RECOMMENDED READ: “Angel, Monster, Man” (with props to @sentencebender and @nightmaremag)

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this (and the audio version—also free on the Nightmare Magazine website—is really good).  

Nominally a horror story, Sam J. Miller’s “Angel, Monster, Man” is, in fact, a really interesting piece of speculative fiction.  Gets me thinking about how frequently fiction that speculates on a disenfranchised group getting power gets slotted into “horror”—and once you start thinking that way, all horror starts to look like a liberation fantasy as seen through the establishment’s eyes: Is Night of the Living Dead more about zombies, or more about the terror experienced by rural whites and the patriarchy when confronted with a competent black man? Is The Exorcist about demon possession or the threat of women’s liberation (see also, Carrie)?  Is Psycho about a “psycho” or about the terrifying prospect of homosexuals no longer shackled by shame/guilt?

Start NaNoWriMo Right! Smash Writers Bloc!

Lots of you are creative sorts, and all creative sorts struggle with the same million-faced goblin, under a variety of: Writer’s Block, procrastination, “activation energy,” the Lil Hater, Imposter Syndrome, not inspired, “so busy!”, obligations, etc.

I’ve spent pretty much my entire adult life wrestling this same sinister, slippery blob, and talking with other creative folk about what we each do to try and wrangle that ass-jackal into a corner so we can Get Shit Done.

I’d like to share the choicest bits with you.  Learn to:

  • Use “Sprint Bursts” to build your writing muscles
  • Eat the frog and puke up the draft
  • Harness the power of the Pomodoro
  • Work with “The Guys Downstairs” to do the heavy lifting before you sit down to write

This is all wrapped up in a tidy little week-long clinic, waling you through the process of laying the groundwork for a solid Daily Writing Ritual.  The clinic is totally free, with no lingering hassles.  This list doesn’t get combined with my newsletter or anything else, and there is no hard sell, because I don’t have anything to sell.  Just the benefit of my experience and that of the other writers I know.  Sign up, get the first email the following Monday, and the final check-in/thank you a week later.  That’s it.

Wanna invest 10 minutes a day into getting the words flowing?  Check it out:

Clearflow Creative Writing Clinic

The Last Selvedge Denim Mill in the U.S. is Closing #America

The Cone Mills plant in Greensboro, N.C. has been continuously weaving denim since 1905, and is currently the only U.S. plant producing selvedge denim.  They’re calling it quits at the end of this year.

Selvedge” is a specific style of denim produced in broad strips on relatively narrow shuttle looms using a continuous weft such that the edge is automatically finished—i.e., it produces a “self-edged” bolt of fabric that won’t unravel (if you’re looking at denim and the edge of the seam is white with a single thread of color—often red—then you’re looking at selvedge denim).  Because it’s produced in narrower strips on shuttle looms (and usually with un-dyed weft), the fabric has certain characteristics in how it breaks in and ages, both in terms of fit and coloration.  Some folks dig these.  Other folks just dig putting their money where their mouth is, in terms of “Buying American.”  I kinda like to do both, so I’m kinda bummed that Cone Mills is rolling up.  Certainly the generations of weavers in Greensboro are bummed.

By the end of this year, you’ll only be able to get this prototypically American fabric from Japan.  That’s still great selvedge (hell, it’s made on American machines: Japan bought them up in the 1980s when Levi’s et al. made the shift to larger looms), but it’s a bummer that this once uniquely American product is going extinct.

The only upside:  When you see some Stars-and-Bars waving asshole in blue jeans popping off about “foreign manufacturing” next year, you’ll know he’s wearing jeans from Vietnam, and thus can go fuck himself. He didn’t put his money where his mouth was, and subsequently American selvedge denim died.  That’s how economies work. Way to “Make America Great Again,” bro.

Anyway, if you’ve been thinking about getting into high-quality American-made denim, it’s sorta now or never.  Brave Star is my go-to company on this: Incredibly reasonable prices given the quality, nice cuts, excellent craftsmanship, solid customer service, 100% American made: The denim is from N.C., the hardware from KY, the cutting and sewing in California.

usa-american-flag-waving-animated-gif-26

At the urging of @dhelder I listened to this…

and learned that, if you wanna know what it’s like being me, microdose LSD.

Episode #44—”Shine On You Crazy Goldman”—from Reply All

(DISCLOSURE: I have indeed dropped acid. It made me almost entirely unbearably me-like.  None of this constitutes an endorsement of anything other than this particular episode of this podcase.)

 

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: Sci-Fi Short Film “Bar Talk” (presented by DUST)

A lot of the short films Dust releases are 75% solid, then fall apart at the untangle/resolution (often by not having one at all: they have a terrific Setup, then a nice Tangle, then roll credits—grrrrrrrr).  But this one holds up nicely.  Give it a watch:

Recommended Listen: “The Madness of Bill Dobbs: A Tale of Snuff Movies and Cannibal Cults” by Sean Pearce

I pretty much always at least like the stories included on the Pseudopod horror podcast, but boy-oh-boy, is this one spot-on for me. It starts like this:

Eaters is regarded by some as a flawed masterpiece and an underground classic. To others, it is vile, racist, ethically bankrupt, and derivative.

It makes for peculiar viewing. The plot follows the formula of the Italian cannibal movies for which director Bill Dobbs had an unashamed fondness. An anthropological expedition into the Amazon jungle encounters and brutalises a tribe of ‘savages’ in the name of science, and find themselves pursued, captured, and finally gruesomely eaten alive.

(The film was originally going to be released as Dark-skinned Cannibals of the Tropics, though thankfully someone more enlightened than Dobbs suggested the title we now have. It almost goes without saying that Dobbs has been unanimously described as a completely unrepentant racist.) …

And gets much better from there.

Check it out online: PseudoPod 530: “The Madness of Bill Dobbs: A Tale of Snuff Movies and Cannibal Cults” by Sean Pearce

RECOMMENDED LISTENING: Three Stories I Recently Dug

These stories have nothing in particular to do with each other, apart from the fact that each speaks to a fundamental, existential truth.  If you ever find yourself wondering, “Jeez!  Why can’t these guys just admit to how totally off-the-rails this situation has gotten?”—well, here are three answers that are really one answer: Some truths entirely annihilate you.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING: “Leonard in Slow Motion”

Yes, it’s a really straightforward one-gag SF sort of story executed in a “lit fic” mode (i.e., “white-people magical realism”)—but it is really completely, pleasingly executed.  Consider it the short-film equivalent of that $7 cup of coffee that you’re pleasantly surprised to discover really is worth $7.

Leonard in Slow Motion

(Also, I just love Martin Starr.  Y’all reckon he’s related to Ringo Starr or Kenneth Starr?)

Leonard in Slow Motion from Peter Livolsi on Vimeo.

The Trump U Sales Playbook: A Marvelous Primer on the Dark Art of B2C Sales

I wanna start with an apology: Based on a very brief hot-take published in Slate, I posted this quip:

After seeing the these two Jon Oliver episodes (vol 1 and vol 2), I finally dug into the 2010 Trump University Playbook in earnest (as opposed to just re-reading the same nibblets everyone was passing around). And you know what? This playbook is special.

Since the Slate excerpts were chosen for the lulz, not the insight, all I saw was what was there: Standard-issue sales training materials, with the genre-mandated jankety English and flop-sweat sheen of Glengarry Glen Ross bravado.  If you have experience with consumer-oriented sales (i.e., “B2C”—that’s “business to consumer”, generally contrasted to “B2B,” which is “business to business”), none of this is that unusual. And so that’s what I tweeted.

But, of course, I was looking at it as someone who’s worked in sales, studied the psychology of selling, written sales copy, and slogged through a lot of terrible sales material and ethically questionable sales advice.  After digging into the playbook with my “Normal Human” eyes on, I’m seeing the ickiness much more clearly. That fantastic, revelatory ickiness.

Give these materials a gander, esp. the “Sales Playbook” section starting around pg. 96.  Read it, and get a sense of what a steep disadvantage you are at, as a normal human thrust into a professional sales situation (e.g., buying a car, sitting down with a “financial advisor,” being dragged to court, being interrogated). 

This is, in fact, a pretty tight textbook on the dark arts of high-pressure sales/persuasion situations where there is a built-in power differential that favors the seller. 

Frankly, if Trump U really wanted to give students value, then screw real estate investing; they should have handed out copies of this. “Here’s how we suckered you; go forth and sucker others!”

Maybe not worth $995, but certainly worth more than nothing. 

RECOMMENDED READING2010 Trump University Playbook