Friday, January 25, 2013

MFA in Whale Flying

I'm not normally one to tell you about my dreams (that's Tiffany).

I'm also not normally one to blame you for the mean/scummy/abusive things you do in my dreams, but I'll save that passive aggression for another day, Tiffany.

Two nights ago, I had what I call a "Tampa dream." A dream is specifically a Tampa dream so long as it adheres to the basic premise of seeing me, the protagonist, attending the residency period of my low-residency MFA program. I frequently experience such dreams in the nights leading up to the residency, as well as during the nights of the actual residency. A dream about what happens earlier in the day is trippy (and it's exhausting if you've been drinking most of the day), but a dream about flying whales will always take the trippy cake (mmm, trippy cake).

Rather than attending seminars focusing on elements of craft in creative fiction, or gritting my teeth through disheartening Q&A sessions regarding the nuts and bolts of the publishing world, I was mostly just attending workshop sessions. For many, the workshop sessions were the highlight of their real-life residency experience. For absolutely no one except for me, in my dream, the workshops consisted of tying rafts to whales and flying above the Hillsborough River. Instead of focusing on word choice and narrative voice, each workshop group was focused on which rope was strongest and yet also good for handling. During dinner hours, my fellow hot-shot whale flyers and I would discuss the distinct attitudes and philosophies of our respective whale flying mentors. Tony D'Souza flew a sperm whale as passionately and as beautifully as Mikhail Iossel handled his killer whale counterpart. Yes, that's right, we dabbled in multiple whale genres.

My dream existed as a self-contained metaphor, albeit a sad and clumsy one. It was sad because it's just as easy to explain to most people what I do in real life, and clumsy, because, as I'm sure my workshop group would be the first to tell you, it condescends to the average reader.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fake Blog Post

Because Manti Te'o's girlfriend, the fake one, is playing as important a role as any nonexistent person can in today's society (yes, Jesus, that one was directed at you. At least have the decency to return my calls), I've decided that I should carry out a hoax against the American public. I'm not yet sure what I should do (or not do), but I figure this blog is a pretty safe place to divulge my plans (or plans for more plans).

I'm sure I'll figure that out eventually. In the meantime, everyone is weighing in on why they believe a Hawaiian Mormon, who plays football for a Catholic university that can't pronounce its own name, is lying. A lot of people think it's because he's gay. Closeted gay men associated with homophobic institutions do probably tend to dig themselves into some pretty deep holes. But nearly everyone has found themselves, at one point or another, stuck in a similar hole, even if its not necessarily a gay one.

My theory is based on an article about the hoax, as well as a few seconds of a video (on the same page) that ESPN felt would best allay my suspicions regarding the importance of the content contained within that article. ESPN was so certain that I needed to hear, watch, and read the story unfold, all at once, that the video began playing without my consent. To spite ESPN's uncomfortable advances, I paused that shit and continued to read. To spite the rest of the media, I ceased reading anything else regarding the incident, and decided to write a scummy blog post about it.

The real hoax may very well be that Manti Te'o has a lot of girlfriends. Whether or not these women are aware that they belong to a Mormon harem is more relevant than whether or not Te'o has ever met them in person. Perhaps, one of them found out about the others, or any number of the others, and decided to blackmail the standout linebacker. This, in turn, would make Notre Dame look very bad. After all, they managed to overlook Te'o's religion in favor of his athletic ability, and look at them compared to a school like BYU. Sure, the Cougers have a lot of pent up aggression from their sexual abstinence, but ultimately it is their abstinence from all other outside influences that distracts them from athletic achievement.

If nothing else, the harem would have to break up. In order to garner the sympathies of his accuser, as well as the American public, Te'o had to have one of his girlfriends killed. After many sleepless nights, he concluded that simply using the internet to create and kill a fake persona would be a lot easier than killing one of his other girlfriends, if only because he never knew where any of them actually lived.

So in order to protect the sanctity of pluralistic football at the University of Notre Dame, and to keep the Te'o harem quietly intact, Lennay Kekua was created. It was easy to sell such a story to his future wives/blackmailer, because his relationship with Kekua appeared just as genuine as his relationship with the rest of them. Killing her off was just as easy.

Everything was going smoothly, until some asshole with a last name that I don't even care to look up how to spell, slipped up.

I'm sure in the coming days we will see whether or not anything I said was true. In the meantime, you can poke all the holes in my theory that you'd like, but then it would appear as if you're actually taking this seriously.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Striking the Balance (Art Bubble vs. "Reality")

I am happy to report that Christmas was celebrated as scheduled. Just as reliable was the coming of the new year.

For the first time in my life, I celebrated New Year's Eve outside of the PA/NJ area. For those of you who have never experienced this, do try it. This was also, as I found out at the bar (just before midnight), the first "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" to not prominently feature the shell of Dick Clark since the year of his stroke. Additionally, Dick Clark is dead, and has been since April.

Amidst the readying of champagne and mutually recognized obligation to stare wordlessly at the nearest television, the woman who told me all of this, (so I'd have enough context to fully appreciate the"New Year," because you never want to just jump headlong into a new television series without first understanding the complex struggle of its well-rounded cast of characters), mistakenly referred to Ryan Seacrest as Carson Daly. No one else cared enough to correct her, and that's the way it should be.

Shortly thereafter, I spent ten days in an artistic and alternative-academic bubble. I began the second semester of my pursuit of an MFA at the University of Tampa. As with my first semester, I spent ten long days reading, writing, work-shopping, networking, and drinking. You may not have known this, but holy shit, writers can drink. Or maybe I only followed around the ones who drank a lot.

Regardless, my experience during this semester's residency period was significantly better than that of my first semester. It certainly helped that I had friends from the previous residency, as well as a much better idea of what to expect with regards to the program, the school, and the city. It was also nice going into the residency with some semblance of personal direction, artistic "vision," and an apartment to return to when all was said and done. Last semester was the first time I'd ever even been to Tampa, and it was also the first time I realized I had no desire to ever live in Tampa.

Of course, there was a hurricane on the final day of my extended stay (I booked two extra nights in my hotel room for the sake of finding somewhere to live), and it would have made apartment hunting insane, if not impossible. But more importantly, it seemed silly to live three hours away from my girlfriend when it was entirely unnecessary. I wanted to move to a bigger city because I thought I'd find more opportunities to make strangers laugh. While that may or may not be true, I managed to get a job doing that in St. Augustine. Somehow (and by "somehow," I mean most certainly with the love and support of my friends and family, as well as the nifty-looking education on my resume), it worked out. MISSION: ACCOMPLISHED!

Having that anxiety behind me allowed me to focus more on the residency experience itself, which I could write about forever (or I could apply the education that I'd ostensibly be raving about, and revise that shit into something worth reading). Instead, I'll state that my current objective is to maintain the focus and momentum of the residency period throughout the remainder of the semester (officially recognized as the "tutorial" period, but alternatively referred to as the "real writers write at home and have responsibilities beyond academics, so you should too, hot shot" - period).

I still tell people that my ultimate career goal is to become a professional asshole, as I've said since my junior year of undergrad, as a canned response to those who have the nerve to ask. And for those who are not too taken aback to press me for additional details regarding just exactly what kind of asshole I'd like to be, I am finally starting feel as if I have more to say. Most people will continue to not have any fucking clue what I'm talking about. They'll never grasp why I feel I need an MFA to more lucratively make an audience feel ashamed of itself, or why I even bother with that kind of painful endeavor at all.

And that's okay. If nothing else, I'm learning that it's okay that "most people" do not understand what I do or why I desire to do it. It's okay because people who respect the pursuit of art do, in fact, exist, even outside of my grad school bubble. And these particular people, we'll call them "readers," have an insatiable appetite. They are not mere consumers of books, though they are certainly willing to pay money for the words of others. Yes, readers are seekers of books for the buying, but they are also seekers of truth, beauty, and shared experience.  If that makes them sound like assholes, again, that's okay. To translate that into business terms, I am targeting my demographic.