (Little known fact: Sarcasm, not English, is the primary spoken language in the UK).
  5. I’m a practicing minimalist.
  6. I’m actually in the process of re building my social life to surround myself with people who are ambitious and self motivated, as I am, and aspire to be bigger than them selves (being in and contributing to a community, starting a community, etc) because one think I remember reading from some hokey “self-help” books was that you will only be as successful (on average) as your most successful acquaintance.  If you surround yourself with lazy bastards, you may resist but you’ll never get full support.  Surround yourself with like minded ambitious and motivated peoples and you’ll find inspiration and support everywhere.  Then whilst you grow, then you’re able to give back support and bring in new young people in the fold.  Rising waters raises all ships.
  7. I have to buy nice hiking shoes (like $100 minimum) due to my active life style otherwise I will eat through 2-5 pairs a year depending on quality (nicer shoes, maybe 2 pair; cheapy shoes, closer to 5) and it over all comes out to the same price however if I spend a bit upfront, I make one shoe run a year, if I go cheapy I will be running to the damn store ever few months and I will always feel like my shoes are always fucking falling apart.

State of the Blog Address: Summer’s End and New Beginnings

Happy Monday and good morning!

I want to first give credit to the featured image.  The featured image is the album art for

summers end

Featured Image for those on mobile

the band “Summer’s End” self titled debut album.  They’re a metalcore punk band and a link to the full album on youtube can be found here (it’s pretty fucking hardcore so far) Summer’s End (Full Album) and if you like them you can purchase their full album here.

Okay folks, apologies and thank yous are first in order.   First I want to apologise for not being able to write a proper post since I left the UK in June.  I wasn’t able to post because I broke my laptop whilst in England long ago and I didn’t want to buy a new one before coming home because of how annoying it can be to travel internationally, especially coming into America, and I have already moaned about the technical difficulties I had once I got it however this post is not for moaning, so quit it (I yell at myself sometimes, I have to keep me in line).

Thank yous are the second part of this introduction and as they maybe brief that makes them no less heart felt.  First I want to thank all of you who kept checking back and reading my archived posts over the last few months. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even check my stats until yesterday because I was so anxious about how dead it would be but when I finally did check them I was really fucking surprised to have found consistent traffic the last few months and that’s all because of readers like you.  Another giant thank you goes out to my friend Lucian who fixed my computer when I was at “rage quit” level of frustration.

rage quit

I have a laptop but this is pretty accurate. Source

Okay so now on to the main presentation: I’m gonna be pretty much rapid firing from the hip on this post because I have a lot of territory to cover in the next 654 words or so (1).  First I want to say that I really loved my time in the UK and that even thinking about it now, leaving to come come was one of the most difficult decisions I have made in the last few years(2) however now that I’ve been back for a few months and working and generally building a life, I feel as if I have made the correct decision.  The traveling home was much better than the traveling to the UK(3), thankfully, however the transition was much more difficult but a story for another time when I have much less interesting things lined up.

One thing that I’ve found more interesting to think about than juxtaposing my experiences between settling in the UK and settling in the US again was how the face of my consciousness seems to have changed (for the better, mind, or so I believe) with a set of unforseen moments.  The week before leaving the UK, my ex partner contacts me out closureof the blue after almost 2 years of complete silence (the break up left one hell of an emotional hangover(3)) looking to meet up if/when I got back.  This kinda rocked my world because I accepted that this was one of those things in life where you don’t quite get closure so just buck up.  The meeting was interesting.  We got lunch and caught up but ultimately I got what I wanted all along: a little bit of closure (enough anyway).

This loose end tied up coupled with my new found confidence of being an international traveler and having an adult job and a place with no fucking roommates(5) for the first time since my first apartment almost 10 years ago now, I went on a fucking dating tear. I had plans to download and use several dating apps and make a summer article series reviewing said dating apps and I got as far as using about 5 of them for about a month before I met by happenstance someone really special.

I got up early one Saturday morning to try and get to my parents house to fix my computer (needed a working computer handy) but I feel asleep on the train whilst reading and woke up way on the East side and needed to ride back (I live on the south side, my parents live on the west side).  Coming back I switch trains at Forest Park and I am floored by this beautiful woman sitting at the front of the car.  First thing I noticed, even before the numerous facial piercings, was the headscarf she was wearing (a black and grey number) which got me excited because I pretty frequently wear a head scarf as well and works as a good conversation starter.  However I’m not ready for action jack, not at this point.  So I sit across the hall and try to start reading but I’m distracted because out of my peripheral vision I can see the striking woman like staring at me (well I assumed, she was wearing big bug eye sunglasses so I couldn’t really see exactly where she was looking).  And she kept staring.  And kept staring.  After what felt like a few hours of heart pounding mounting social pressure, I got the strength up to turn to talk to her because she’s literally staring at me (I was gonna say something stupid like “Wanna picture? hahaha”) but when I turn and look I realise she’s not quite looking at me.  I look up: the fucking metro train map was above my seat she wasn’t looking at me she was looking at the map.

thought

Story of my actual life.

I couldn’t let this surge of adrenaline go to waste though, I’m pretty sure that’s not healthy.  So I ask her: Where are you going?  She tells me she’s trying to get to the north side which immediately sets off a chain of thoughts (not about the north side of st louis you racist fuck) about how to get her there because we just boarded the blue line going south.  So I tried to explain “well you’re going to take this train for one stop, get off, get on another train going back one stop, then get on another train going west but make sure it’s red this time…” I believe her eyes glazed over before this point but I didn’t notice until that moment which prompted me to say the next thing which changed the trajectory of the entire day: “Know what? I don’t have much going on today, I’ll ride the trains with you until you get on the one going home.”  That was one of the best decisions I’ve made this summer because now its been about a month since I met her and I can’t entirely express how positive of an effect she’s had on my psyche but it’s been a good month so far.

Now that I’ve cleared my plate of personal interests I want to devote the remaining few hundred words to what I have planed for the rest of the year:

  • cannon comics – I’ve been laying plans to introduce a storyline to the adventures of Fin and Louie with a big surprise story arc to end the year so stay tuned. 
  • comic book – I am planning to release an Offbeat On-point Comic Book: Year 1 which will contain all the comics from the previous year, digitally redrawn and pictures of original hand drawn drafts plus previously unreleased comics  
  • interviews – I have some very exciting interviews lined up with a local fire dancer, I am still in talks with Talon from Talon’s tree house (you can check out the preview promo here), and more
  • tenative scheduling – with my new 40+ hr/wk work schedule and specifically being September (birthday month is always a stressful time of year not to mention September is my month for sneezing) I am not able to guarantee a 4 day a week posting schedule at this moment however my goal is to get back to at least 3 days a week (I may drop Rewind Wednesday column in favour of a podcast but I still need to do more research about what music I can play and if I need permissions etc and in fact if you have a podcast or otherwise are an expert on the legality of playing music that I may not own but have access to please write me – see contact page
  • infinite jest – I have finally finished the book for the second time and do feel like I have something intelligible to say about the book and I feel like I have a few perspectives to offer on the book that I have yet to see in my research however because it’s such a widely written about book yet also one which a vast majority of people who start it never finish it, I do realise that writings about the tome sized book is very deep in niche territory but because of these two things I will try to do something different and fun deviating from a normal book review or analysis, no promises on when it will come out but if there is appreciable interest in further writings about Infinite Jest or other DFW books I will continue on   
  • merch – I’m in talks with some suppliers to make coasters, stickers, and t-shirts but beyond that I have no more info
  • contests – I mentioned before (read more here) about doing poetry/flash fiction/fan art contests however I did kinda drop the ball because I mentioned it at a time just before moving home and that is my fault.  Now that I’m back on the grind and much closer to getting some merch, I will start having prizes for contests and monthly give-a-ways. 

In short, thank you so very much my loyal readers for sticking with me through the last few months.  It really means a lot to me for real.

Stay tuned because there’s some good stuff coming down the lines and also don’t forget to check back next Friday 22nd September for the annual birthday comic special! (P.S. If you’re a REALLY big fan, find me on social media and send me birthday wishes on the 23rd of September)

 

See you soon,

Fin

 

Footnotes:

  1. I try to keep my posts 1000 or less words not counting footnotes.
  2. You can read about my decision to not stay in the UK and come back to St Louis here.
  3. Link to my post about leaving America.
  4. Link to a particularly heavy piece I wrote July 2016 on the subject.  I won’t blame you for not reading, it was not one of my strongest pieces.
  5. My view on roommates: convenient at best.

A Quick Update

technical difficulties.jpg

This is Brad Evans with an important update: our primary writer and editor, Fin, has successfully crossed the pond and arrived alive back stateside in the gateway to the west, St. Louis.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a computer or easy to access to one. He has ordered a laptop and expects to have it in hand by the end of the week, with the expectation that our regularly scheduled updates will resume by next week.

Thanks for your patience while he gets back up and running. Have a great week, and remember to stay Offbeat, but On Point!

-BE

My Writing Process part II

Happy Monday!

 

Image result for writing is so hard hamlet 2

My actual life.  Source: Hamlet 2

 

A few months ago I did a guest post on “2B or not 2B – Creative Writing Tips and Tricks” blog.  In that post I wrote about my journal organization and my extensive notation systems in “My Writing and Journaling Process”.  Since then, Offbeat Onpoint has grown a lot which has demanded that my writing process grow in tandem (if only the U.S. minimum wage and inflation grew in the same parallel process, wouldn’t that be something huh?(1)).  Growth usually manifests in growth and change and in response I began a new task writing format that I have been using which helps me keep regular productivity and allows for flexibility.

I like to have one full page for my week, kind of a “week at a glance” idea.  I am a fan of formatting so I like to underline and use colons and check boxes but the important parts are:

Part 1: Weekly Goals
-the written date at top

-my reading goal for that week

-the number of journal entries I’d like to do that week (~1600wc total), ergo 3 check boxes

-each blog day gets a a line and I like to keep a week ahead so I have two columns

-BOM or Band of Misprints is the novel I’m currently working, I aim for ~1600 words a week minimum or 3 pages in my notebook

Part 2: Daily Goals

-here I have a row for each day of the week where I fill in the stuff I want to get done each day of the week, usually kinda fill it in as I go.  Like I write “post” on m, w, t, f, at the beginning of the week and fill out “M:” and “T:” rows Sunday or Monday then go from there through the week

Part 3: Monthly Goals

-this is a small space where I like to keep vague goals that I want to get done that month or a place for things I only do once or twice a month, sort of a catch-all

Part 4: The 4 Priority Squares
THIS IS IMPORTANT my creative writing teacher introduced me to this system.  It went something like this, “What you don’t know ‘The 4 Priority Squares’?!”, in the midst of a class discussion about a procrastination pandemic. “Okay forget creative writing, THIS will be the most important thing I teach you this year, that’s not to say creative writing isn’t important…”     The way this thing is constructed is basically how it works:

-each square is numbered 1 – 4 from upper left to bottom right
-square 1 is titled “important/urgent”

-square 2 is titled “not important/urgent”

-square 3 is titled “important/not urgent”

-square 4 is titled “CBARN”(2)

The idea here is that things in the square 1 are highest priority, like “people are going to break your legs” important and square 4’s title “Can’t Be Asked Right Now” implies the lowest priority. Where the real brilliance of the system comes from square 2 “not important/urgent” and square 3 “important/not urgent.

A clear distinction between square 2 and 3 is hard to make for me to make consistently, as in when making a list I can usually, with some thought, distinguish “2 level” tasks from “3 level” tasks but I have trouble applying firmer rules like squares 1 and 4 lend themselves to.  To me,  I believe this is the beauty of spectral versus binary thought.  Granted it’s easy to sort out the blue from red crayons, but it’s a bit harder to separate shades of purple being “very clearly” more red or blue.  This spectrum of choice challenges me to consider urgency versus importance in the task being considered.

By the end of an average week my page will look like thisused up

I hope this helps with cultivating your daily writing habit or inspires some other methods or formats.  If you have a format you use or a method you like and want to share, send me a guest article piece and I’ll post it on here.

Keep writing,

Fin

 

Footnotes:

  1. 1975 minimum wage was $2.10 an hour which is the 2017 equivalent of $9.77 whilst 2017 minimum wages are a pathetic $7.25 or for those of you who were working in 1975, today’s $7.25 is the same as $1.56 in 1975.
  2. Okay so when he originally introduced it, it was all very logical and pleasing but after using this system for a while now, I’ve decided to rename the boring “not important/not urgent” to what it really is “Can’t Be Asked Right Now”

Dust Tracks on a Road (Book Review)

Happy Monday!

Dust Tracks on a Road is an autobiography by Zora Neale Hurston.  I remembered reading a bit of “Their Eyes were Watching God”, also the Crash Course Lit episode is excellent, the first 3.5 minutes of which give a pretty neat summary of her life plus some extra tidbits, in fact let’s justs have a look shall we?

 

I decided to pick this book up in a reading project I’m starting where I plan to fill out my knowledge by reading books considered an “American Classics”(1) (with a focus on the 20th century lit) and the follow the reading list provided from Crash Course Lit(2).  


Overall Dust Tracks on a Road, from here out referred to as Dust Tracks, left me withmixed feelings.  That being said and without giving spoilers, I can say I recommend the book based on its historical and literary significance but unless you’re seeking it out for it’s historical or literary significance, I wouldn’t give it high priority.  

Footnotes:

  1. This burgeoning list has begun with this list, thanks to wikipedia:
    Books referred to as a “Great American Novel”[edit]

At one time, the following works have been considered to be a Great American Novel:

19th century

20th century

21st century

Plus these United States National Epics:

 

  1. Crash Course Lit list (what is listed here are the ones that I have not yet read AND are not already listed above; this is not an exhaustive list of the books covered in all three seasons of CC lit):

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Sula by Toni Morrison

(**SPOILERS BELOW**)
Continue reading

Hooked App Review (Chat Story)

Happy Monday!

Soz for not posting last week.  I went on holiday and was expecting to have access to a working computer but I didn’t not.  Anyway back to the regularly scheduled program!

In the spirit of utilising the “mystery” of mystery monday to it’s fullest potential, I’m rolling out my first smartphone app review.  Surprise!

I saw an advert on youtube advertising the app Hooked and I was previously

hooked

Hooked logo

unfamiliar with this app and the general genre of “Chat Stories” which includes Yarn and Tap.  Being a big fan of the Master of Experimental Fiction: Mark Z. Danielewski who has written colossal books not only in physical dimensions but also in ambition such as House of Leaves, Fifty Year Sword, and his current pet project The Familiar which is a 27 volume serialised novel, I like to try out experimental fiction.  However like anything that involves the word “experimental” as a defining adjective, there’s going to be a considerable hit and miss rate.  So is Hooked my next favourite thing?  Lets see.       

Premise: The app launches directly into a chat story which confused me at first because I thought it was like one long story but then I got bored halfway through the second part and finally figured out that you have to tap the chat space then click the top back button.  I was trying to swipe left.

Before trying to swipe left, I learned a few things about the app and it’s functions.  The first was that you get about 30 messages for free before being forced to take a 45 minute break or pay (2.99$ per week, 7.99/mo, 39.99/year unlimited, speaking of paying only paying members can contribute stories which is something I will come back to(1)).  Me being broke and cheap and not sold after 30 messages, I put it away and waited my 45 minutes which brought me to the second interesting feature where the app will give you a notification that your free “hoots” are refreshed and

Screenshot (28 May 2017 15-20)

clean minimalist menu design

you can read another 30 messages.  If you ignore this first message, it’ll gently prod you with another notification about 20 minutes later with the next message in the story out of context.  The 30 messages is prime for the freeium function as it will take any where from a couple of minutes to 7 minutes tops.  The notifications are also a good idea because it’s something I could easily see myself forgetting about.  There’s also a search function and lists of genres.  


Features I Want to See: So speaking of features, the ones I list are literally all you get.  I appreciate the minimalism however there are some features I’d really like to see.  I’d really like to see a rating and review system on the story cards .  I realise that you can like and comment on the stories, but this is only accessible after reading.  I don’t mind the fact that if there was a rating system you’d have to read the entire story before voting but I don’t like that as is you have to go into the stories blind as in my experience, the quality of stories varied from fairly interesting to uninspired.  

What would also be a nice feature to see in congruent use with the search function and the genre selection would be a hashtag cloud plus a way to change the settings of the notifications (more, less, or none at all or maybe for some less NSFW stories have a way to turn off notifications for those stories but leave them on for other ones, or to set it so you only get notification at certain hours like not sleeping hours).

Overall:   Speaking of swiping left, I guess that pretty much sums up my personal feelings about Hooked for the time being.  It’s a good idea.  However I already have a good smut site (NSFW Literotica) which has an okay app but lots of good regular writers.  Maybe this app would be better suited for erotica but I have yet to read any erotica on here that’s already on here.  Until they add a few more features like the ones I mentioned, as it is, it’s a left swipe from me.

Footnotes:

  1. I’m not crazy about the idea about having contributing behind a pay wall but I guess it may help to sort out “serious” contributors from shit posters.