The volcano has come to live in the tent because the tent was built by the volcano’s friend

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lenten season 2020: marriage, pandemic, home ownership. i took advantage of the day-before-lockdown to jog on mostly empty streets. Without meaning to*, I found myself in Tuscaloosa’s overwhelmingly african-american southwest side, and occasionally snapping phone pictures of things that caught my eye: the attractive mid-century modern office attached to a pocket-sized steel mill; a gigantic aloe plant in someone’s front yard; various items of poignant rubbish, the kind of things my eyes always catch on. I say hi to people as I go and they reply in a guarded-friendly way. 

i snaked around and across the train tracks and overpasses and six-lane 45 mph thoroughfares and went to publix. some people were plague-shopping and other people were just getting sandwiches. i got a pint of scientifically concocted diet ice cream and sat in the sun while dining. I read news stories on my phone, which were chiefly discussions of whether the president is bad, and if so, how bad, and whether badness matters. i realized during this moment of attenuated consumption that my recent and ongoing conduct was pretty much an exact match with a running gag from Do the Right Thing. The white guy in the celtics jersey, jogging through bed-stuy, talking to people like he knew them.

I am not in the habit of reading poetry and i don’t know much about Rumi, apart from his odd position as an ecstatic devotional poet of Islam who has somehow found this butchered life in translation as a bard of big white feelings – all I know about Rumi, apart from that stuff, derives from a conversation I had maybe two years ago. It was about how people pray in present-day Iran, which is not my normal line of talk, but I was the listener in this case.

The person I was talking to told me about this Rumi poem, which is called “Moses and the Shepherd,” or something like that. In that poem, Moses is doing his God-haunted thing and walking around and he comes across the shepherd in a grove, and overhears him praying in simple, clear, vernacular language, asking God for help. Essentially showing his ass to God, not as a gesture of defiance or insult but because his pants were sliding down a little. And Moses comes rumbling out of whatever thicket and says to the shepherd, Don’t you talk to God like he’s your uncle. And the shepherd isn’t quite sure what to say, but before he can reply, God actually takes up for him and tells Moses to shut up, more or less. I am thinking a lot about what it means to talk, not just to God but to the whole world (which is to say, God, which is to say, you, which is to say […]

business trip

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close readers (by which i mostly mean me, the occupant of my skull) will remember the plot arc when i moved to alabama to do a MFA program in creative writing circa 2015. it’s gratifying to disclose that the fruits of my work down here (i am still down here, and once again working at a university press) are going to get published in october 2020 by scribner. my good fortune and happiness and semi-justified pride are humongous. i will make a pest of myself in the fall reminding you about the book, but for now i just wanted to show you the infinitely rad cover they made.

tickets of 2019

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  • 01/10/19 Bumblebee
  • 01/15/19 If Beale Street Could Talk
  • 01/29/19 Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse (on the leaderboard for 2019 best movie)
  • 03/19/19 Captain Marvel  trash
  • 03/29/19 Us (see Spiderman: Into…)
  • 05/14/19 Pokemon Detective Pikachu (spoiler: it turns out that pikachu is the dead cop dad)
  • 05/24/19 Booksmart (barfing during sex is never not art. the last movie i saw before leaving town for a writing residency during which i got a full time job back in tuscaloosa so a curtain came down on my life and came up on a …. different chunk of my life. like the part in Super Mario 2 where you pick your character. Is Super Mario 2 influenced by Twin Peaks.)
  • 06/26/19 Toy Story 4 (not as good as Toy Story 3 but still good)
  • 07/02/19 Spider-Man: Far from Home (enjoyable and I like that Tom Holland who is somehow British)
  • 07/03/19 Jaws (honestly I wish I’d seen it more often starting earlier in life. A joy. Talking about SHARKIN)
  • 07/09/19 Midsommar (the day after I started my new job; my amigo hated it, I thought it was pretty alright if a little tiresome by the end)
  • 07/16/19 Crawl (about what you would expect for a move about fighting alligators in a crawlspace. good father-daughter dynamic)
  • 07/24/19 The Matrix (better than I remembered but still articulating a future-aesthetic that I find v v v corny and dumb)
  • 08/16/19 The Farewell (I didn’t like the v very very end where the filmmaking indirectly suggests that cancer can be cured with posi vibes but this was great sentimental stuff)
  • 08/25/19 Scheme Birds (at Sidewalk Film Fest, v good)
  • 08/25/19 Recorder (also at Sidewalk, good)
  • 08/27/19 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • 09/03/19 Angel Has Fallen (Gerard Butler preemptive retrospective continues)
  • 10/21/19 The world premiere of the opera adaptation of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (as far as experimental prose collage opera adaptations go … it seemed fine)
  • 10/25/19 Joker (bad movie)
  • 11/19/19 The Strip: Tuscaloosa’s Most Colorful Quarter Mile (Bama Theatre)
  • 11/23/19 Parasite (at the Patton Creek mall sprawl in Hoover)
  • 11/24/19 Tannehill State Park (not a movie but they did give us an old timey red tear-off ticket) (support local parks)
  • 11/28/19 Knives Out (the way the nurse dressed will go down as a historically significant document of dressing like its 1992
  • 12/14/19 Queen and Slim (at The EDGE 12 in Bhm) I praise the authentic Clevelandness of the scene where Officer Sturgill Simpson gets it. Also, the weirdly detailed use of the Forty Niner Restaurant name but not the interior of the Forty Niner which is admittedly too small and dingy for cinema
  • 12/24/19 Children’s Christmas service at the National Cathedral in Washington DC-i have ideas on how this could have been improved, DM for details
  • 12/27/19 Cedar
  • 12/30/19 Uncut Gems (Cedar Lee, Cleveland Heights OH)

cahiers du tuscaloosa

as mentioned in a several years stale post i try my best to keep a record of every movie i watch in a theater. i do not know why i feel compelled to do this but i’m doing it, so that’s a kind of default explanation. unless otherwise stated all movies i saw in 2018 were at the janky cobb multiplex in tuscaloosa.

    • 01/22/18 Den of Thieves (feel I should say a word in my own defense here; you’ll notice maybe starting with Den of Thieves that my movie attendance suddenly got less discriminating. the fault lies not with me but with my decision to get MoviePass)
    • 01/24/18 Darkest Hour
    • 01/26/18 The Shape of Water
    • 01/31/18 Phantom Thread (Carmike Lee Branch somewhere in the outer darkness of BHM)
    • 02/06/18 Coco still the best movie i have seen in 2018
    • 02/07/18 Hostiles sort of good but possibly also sort of bad
    • 02/10/18 The Post bourgeois bedtime story / elegantly arranged bullshit
    • 02/16/18 Black Panther
    • 03/03/18 Game Night
    • 04/13/18 A Quiet Place why would you get pregnant again after the rise of the murder aliens whose heads are a giant ear, Jim from the Office?
    • 04/14/18 Isle of Dogs
    • 05/04/18 Avengers blah blah Infinity War inert technological wank
    • 05/15/18 Zama (Harris Theater, Pittsburgh PA)
    • 05/25/18 Solo: A Star Wars Story (Stadium 10, Durham NC)
    • 06/02/18 Upgrade the blade runner ass mark zuckerberg epigone who plays with hologram weather. also the guy who sneezes nano weapons
    • 06/12/18 Victoria & Abdul (Bama Theatre) excruciating and problematic, not in the same way at the same time. for garrison keillor fans except swap in racism for sex pesting
    • 06/23/18 Superfly  An earnest and legitimate B-movie which offered some extreme pleasures and much more tedium; all of the best parts involve the bad guy gang named SNOW PATROL and the very best parts involve the leader of SNOW PATROL crashing his lambo into a confederate monument and dying in the ensuing fireball, don’t worry, it’s not really the kind of thing you can spoil
    • 07/03/18 Sicario 2 Day of the Soldado  I don’t know why they didn’t stick with either spanish or english entirely for the subtitle. This movie is a vaguely reality flavored neo western about tuff stuff but benicio del toro’s persistence as a guy who does not actually try to act but it someone become acting through an alchemy of expectations and circumstance … i don’t know where this is going but i’m ok with it
    • 07/19/18 Sorry to Bother You
    • 07/29/18 Mission Impossible Part 6
    • 08/11/18 BlacKkKlansman 
    • 08/16/18 The Meg (pretty sure this screenplay had no words with more than two syllables)
    • 08/26/18 Crazy Rich Asians (they didn’t seem that crazy)
    • 09/19/18 White Boy Rick (I didn’t actually see this movie, I was trying to go see something else with people and it was sold out; it’s a couple minutes shorter walk to leave the back way so i just bought a moviepass ticket to White Boy Rick to save myself the schlep, as it was a warm evening)
    • 10/06/18 Sisters Brothers @ Tara 4 in Atlanta, GA (some kind of thunderstorms clearly forming in my brain in this late summer season – I drove from Tuscaloosa to Atlanta on a Saturday for no apparent reason other than to see this movie – I also drove up Mt Cheaha to Alabama’s highest elevation, then got lost somewhere south of Talladega? then ate ramen in ATL, walked around the block twice, saw this and drove the three hours back to Tuscaloosa. movie was pretty good? not three hours drive good. hilariously it played in tuscaloosa a couple weeks later)
    • 10/23/18 Halloween
    • 10/27/18 Hunter Killer Gerard Butler patronus of MoviePass
    • 11/06/18 Mid90s – not as good as Minding the Gap
    • 11/23/18 Widows I saw this with my mom!
    • 12/24/18 The Favourite @ The Belcourt in Nashville TN. Prelude to the great xmas airbnb debacle of 2018 in which i wound up sleeping in my car on xmas eve. memories
    • 12/27/18 They Shall Not Grow Old @ Southpark Mall in Strongsville OH

hat eulogy

RIP oakland-A’s colorway yankees hat, purchased at one of the ubiquitous hat and sneaker stores on 5th ave in brooklyn, oct 2015, lost at sea sept 2016 somewhere near bogart, georgia. i bought you on the weekend two good people got married, and i left you on the roof of my car while driving away from a raceway minimart. preceded in rest by size 8 1935 cleveland spiders hat, survived by many brothers and sisters. i commend you to your rest.

data journalism

places i bought gas
may–june 2016
(noteworthy MLB relief pitchers born there)

Baldwin Park, CA (mike munoz)
Brawley, CA (sergio romo, rudy seanez)
Clinton, OK
Colorado City, TX
Deming, NM (wade blasingame)
Franklin, KY
Gallup, NM (willie adams)
Jeffersonville, OH
Lewisburg, TN
Marengo, OH
Marshall, TX
Memphis, TN (george sherrill)
Mescalero, NM
Newberry Springs, CA
Ozark, AR (mutt williams)
Seligman, AZ
Tucson, AZ (tom wilhelmsen)
Tucumcari, NM
Tuscaloosa, AL (brandon medders)