Congratulations Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman

During her stay in Vancouver, Amanda Palmer announced on Twitter and Facebook that she is pregnant. According to her, she and Neil Gaiman will be expecting the birth of their child this coming September.

11066609_10152891188613375_3150639961984446755_n

It’d be very easy to wax poetic about Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman having a child together. The bold and vibrant Queen of Punk Rock Cabaret and the subtle and encompassing Prince of Stories make for parents full of song, and tales, and laughter, and lessons to be learned, and love. But, hopefully, this is what any child should expect from any loving family.

But you can see why so many fans of the two, including myself, would see this as a big deal. Amanda and Neil have inspired a great many people over the years with their writing and art, in the way that they’ve touched many of our lives, and made themselves part of our words and songs in so doing.

It is also a big deal for another reason. Many of us have not only followed Neil and Amanda’s art, but also what they have publicized about their lives. For all the fanfare and love, it’s not been an easy road for them. Certainly there are events that Amanda disclosed in her Art of Asking that puts some of these facts in perspective.

It is easy to geek out over this news. I’ve followed Neil for years. In a large way, he informed a lot of my current writing style and my sense of story. I was introduced to Amanda through my girlfriend sending me links to her music videos on YouTube and links to her Blog with its chronic lack of capital letters. But for all of their art, they are also human beings. Their child, like all children, has the potential to be awesome and, as someone who has followed them I’m just glad to see some more happiness in their lives. It is definitely a cause to celebrate.

So on behalf of all of us at GEEKPR0N, congratulations Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman on your upcoming child and a new story in your lives.

Connecting the Doughnuts: Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking

Even though I’m not a musician, or even a complete music literate (whatever that ultimately means), I had been looking forward to Amanda Palmer’s first book for quite some time. And now that I finally finished reading it a few days ago, I’m now in a place where I can actually say something about it.

Amanda Palmer

It wasn’t easy and, to some extent, it’s still very challenging. The Art of Asking is something like what might happen if you take a blender, to borrow one of Amanda’s creative sayings, put it on a low setting, and introduce autobiographical anecdotes, self-help philosophy, social media excerpts, a few literary quotes, and of course musical lyrics, to the blade and mix. Chronological events are sometimes parallel with each other in the narrative, but these instances are often separated by philosophical musings and personal moments.

Whatever else, The Art of Asking is, it’s definitely not an ordinary book: as if something that’s a fusion of the creative and the personal can ever be ordinary.

I’ll also admit that it took me a while to get into the book, and sometimes I had trouble actually staying inside it. I mean, I knew that — even based on the title — that Amanda’s book would have some significant roots in her TED Talk of the same name, but it is both fascinating and sometimes off-putting to consider that there is a fair amount of her book that you can already find to some extent in her Blog and even in her introduction to Anthony Martignetti’s Lunatic Heroes.

The intertextuality, the way her book relates to the narratives and circumstances behind Anthony’s Lunatic Heroes and Beloved Demons, as well as to Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane really does intrigue me and it puts some elements into perspective. I’d argue that The Art of Asking has details that can give you something of a holistic approach to looking at all four narratives upon risk of falling into the authorial fallacy: of looking at the people behind the works instead of the works themselves on their own merits.

I mean, it’s no secret that Amanda encouraged Anthony to hone and publish his personal stories — many of which he’d already told her before during their time together — and that Neil’s Ocean was the result of a story that he actually wanted to tell her while she was in the middle of her own solitary creative struggles. When you look at how those narratives talk to each other, like the people that made them and talked to each other in turn, The Art of Asking is almost something of a bridge between three different and creative spaces. It is my opinion that they all belong together.

The downside was that sometimes these references felt like filler. I think what really confused me was something that Amanda said which, ironically, I truly appreciated. It was a reference to another part of her creative process. After a fascinating look at different types of creative processes from her perspective, Amanda mentions that to create something is to “connect the dots” between things that you gather or experience. This, for me, pretty much sums up how creativity happens. As a creator, you take things that don’t seem to relate to each on the surface and you find or make connections between these elements. This thought particularly jived with me.

Unfortunately, at least from my perspective as a reader, I couldn’t always see how Amanda connected the dots of her ideas and anecdotes or even her musical lyric interludes within the structure of The Art of Asking itself. Perhaps I just don’t have a good eye for it, or for that matter even a good ear. Maybe, as Amanda herself isn’t generally a book writer — this being her first one — she writes prose much in the way her mind generates rhythm and lyric: through music. This is just a thought that I’m throwing out there myself. However, maybe the narrative is a lot like Amanda herself in that her art and her performance seems to be a 24/7 deal where you cannot particularly separate them: even in another medium.

The Art of Asking, to me, felt like a balancing act: much like the way I reacted to it. The tone of it got to me sometimes. On one hand it sometimes felt like it was rather self-involved, but on the other hand it is to some extent a memoir and of course Amanda would be talking about her experiences and her feelings. At times I felt a self-help vibe from the book and I had a personal reaction to whenever Amanda would talk about giving herself to trust and love as, in my own experience, most people who expose surrendering themselves to absolute abstracts of benevolence, revolution, peace, and love often want something from you and are anything but the ideals that they claim to represent. Something about Koolaid comes to mind.

Then again, these very sentiments on Amanda’s part are tied into some considerably shrewd business and people sense. The Art of Asking specifically outlines how love and trust are relational. What I mean is that by opening yourself up to other people, by interacting with them, by actually relating to them as fellow human beings you create a bond — at least on some level — and they will become more willing to actually help you. Amanda very correctly identifies this precept in why some crowdfunding campaigns excel and why others fail completely.

In asking for help without shame and taking what is offered you without forced expectations or, again, humiliation, you are attempting to embrace a different mindset. I can personally respect and even understand this idea. Amanda even applies it well to just why her former label and the music industry are simply failing to understand their customers: as they only relate to people as customers, artists as commodities, and not as people.

Really, what I learned from this as a potential crowdfunder artist myself, is that I have a long way to go — in building relationships of some kind with my readers, in networking, and in relating to others — before I can even begin to approach the place where others can support me: and where I can provide consistent content for their support. It’s actually very humbling, and sometimes discouraging as I am not a natural extrovert and I don’t have access to the support that I need to get there, or a coherent and stable vision to attract others. Yet.

In this sense, it’s not about connecting the dots per see.  It isn’t even about giving out “the flower,” a metaphor and literal fact from Amanda’s time as a living bride statue in her early busking years that can be accepted or rejected in an attempt at staring someone in the eye and relating to them.

To me, it’s about doughnuts.

In late November 2014, I actually attended the last part of Amanda’s Book Circus Tour in Toronto. As we waited in line outside of Lee’s Palace, a volunteer kept handing out Timbits: small, round, balls of assorted doughnuts. During the event itself Amanda actually read us a part of her book in which apparently David Thoreau, during the time he wrote Walden, accepted free food from his family as help in completing his work. And Eric Alper, Amanda’s guest and interviewer bought us all tons of Timbits to hit home the point that it is okay to “Take the doughnuts.”

The way I ultimately see it, The Art of Asking is a collection of Timbits: a collection of little doughnuts of many kinds. Some might prefer specific flavours of Timbit, or all of them, or none at all. Yet all of them are doughnuts and all of them are offered to the reader.

As for me, I took my favourite doughnuts from Amanda. Some of them were crisp and instrumental. Some were multiple flavours that branched into different places, that reminded me of other things, and gave me insight about my favourite people behind the scenes. I know I ate one or two confections that Amanda had never offered before outside of her book: and the flavours hit me hard and without mercy: that were real. At least one was a moment that touched me to the core.

But all of them, even the ones I don’t always like or require an acquired taste, are in the same box of words: a bread and circuses on paper thanking everyone that it asks.

This Year In Passing: Hell, Everland, And Fascinating Beginnings

I said I was going to make another post in December, but I have to say that this is kind of cutting it close. A lot of people are making New Year recaps on their social media statuses and Blogs and I’m probably going to be no different to this regard.

It’s just … hard to remember everything I accomplished this year. In some ways, 2014 was a short year for me in which a microcosm of things happened. I suspect that I may have been stuck in a time dilation field that stretched out or contracted at a whim. So what I’m going to do is reach into my mind and pull out the things that stand out at me the most.

I got my first story published in print in Janet Morris’ Heroes in Hell shared universe. I have also written for GeekPr0n for over a year and got to interview people such as David Hayter, Larry Wilson, and Will Brooker. I also got to write reviews for Volume One of My So-Called Secret Identity, She Makes Comics, and a whole slew of Toronto After Dark films. Anthony Martignetti has quoted me in the endorsement section of his writer’s Blog. I got to attend the Toronto part of Amanda Palmer’s Book Circus and I got to meet her. I also got to meet Kelly Sue DeConnick and begin reading her comics work: of which I love Pretty Deadly.

In addition, I made the acquaintance of Jovanka Vuckovic — whose advice and encourage has helped me a lot in my endeavours — and I think you may be seeing me dealing in some more horror writing fairly soon.

My friend John Chui dragged me out to Fan Expo and I got to see him and my friend Angela O’Hara again midst all the geekery. I also got to travel a bit.

And I met someone awesome who challenges, levels with, and has become special to me. I just want to say that I love you Gaming Pixie and to everyone else who was here along the way.

I won’t say that I’ve accomplished everything that I set out to do and that there won’t be other frustrations and challenges along the way. But there are and there will be. But tonight, right now, I prefer not to focus on those. They will have their time. Instead, I’d like to do three things.

First, I want you to take a look at the Critters Writers Workshop and vote for Poets in Hell on the Anthology page. And if you have more time, please vote for one of the three stories in the Science Fiction and Fantasy short stories section: Chris Morris’ “Words,” Joe Bonadonna’s “We The Furious,” and Janet and Chris Morris’ “Seven Against Hell.” All three of these stories exist in Poets in Hell — the volume of which my writing is a part — and this could help us considerably. Remember, if you do vote, please confirm your vote in your email. And check out Poets in Hell as well if you haven’t. It’s diabolically good.

Secondly, there is Cody Walker’s Everland Kickstarter. Imagine a darker version of Peter Pan and Neverland: where Peter realizes that he is essentially a god and things get, shall we say, twisted. It looks very promising and I highly suggest that you check it out.

And now, finally, I want to wish you — all of you — an excellent 2015. May it truly be a eucatastrophe.

Looking Outward

On A Half-Written Page

For those of you who don’t follow me on GeekPr0n or know me, surprise: I’m still alive.

This may well be the first and last post I make for this December and before another year takes us. I remember when I used to write so much on here. I used to write a post on Mythic Bios every day, and then every day, and then every two days, one day, and now occasionally. I suppose what I didn’t realize, at the time I started this, was as I began writing more I would have less time to Blog than I once did.

At the very least this has not been the result of a creative block or major depression. I have been busy this past while. I’m not even going to try to catch up on what I’ve been doing since my last post because so many things have happened.

I think what I really wanted to write about this time around was something about writing and life: as I’ve not done in a while. I’ve been working on a long-term project this past while that has taken a lot of time, energy, and concentration on my part. I made good progress on it for a while. I planned to have it finished before seeing my girlfriend for Thanksgiving.

Of course, that didn’t happen.

Instead, after dealing with writing other articles, interviews, and life stuff I had to put it aside and prepare to recharge for a while: but not before going to my first Amanda Palmer Book Circus when she came to Toronto. I still haven’t had the time to read her Art of Asking. That is how busy and preoccupied I have been.

So I came back from a well-deserved hiatus to my assignment only to get stuck. Some writers might tell you that the worst thing in the world, aside from deadlines, is staring at a blank page and having nothing come to you. Well, I’m here to tell you that this is not the worst that can happen.

From my experience, be that as it may, the worst thing that can happen to a writer is looking a half-completed work of theirs and totally having lost their train of thought, while knowing how the story continues in their head, but fighting the details to get it all down. It is downright infuriating and it’s made all the worse when you just want to get it out of your system, and move on with your life.

Sometimes you’ll even begin to develop some performance anxiety and avoid looking at it. It will sit there in the back of your mind, but you are torn between wanting the fucker done, and despairing that you will not do it well enough. Procrastination becomes your writerly alcohol or drugs: that is, if you don’t like alcohol or drugs already.

A little while ago, I finally managed to get my story to where I needed it to go. It’s not perfect but now I feel the excitement again: and the passion and momentum to keep pushing forward. There will be editing and formatting and such to keep in mind, but those are secondary concerns at the moment: as I now feel that this will happen.

I think that what I’m trying to say is that, because a year where some promises and potential breaks didn’t pan out, where I sometimes wonder what I’m doing with my life and if I will get anything out of it, that — right now — I don’t feel like a fucking failure. 🙂 And I’d like to say that’s pretty something.

I’ve also been getting used to going outside again without feeling a whole lot of tension: though it will take some time. I’ve decided that Tuesdays are now my Suspect Video days with alternating Library days as well: to keep my mind fresh with films, books, and comics so that I don’t go completely insane. And who knows, I might even learn how to socialize again and function outdoors without too much anxiety after all this time.

Anyway, I hope that the next time I see you all in Mythic Bios will be when I have finished my work and I get to finally work on something new.

Until then the writing: it continues.

From The Book Circus: Amanda Palmer’s Art Of Asking Book Tour

A few days ago, a friend of mine let me know that Amanda Palmer was coming to Toronto on the last leg of her Book Tour. Unfortunately, by the time I got the message she followed up on it: informing me that the Lee’s Palace venue tickets were sold out. I’m not exactly sure why I did it. I had a suspicion and I applied for a ticket on Ticketfly: just to see if I could. It was this same hunch that had me standing in a line outside of Lee’s Palace for over an hour with the rest of Amanda Palmer’s fans: again, just to see if they would accept this ticket and let me in.

We all stood out there for a while: waiting for the doors to open past their 8 pm deadline. A fellow fan was nice enough to pass around free doughnuts: which was pretty good indicator of just what kind of crowd was gathered there. In all honesty, when the line started moving I was a little bit stunned that the establishment let me straight through.

Once we came in, we took the seats that we could while Amanda Palmer’s assistant Whitney Moses, dressed in her Erika Moen’s Anal Safety Snails shirt, came on stage to do some maintenance while leaving a glass of wine for Amanda. The event had a great turn out: made all the more evident by the teasing that began.

At one point Amanda herself appeared in the window above the stage and everyone cheered. During more preparations, as more people kept coming in, the music playing at Lee’s Palace would pause just long enough to get everyone to think that their night had begun: to revving them up further.

But it wasn’t long until Amanda herself finally came on stage, tossing flowers to the audience, strumming her ukulele and as she talked it got more difficult to describe the night in linear detail as I got caught up in the palpable joy of the crowd. She came onto the stage with another Amanda: a sign-language interpreter whose translations of Amanda’s words and songs were just as beautiful and interesting to watch as Amanda herself. In fact, sometimes it was good sort of challenge for me to split my attention in focusing on either one or the other.

After a request from a fan, we got to learn that out of the one hundred and ninety songs Amanda has created, she has apparently only memorized ten of them. She read from parts of her book The Art of Asking, while letting a fan perform an act of bibliomancy and selecting a passage for Amanda to read: even as another came on stage and choose a few sentences that Amanda decided to put into vocal music. In her book, she referred to a bit of history from Richard Zack’s An Underground Education with regards to Henry David Thoreau and how, while he made his hermitage at Walden Pond, he visited his rich friend that owned the property and accepted baked goods from his family.

The moral of the story is the core of The Art Asking: namely, don’t feel bad about taking the doughnuts. This is the second time I’ve mentioned doughnuts at the Book Tour. Very soon, I will talk about it for the last time.

There were a few particular parts of the Toronto Tour that particularly stuck out for me. Amanda began the event by playing her version of “Fuck The Police” — a day after the Ferguson verdict — and informed us that she was Toronto’s peace protest before this part of her tour that day. I have to admit, it did make me pause and it brought up some very uncomfortable issues for me: of the violence, of expression, and of cultural appropriation.

She also played a vocal duet of Dresden Doll’s “Delilah” with Whitney — who is a talented musician in her own right — while on her keyboard. This led to another difficult subject. It was after this song about an abusive relationship that she invited Sasha Manes of the Toronto YWCA branch on stage to talk about the importance of women’s and children’s shelters as well as her own organization’s charity initiative. Amanda’s Book Tour shared the same day as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

And both on her own initiative and when asked by her guest Eric Alper the Director of Media Relations for eOne Music Canada, Amanda also didn’t shy away from talking about Jian Ghomeshi. She talked about how many of her fans didn’t want him to be there and how, in the end, she didn’t want her Book Tour in Toronto to be overshadowed by, or all about  him. At least, that was my understanding of the matter.

Eric Alper himself covered a fair bit of ground in more ways than one. Remember how I mentioned doughnuts twice? Well, Alper decided to distribute seven hundred Timbits to the entire audience while he and Amanda kept talking. They talked about a range of topics: from the dangers of all music being placed under digital rights management again and no longer available to share freely online, to Amanda’s hopes on what crowdfunding might do to free more artists and their audiences from the influence of an unchanging music industry.

I was particularly intrigued when Alper asked Amanda just what she cut out from the final draft of her book. She mentioned two anecdotes: one about the fact that her programmer mother’s team worked with and accepted the identity of a transgender member as a given in the 1960s, and another about a woman thanking her for her work as a living statue in representing “white power.” Certainly, these are stories in and of themselves.

At one point, Amanda’s friend Anthony was brought up. Anthony Martignetti is a psychotherapist, but to Amanda he is her life mentor and friend. He has been suffering from cancer and, as of this post, has gotten a bone marrow match. He has written two memoirs about his family life and his own: and as someone who has reviewed both of his books, I can’t help but think to myself that when Amanda at one point began to sing Dresden Dolls’ “It’s All In The Family” that she was referring to Anthony as much as to herself. Indeed, at one point when she was reading an excerpt from her Art of Asking, I realized that it was actually the preface that she wrote to Anthony’s Lunatic Heroes.

After Amanda took some questions from the audience, she proceeded to wrap up the night with two songs. The first was “Bigger On The Inside,” which aside from the coincidental geek reference is also a song she played for the first time at Anthony’s Beloved Demons book launch. It is a raw, poignant and very real song written from a dark place in an attempt to grasp at meaning.

Of course this prepared the way for “The Ukulele Anthem” finale: a triumphant and passionate song about expression and hope.

Finally came the book signing part of the night. The line became something of a spiral and given the fact that I’d rented Uzumaki a few hours before, I almost wondered if everyone was going to become enmeshed into a great pattern and be stuck with each other, in a more positive way, forever.

I hung back for the crowd to die down a little more but I still managed to make some friends at the end of the night. I’m told that this is not an uncommon occurrence during one because there is just something about a fanbase or community of geeks and survivors that Amanda Palmer’s music and sheer presence brings together. Even looking back at the people who hummed and song along to her songs, it made me realize that many of them had memorized them by heart. For a while in time, it almost felt like the Fraggle Rock world promised to me as a child that never panned out into adulthood.

By the time I came to Amanda Palmer with my copy of The Art of Asking, my legs hurt from a combination of the hard raised benches of Lee’s Palace and standing when the discomfort grew too much: a minor version of the story Amanda recited from Anthony about a dog that won’t move off of a nail because it doesn’t hurt enough yet. Amanda herself looked utterly exhausted. From the blurry pictures taken faithfully by her awesome assistant Cat, you can glean that she was barely awake and I was not particularly that coherent.

All I said to her was that my friends said hello and that, if she remembers, to tell Anthony I said hello as well. And that was pretty much it. I wrote this whole account by hand initially: one on the back of my Porter Square Books receipt from Amanda’s local book store Porter Square Books, when I couldn’t get it from Amazon due to its issues with the book’s publisher Hatchette, and the ticket that I wasn’t sure would even let me into the building.

I wrote this from my new friends’ house where I stayed for the night after we all left together, frazzled from meeting a celebrity, for drinks. They are in the process of moving out of the country. It’s funny how things can work out that way. Just as this was Amanda Palmer’s first Book Tour, this was my first ever somewhat musical concert or event I actually enjoyed. It was my first Amanda Palmer event. Actually, Amanda had another term for her Tour. She actually called it a Book Circus.

So this was my first Book Circus. And a good circus delivers excellent food and entertainment, but this one also makes you see the uncomfortable things, the difficult questions, and the fragile strength of tired, blurry figures in the night.

This is the clearest picture I have. And yes, my hair is down too.
This is the clearest picture I have. And yes, my hair is down too.

Either way, it is already an unforgettable experience.

 

Sing, Oh Heavenly Daimon, Sing: A Review of C. Anthony Martignetti’s Beloved Demons

“I’d start talking about the dark and darkness, cold, loneliness, aging and illness, money, and how the hell can anybody keep making a living through a whole lifetime? I’d get myself all wound up and just rattle on in my head about the scariest shit I could think of” (2).

It was a cold day in hell when I began reading  Anthony’s Beloved Demons: Confessions of an Unquiet Mind. Literally.

An ice storm hit parts of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area and knocked out our power. For about three days in late December 2013 we had neither heat nor light, but plenty of cold and darkness. I felt absolutely helpless before Nature and my personal demons as my parents’ home became a dark and icy tomb. Suffice to say, this book came to me at a very appropriate time.

DSC00069

It was on the second day that I got Anthony’s book early in the mail: the postman having somehow navigated across the treacherous ice-crusted ground and overhanging crystalline pine hedges to deliver it right to the mailbox on the doorstep of our deathly cocoon. It’s similar to the way I will also have to navigate through this book.

One challenge I really had is that even though I wanted to look at  Beloved Demons  in its own right, in a manner similar to how I examined the theme, interrelation of stories and, of course, what I related to in Lunatic Heroes, this book still remains stubbornly intertextual. What I mean by that is it’s almost as though Anthony’s beloved demons want to war and fight alongside his lunatic heroes and define themselves by this ancient conflict. While you can read Beloved Demons as a standalone book, it has a whole other dimension if you take its predecessor into consideration.

So first off, what does Anthony possibly mean by a “beloved demon”?

It is said that the ancient Greek poets, when singing stories of heroes attempting to find home, war, or both, would evoke the muse  or the daimon — before they began to recite their tale. “Daimon” is also the root of the contemporary words “angel” and “demon.” In addition, daimons are known as forces of nature that pass through and influence human beings.  So it is only fitting, and in keeping with the ancient idea of the daimon, that “Cocoon Talk: Confessions of a Psychology Intern” begins with Anthony singing on the road on a warm summer’s day.

It’s also tempting to mention that demons have traditionally been used to incarnate a particular vice, evil, or negative thought in order to ward off, exorcise, or otherwise purge it from a subject. Certainly, “Feast of the Hungry Ghost” is a pretty good example of an attempted exorcism. However, I feel that Anthony draws on Carl Jung’s idea of the daimon much more and, in doing so, it brings an older mythological resonance to mind.

Genii loci

The Roman equivalent to the daimon is the  genius loci: a very clearly monstrous or non-human spiritual being that protects places and people. These  genii  also tend to embody their spaces: to serve as their souls. And, if you think about it, it can apply well to Anthony’s  Beloved Demons. His short story “Sign” is an example of a space with great emotional resonance to that regard. In other words, places can be spaces, and spaces can be memories. And Anthony evokes their souls like the daimons that they are.

Each one of the nine stories in  Beloved Demons  is like a different and yet interconnected reality. “Swept” is the only story that focuses solely on Anthony’s childhood. Almost all of his stories focus on the aftermath of his youth and how it affected his developing adulthood. The crowning achievements of this process can be found in the narratives of “Cocoon Talk,” “Sign,” and “Feast of the Hungry Ghost”: for just as daimons served as intermediaries between mortals and the divine, so too do these stories seem to function as bridges between Anthony’s past and adulthood.

As such, Anthony’s “Cocoon” is a nice complement to his last book’s short story “Swamp”: except that while Bullfrog was a symbol of enlightenment and the casualty of Anthony’s childhood sense of powerlessness, the butterfly is Anthony’s personal adult casualty. But the thing to understand about this butterfly’s death isn’t so much that Anthony was responsible (he was driving as it hit his vehicle after all), it is the fact that the butterfly, among other things, represents change. It is said that the wind from a butterfly’s wings can utterly destroy a mountain on the opposite side of the world. And while no one ever truly suspects the butterfly, Anthony seemed to believe the potential omen all too well and tried to prepare for the resonance of the change: the change that he ultimately experiences.

In fact, even more so than  Lunatic Heroes,  time seems to collapse faster than a landslide in  Beloved Demons. It’s as though all the experience and time within Anthony that had been contracted into itself, into himself and his inner world back in his first book begins to expand out in extreme, ricocheting vengeance in “Cocoon”: a process that he makes even more clearly explicit in “Feast.” Anthony is breaking out of the confines created from the trauma of childhood: the continued suppression and the emotional starvation caused in “Force Fed” becoming an expansive and terrifying “Feast of the Hungry Ghost.”

Anger and passion are definitely elements of this great change. It is no coincidence that, for seemingly the first time, Anthony reveals his first legal name to be  Carmine (30): the colour of red and fire and blood, of the wine-drenched Dionysian god and associated today with demons.

There is also a sense of space that becomes dilated between certain kinds of individuals, particularly sensitive ones such as Anthony, over time. For instance, I find there to be an interesting parallel between “The Wild” and “Feast of the Hungry Ghost” in which people, from well-meaning and voyeuristic to impatient and completely disrespectful, try to know more about  and even interfere with — the more intimate parts of Anthony’s life. In many of the stories from both  Lunatic Heroes  and  Beloved Demons  this, unfortunately, seems to be a recurring theme — of people wanting to know or control the passion inside him that he has been trained from childhood to avoid, while he is attempting to find and understand it himself in the midst of people constantly violating his personal space.

As a result, his space seemed to be small and narrow at times against a much larger world. At one point Anthony writes “I threw my eyes like an ocular ventriloquist” (18). It was Anthony’s reaction, ingrained from his mother, to avoid looking at people, while at the same time dealing with the perverse reflex to subvert authority and follow his own natural curiosity. Anthony’s account of Jackie not wanting him to look at “the crippled boy” in “Cocoon” is an interesting complement to his short story “Carnival” and his childhood reactions in that one as well.

You can even take this internalization a step further. In fact, “Feast of the Hungry Ghost” does take it further when the Devil and she-devils, which were seen as secretly forming and liberating within Anthony’s subconscious in Lunatic Heroes‘ “Carnival,” now become fraught with anxiety and desire: with a fear of judgement.

This leads Anthony to all but come out and describe the creation of a kink in “Feast”: or at least his kink. He seems to hypothesize that a combination of familial shame, religious fear, and suppressed desire culminated into a need for submission and masochism on the BDSM spectrum: with a particular focus on a darkly eroticized female archetype and a craving for punishment (144-45). After explaining how it is a feeling of wanting to get away, but eventually give into the fantasy scenario, he then describes a sensation in his stomach that he calls “‘the sugary feeling,’ which was both weakening and wonderful” (145). It is a striking description: particularly the latter aspect because it, above everything else, portrays a bridge between something that is both loved and feared: a beloved demon.

As I write this, I feel as though I am analysing themes in English class, and the very sense of my life depended on it. Whereas my review of Anthony’s  Lunatic Heroes  looked at many of his possible influences or what his tone at times sounds reminiscent of (I compared it to Will Eisner’s unsentimentality), it now really feels like Anthony’s own voice resonating throughout this entire series of linked narratives.

That said, there is one intriguing idea I would like to note. When Anthony talks about his cat Java mourning the death of his old dog and rejecting the new (110), it is very reminiscent of the narrator in Neil Gaiman’s  The  Ocean at the End of the Lane  being “enraged” at having his pet die while some adults, in their ignorance, attempt to replace him. It is interesting to consider that Neil seemed to have created this particular story around the same time Anthony was working on  Beloved Demons‘ predecessor. In any case Neil’s novel, according to Amanda Palmer, seems to have “dialed down” the setting on his own “creative blender” — of that place in an artist’s mind where their personal experiences and imagination intermix to make a story — and I can’t help but wonder if reading and working with Anthony might have influenced this in some part.

Certainly, this can be seen even more overtly when you consider that Neil actually wrote an Introduction to  Beloved Demons  in which he’s not only very candid about death, but he even writes out the Buddha’s entire quote on self-conquest (xxii) to which Anthony alludes in the conclusion of the book (193). And make no mistake: while  Lunatic Heroes  was obviously a personal narrative, an autobiography through-and-through,  Beloved Demons  delves deep into the personal and adult aspects of not merely “an unquiet mind” (which is one of the biggest understatements I’ve seen in Anthony’s work) but a forming mind attempting to find its individuation or, rather, its own sense of centre.

It is a dark and grueling process. I think that out of all the narratives, and aside from “Feast of the Hungry Ghost” coming to some kind of revelation through pain, pleasure and eventual acceptance, it is “Sign” that presents that unsettling feeling most of all.

Whereas “The Wild” was merely a hint of Anthony facing the primal part of his nature  his “Other” long controlled, vilified, alienated and chained as an animal  it’s in “Sign” where it truly comes to the fore in the form of power. It is very disturbing, to know that passion can be warped into the capacity for violence and the desire for control over another, and that this struggle is within all of us. But Anthony spells it out in himself and … it is unsettling.

I suspect it is meant to be so. This is something that wants to be free from all constraints: from his family’s expectations, societal duties, and his wife at that time. There are patterns  and dynamics that Anthony finds himself bound by and wanting to fall back into. But there is more at work in “Sign”: a greater work if you’d prefer. You begin to realize that all of these impulses and thoughts in his mind are reaching a state of at least narrative transformation. As he finds himself back in his childhood home, it’s as though he is attempting to find stability amid his own change and he goes back to the place where he sketched out the sign of a crucifix — a cross — on a door frame so long ago.

And this, here, I believe captures the essence of why Anthony writes. The crux of it, I believe, can be seen when he asks himself: “I wonder why I made that mark? Perhaps to save something of myself from that time? Or to create a future a memory? To say I was here … To see the sign. Or perhaps I only carved into the soft, painted wood with my thumbnail, and that’s it … nothing more; then, all those years later, made a story of it. Just to make a story. The world isn’t created of atoms and molecules, but of stories” (88).

It becomes very apparent here that not only are Anthony’s books his “cross” for us to see that he was here  that perhaps all autobiographical stories function in this capacity to help us remember who we are, who we were, and perhaps to see where we are going by comparison — but it also hits home another crucial point. Dominance and submission war inside him, and these are forces, within him which he can neither deny nor completely surrender to, he attempts instead to master: that he does to the point of transcending his own sense of self and stating something very important about his book, autobiography and literature itself:

“Making stories from memories … I think it has something to do with looking back and fabricating meaning in events that, at the time, just happened. Maybe writing stories is the same as the tiny sign of the cross in the molding. Perhaps that was my first story, my first memoir, to be known about and read only by me. Now, it seems, I mark the entrance to my childhood with these symbols on paper and share them so others will know I was here, understand me, and help me understand myself, before I’m gone and can’t return” (88-89).

Any way you look at it, however, Anthony’s stories have become his beloved demons, even as he understands now that he is his own.

I am about done here. Now that I have talked about the symbolism and interlinking of stories in  Beloved Demons, I want to write out some quotes that I think are very interesting and that found sympathy with me: you know, as if I haven’t already.

Anthony talks about love and perspective: “I loved her in the only way I could love then” (51).

At the beginning of “Cocoon Talk” Anthony makes a statement about the origins of human conflict: “I was always babbling, always unsure of what I was saying yet revealing nothing, and never truly trusted people who said they knew themselves or suggested that they knew me. Never really wanted anyone to see me” (3). It strikes me that the root of all problems and conflicts within relationships is that people claim to understand others and their intentions without actually doing so. No one ever truly or fully knows anyone, and the very act of proclaiming that “You don’t know me” is not only an act of anger and defiance in and of itself, but also a reminder that in all of our connections with each other we are our own sovereign spaces and should be respected as such.

In addition to the spaces in ourselves, Anthony writes about personal demons and how they can begin as weaknesses and become our strengths: “Through fantasy, we enter the screening room of an obsessed mind. And in our private theaters, we watch the show through the projector of our damaged narcissism — where the phantasmagoria transforms weak pariahs into prevailing superheroes, the shamed and the shunned into the celebrated, and places us, the marginalized extras, right at center stage … And here, we come not merely to tolerate, but to accept and finally embrace our demons — as if we willed them into life out of passion and the need to survive” (150).

I think my favourite quote, however, is the one that seems to describe how Anthony envisioned himself interacting with his desires. He states, “Nothing was nearly as captivating as this special pursuit, along with my role as undercover superhero- disguised as a pale and twitchy kid, foisting a dazzling subterfuge on a coterie of torment-skewed girls. A superhero, whose special power is getting his covert muscle charged by girls without their knowledge — surreptitiously slipping Kryptonite into their hands in order to feel his strength deliciously melt away” (152).

This last statement has a great affinity to me not only due to the “superhero” reference and how he applies it to his kink, but also in how it is different from my own personal vision of myself. Whereas Anthony seems to describe his childhood as him pretending that he is powerful and giving that power to others for his own enjoyment, I have always liked the idea of seeming to be mild  of actually being mild and kind — while underneath entertaining the fact that I can bring to bear great fury and power on everyone and everything around me. And even then, I’ve always considered what I am doing now, slowly building up my connections and experimenting carefully with that core of energy within me, as exercising that power in careful and clever ways until I can gain what I want: to take what is rightfully mine.

So if Anthony is a “superhero,” then I am definitely a Dark Lord of the Sith. Perhaps Anthony’s story “Swept” and what he learned from his father might have come in handy with my own education to that regard.

Finally there is the fact that, apparently, Anthony’s dog Poochy is “a food-operated boy” (72). Yes. He went there.  He went there. If you want a hint of what to expect from  Beloved Demons  beyond what I’ve written, here is a video  of its book launch in which not only do we hear Anthony reading “Sign” and “Dog,” but we also get to listen to Neil read his Introduction to the book and Amanda … basically making you feel. Her song Bigger on the Inside (an appropriate title for more than one reason) certainly made me do so.

You can also find  Beloved Demons on Kindle  as well as  Lunatic Heroes  if you are so inclined. Finally, and in reply to a Tweet Anthony sent me a while back:

Anthony Martignetti@DRAMARTIGNETTI @MKirshenblatt  MK, Looking fwd 2 ur review. And if u give me 4 stars again for not telling more, i’m coming 2 c u in Canada & hanging a rat

I finally understood  where the statement originated from  and what it means. It will give you all more background on Anthony and perhaps on both of his books. As such, and in no way due to any implied threat, I give  Beloved Demons  a  five out of five. The fact of the matter is that what I said about his quote on his dog Poochy applies to the rest of his book.

He went there.

He went there into the cold and the darkness, melting the warped and stratified ice of his surface interactions,  singing like a rat,  and I have to give the Devil his due … just as Anthony gave his demons their own.

Amanda Palmer: The Keening Moment

I’m not the most musically literate person there is out there. I always heard some of my friends constantly talking about musicians that they love and bandying their name all around. And I never understood it really until relatively recent times. I’m also sure that there plenty of musicians that can sing with the intensity that Amanda Palmer has displayed. But the fact of the matter is that none of the others that I’ve either heard or haven’t bring up the effect in me that she can.

Not to this extent.

I don’t even know where to start: though I do know it is going to be short. There is a moment in a few Amanda Palmer songs, particular songs, where she enters what could be called a climactic phase but what I call a keening moment. For Amanda, and from my limited experience as I am not a fully comprehensive Amanda Palmer listener, it is that point where she builds and builds her tone and pitch to the greatest of passion and it … rips through you.

For instance, take her rendition of the song “Hallelujah.”

While she didn’t create this song, and the piece in itself already has a powerful emotional resonance, Amanda increases this frequency to its nth degree. She sings it for Anthony, who at the time was fighting a particularly brutal form of cancer. Her voice is broken. Apparently, when she was singing this and as she is wont to do as she is always on the move, she was physically ill. But, as if that weren’t enough, she was also in an intense place of grief.

But when she reaches that moment of “Hallelujah” … I don’t even know what to say. It is a scream. It’s a scream that, for me, pierced me right to the quick. In that moment, it was real. It was very real because, quite simply enough, it was. It is the terror and anger of life fighting for life. It is primal and messy and only the surface of what is underneath it. It’s like that moment when you try to detach yourself from what’s going on and you don’t understand, or want to understand what your friend is going through and you hide behind something petty only for that friend to scream that this supersedes all of that bullshit and you will damn well fucking acknowledge it: because life takes precedence over the proprietary.

I’ll be honest with you. It’s makes me uncomfortable: to have that surface of pretend that makes most human interaction ripped away to expose the raw. It is a brilliant, uncomfortable feeling made even more poignant that it is from another person being shared with everyone else.

Yet as potent as this is, Amanda’s “Bed Song” is …. something else entirely.

If her voice in “Hallelujah” makes me uncomfortable in that it reminds me of mortality and my very real lack of power, “The Bed Song,” quite frankly, terrifies me.

I’m not kidding. It scares me. It scares me to the point where after having heard it a few times, I just can’t listen to it or watch the music video. It, too, is far too real. But it’s more than that. It’s worse. It is a beautiful song and an excellent series of visuals and storytelling that captures the essence of a relationship dying.

I mean: think about this. You have two people together who love each other and you watch as time and circumstance erode that connection and friendship between them into distance. Into death. I’m not even talking about the physical death that happens at the end and the retrospection, but the emotional death: the slow rot of the soul between the two people living together, but not being together in any meaningful way.

Neil Gaiman, Amanda’s husband, has created many terrifying creatures and stories in his time. He has made “Cereal Conventions” and Other Mothers and all kinds of terrors with and without flesh. But, if I were to choose, I would say that Amanda Palmer in the context of “The Bed Song” scares me more than Neil ever could. She manages to build up to and capture the essence of a living death and the helplessness of watching it happen and feeling powerless to stop it only, at the end, to confront it … after it’s far too late.

That realization, in and of itself, is enough to drive anyone insane or want the embrace of physical death, but “The Bed Song,” the idea of two people lying next to each, facing away from each other, inches away and dying alone, is all the more horrifying because it is a wrongness that becomes accepted much in the way that someone slowly succumbs to an icy death.

It is a brilliant story. It is a poignant song. It takes the spirit of that lack of communication to the point of “too late” and makes it into art.

And it utterly terrifies me: because it makes me feel something I don’t want to feel. Or it brings out something that I already have. Because that keening moment isn’t just the climax of the song or the pitch of Amanda’s voice, but rather it’s that painful and almost transcendent moment of recognizing these qualities growing inside of your own very self.

I could just leave it all at that. I could leave you here with the feeling of raw grief and a lack of catharsis. I really could be that mean and say that this is what life really is. But I would be doing Amanda a tremendous disservice. The keening moment I identify is not merely in the domain of grief but its very opposite.

“The Ukulele Anthem.”

Sometimes nonsensical, sometimes weird, but oftentimes fun and always, for me, transformative. It just expands to the horizon and becomes liminal. There is darkness but it is the song commands, “Ukulele banish evil.” I can just see a glowing, eternal figure facing the growing darkness and playing her simple ukulele: making the shadows scream and, for a time, retreat from her sheer presence, only for her to hand it to someone else cowering in the darkness, smiling and skipping away to make another one.

So while I like the ferocity and anger of the keening moment in The Killing Type and dealing with the loss of a romance as life goes on in the summery fey cabaret of Massachusetts Avenue, “The Ukulele Anthem” is, for me, a reaffirmation that eventually the darkness will be put in its place as people realize they are not alone and they can make the light grow together even sharing something as simple as how to play ukulele.

Maybe one day, when I am less self-conscious, someone will show me how to play one. In the meantime, I am just grateful that through those keening moments I have another way to relate to music. Perhaps, as Neil’s Erasmus Fry once said, all writers are liars, but I believe that at least some musicians tell the truth.

Photo Credit: Glenn Ross

How You Can Help Me

Remember my post where I Am Asking For Your Help? Well, this follow-up post is both late and a long time coming.

I have been insanely busy. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it feels like I’m in a Time War of my very own. I am trying to find that balance between having a life and using my art to support that life. It’s hard. When people tell you that attempting to become a published writer, especially a published writer that makes money off of your creations, they are not exaggerating. I have attempted to get published “legitimately,” and while I have still not ruled it out by any means, and I have one work in particular that I want to send by those channels, there is this one hard fact to consider.

I am working hard to make content and I am not getting paid for it.

Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy writing for Mythic Bios and being given the opportunity to contribute to the other online magazines in which I publish articles. I write much better when I get to focus on the matters of Geek Culture and other areas of interest.

This not about them or any of that. I just can’t ignore the facts. I am on social assistance, and I am working hard to write articles and stories that are not making me any money.

And this has been bothering me for a very long time. To be perfectly honest with you all, I know I’m talented. I know that I have accomplished a great many things in this past year alone and I continue to make myself believe “in as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” which is a far cry from the one or two I barely had energy to concentrate on back in the day, but despite my efforts and my audience I am quite simply not getting paid for any of it.

So I have thought about a solution to this issue. I’ve realized that this is no one’s responsibility but my own and I am now going to take steps to deal with it. The fact of the matter is that throughout my entire life, I’ve never done anything through orthodox channels, and even when I’ve been in established institutions I have had to find my own methods of dealing with them, and creating my own learning path. And now that I’m outside of academia and those established places I realize that I have to apply that same mentality to life. That said, I didn’t even know how begin to deal with life on those terms.

Until now.

Anna Anthropy, through her own quests to support herself and her work, made me aware of a new crowd-funding platform called Patreon. It is essentially an application that allows an artist’s supporters to become their patrons: to donate money to their art. It is a lot like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but while the former are made to support larger projects, Patreon is created to fund artists on a smaller and yet potentially longer term monthly scale.

So now this is the part where I finally get to the point. While Anna Anthropy was the one who lead me to this platform, Amanda Palmer introduced me to the Art of Asking: to the power of crowd-funding, of trusting in the goodwill of your fans, and to simply asking for help.

And here is how you can help me.

I have created a Patreon Profile. I would like you, my loyal friends and Followers to read over what I have written on this Profile and do one of two things: become my Patrons and donate whatever amount of money you feel comfortable paying to my art, or spread word of my art and my Patreon Profile to the people that you know.

I go into a lot of detail in the Profile, so please read it closely, but allow me to clarify a few other matters first. I am not charging money for anyone to view my work on Mythic Bios or anywhere. Aside from the fact that I lack the authority in those other places, I do have the authority to state that Mythic Bios’ content will always be free to the public. If you’d like, think of it as what the name suggests: you are patronizing me (hopefully in the positive sense of the word) for the work that I already do and if you do become my Patrons in addition my Followers you will get to see some Patron-Only work, or be the lucky ones to get a first view of it before I launch it more publicly. And I am also willing to undertake research and creative commissions.

I am not begging you for charity and most of you already know this. I am asking you for the opportunity to work for pay doing something that I love doing and making that connection with you.

Now, this will be a learning process for the both of us. I myself am still figuring out the details with regards to Patreon and it will undoubtedly change over time. Also, I just want to state that if you ever want to stop funding me for whatever reason, you can easily cancel your donations. I am simply hoping for a modest cumulative monthly donation of some kind which I plan to share the results of with you.

The thing is: this is both really hard and very easy to ask this of you. What Amanda Palmer espouses, asking for help, is something that has been ingrained in me ever since I was diagnosed as being learning disabled. The very term “extra help” is indicative of asking. But as I said, I have challenges but I will not beg and if you can’t or don’t want to donate anything to my work I understand and, like I said I hope you will keep following it and let other people know about it and my Patreon.

There has always been a stigma to asking for extra help, or even just asking someone for help in society. But here is where I began to realize the difference. I am not asking a bunch of strangers for change. I am asking you–my friends, peers, colleagues, and loved ones–for help. I am letting go of the negative part of my stubbornness: the pride and the fear of change that does not want to admit weakness or, in this lexicon, vulnerability.

I am trusting, all of you, to help me in some way. Even if it is only in the form of suggestions, questions, concerns, or advice about the contents of my Patreon please let me know and I will treasure what you tell me.

So I am going to re-post a picture I’ve been using for two posts now, and with good reason. This was me looking at the horizon a few years ago: wondering what was going to happen next. And this time, not only am I doing exactly the same thing but I hope to see you all there with me. I will keep putting myself out there. I promise you that. I owe you that. I owe that to myself.

Thank you for supporting me: in any way that you can. You already are.

*Hugs*

sincerely,

Matthew Kirshenblatt

Looking Outward

P.S. I am going to pay this attempt at good will forward. Gaming Pixie is an excellent reviewer, graphic artist, site designer, and video game creator. She is one of those that already believes in six impossible things before breakfast. But due to life circumstances, she needs more help than I do at this moment. Please consider donating some money to her art on her website and seeing what she can truly do. Because just as I believe in her, I also believe in all of you. Please encourage her to believe in a seventh impossible thing.

And check out Anna Anthropy’s Patreon as well. She cannot have enough support for the work that she is doing: not only being one of those creating games with her own voice, but advocating the creation of means for other people to do the same.

It Made My Day

I just wanted to take some time to talk to you, my readers, old and new. It’s going to be a short post this time around, but don’t get used to it: I’ll be writing your ear off again soon enough. 😉

In fact, that’s what this entire post is really about.

So, a week ago now the first part of my article The Stitching Together of a Mythos: Kris Straub’s Broodhollow got posted by the fine folks of Sequart: which I followed on Twitter only to find that Kris Straub himself had retweeted it. After a brief Twitter exchange my day–then–was made. I thought that, if it ended here, it would be okay.

A day or so later, I posted a few comments on Amanda Palmer’s Blog. She wants to have some feedback with regards to a non-fiction book on the topic of asking that she was, ironically, asked to write. As I was responding to her second book post, I had an epiphany about something. When Amanda asked what I wish I asked for, I rambled a whole lot and then, not as satisfied with the answer I gave her on this post I went on Facebook and Twitter to state that I realized “that, after commenting on @amandapalmer’s Blog, most of my regrets aren’t about things I didn’t ask for.”

A day later, I opened my email to see that on Twitter I got a retweet from Amanda. I have a friend named Amanda and then I did a double-take and looked at this Amanda’s last name.

Another day. Made. In fact, I was told by a dear friend I’d never talked with on the phone before or even seen that–at least for the moment–I gained more Nerd cred than she has: though I have to say she is definitely one to talk and will beat me in no time. ;p

Then not long after that, Miguel Sternberg of Spooky Squid Games was on Twitter complaining about being in a house with no tea with the hashtag #canadianhorrorstories. You have to understand: I couldn’t resist. I ended up writing this: “Short two sentence horror story: The last man on Earth sits in a house. There is no one at the other side of the door with tea.”

Suffice to say, this got retweeted as well.  I wrote a bit more, but he tweeted his screams of terror at me far before that part and that was satisfying in and of itself.

But then I thought: all right. I am totally on a roll here but I have work that I need to do. I’d finally finished playing Christine Love’s Hate Plus and I had to write something for it: I just had to, you know? So I did. It was long and I stayed up late into the night to watch my brain shrivel into the corners of my skull from exhaustion. I’d written a previous article about Christine’s games and I thought nothing of it. I thought I would get a few views or what-not–maybe more because the game had just come out relatively recently–and that would be about it.

So for a day this seemed to be the case. I added stuff and made some corrections and what not. I even added images and had the damnedest time finding a particular image of *Mute in her uniform. So whatever.

The next day …

I’ve briefly exchanged tweets with Christine Love occasionally but this was the first time she had ever retweeted me. Ever. And then I went on my Blog–and this was a few days ago now or however you reckon time when it is very late past what some would consider night–and I see, and I am not joking at all here, I see this … large number of visitors and an even larger volume of views. You get alliteration from this no matter what word you use. And some unintentional rhyme too. See, this is what happens when I write when I’m tired.

Anyway, now that I’m writing up this post to all of you I just have to ask: how many days equal a week made?

I’m feeling really good right now. It’s still confusing and scary, but I can see the hints of opportunities coming up and all of these things–which may seem trivial to some people–are signals that indicate that I am travelling on the right path to … to something. I made something for Andrez Bergen a musician and an excellent writer as well that will … come up on October 9th. I am corresponding with a friend that may be able to help me find some more contacts and connections that I need to begin the process of supporting myself.

I also have two projects that are really experiments to see how much you guys want to see me … make something. One of these would be shared with the public: though I need to look into the logistics of it more. As for the other: I may or may not attempt some …. self-publishing. We shall have to see on that. But the first will definitely be in the form of a question that I will share with all of you whom might be interested.

I might also be … doing something else too in addition to everything you might already know I’m the process of working on. But I have to make some decisions. It seems lately that I am always having to make decisions. A while ago, some friends of mine who were in Vancouver entered their Master’s Program and I entered mine–at least in part because I also wanted to gain that prestige and knowledge (with no little debt)–to feel like a part of what they were feeling if that makes sense: to prove I was equal to them and, more importantly, capable of delving into places by myself.

For a while, especially after still being in debt and a change in circumstances I began to despise academics and wanted to distance myself from it. But it seems as though it will never really leave me, but not only have I learned that I can deal with it on my own terms through this Blog and Sequart and other places but I now feel close to my distant friends in space and time in a different way.

Because, here is the thing: even though I know this is still going to be hard as fuck, I don’t just want a made day, or a made series of days, or a made week, or even made years.

I want a made lifetime. But more than that: I want to make my lifetime.

And now I think it is beginning because, when you come right down to it, it never really ended.

Thank you Kris Straub, Amanda Palmer, Miguel Sternberg, Andrez Bergen, Julian Darius of Sequart and Christine Love for giving me those little extra nudges towards where I need to be. You are inspiring. I also want to thank one of my former Humanities Professors Markus Reisenleitner for endorsing me on LinkedIn. He actually showed one of my posts–Worms and Bicycles Or How People Make For Strange Stories–to his students and that was very encouraging. And I want to thank Gil Williamson for publishing my science-fiction story To Serve on Mythaxis Magazine.

But lastly, I want to thank all my friends and loved ones and all my readers for always being there in some form or another and encouraging me to keep making this Mythic Bios possible. You will be hearing from me soon. I promise.

Looking Outward

A Game of Statues: Amanda Palmer, Persona, Expression and Life

When I was in Kindergarten, in a school called Adventure Place, we used to play something called “A Statue Game.”

I knew it as The Statue Game. We would listen to this song–which I now know to have been created by Sandy Offenheim and Family–move around and when the song would tell us to stop, we would freeze in mid-motion. We couldn’t move and the song would tease us, play games with our minds by implanting the suggestion of itchiness or needing to scratch our heads, and then it would start again and we would be allowed to dance and hop around as we did before. It turns out that this music and this game are still being played to this very day: and it is a fact doesn’t surprise me.

There is a reason why I’m bringing this up and I will get to it soon. During Amanda’s Art of Asking TED Talk, we got to see a picture and a little bit of a demonstration of Amanda in her previous occupation as a living statue. This is not the first time I heard her mention this: chances are I probably read it on her Blog or in her Introduction to The Absolute Death. But there were two things that struck me about her time as a living statue.

The first is how, in a way, we are all conditioned to be living statues. At least, that is what looking at “Let’s Play a Statue Game” as an adult makes me feel. I mean, think about it: the song and game is really rather instructional. It teaches children pacing and rhythm. It delineates a time for play and then moments of formalism: of needing to be still and having to listen. Making it a group game also socializes children into a group calisthenic: tapping into that unconscious place where we all unknowing imitate and synchronize with each other. It teaches a time for play and stillness, but it also allows us the space and the capacity to laugh at ourselves. I’d argue that it is one of those early methods of making social interaction into a game that everyone plays along with and is both half-joking, and half-seriousness.

Yet what really grabs my attention is that rituals like “The Statue Game” encourage us to build those early personas: a social facade that allows us to interact with fellow human beings. Personas are not illusions nor are they fake in any way. They are just different aspects of us or personalized mask-tools that we use in different situations of interaction. We make these masks from childhood and things like “The Statue Game” allow give us the basic tools, mental shapes, and situations to do so. In other words, you can look at all of this as an experiment not only in socialization, but in communal art as well.

Of course, some of us have a lot of difficulty with these games. Some children do move under suggestion of the song. Other children have slower reaction time or a different sense of movement, balance, and rhythm. And some just plain get itchy regardless of any song or suggestion. Yet the rules of “The Statue Game” still have an effect on them: they either learn the communal rhythm or make one of their own.

That is what artists do.

So let’s get back to Amanda Palmer. I have imagined her, and now seen images of her as this eight-foot living bride statue holding out a flower and trying to make eye-contact with those people who passed her by. On an intellectual level, I think it was brilliant and an excellent metaphor for an artist learning to keep being relatable to a prospective audience.

Also, it was very subversive of her. Think about it like this: what is an eight-foot living statue of a bride? It–and she–are symbols of of a communal making: an archetype of certain expectations and theoretically immutable traditions. Yet there Amanda was, in a role of monetary exchange granted, using eye-contact and a simple gesture of holding out a flower to appeal to an individual on a basic, human, empathic level. It is ingenious: just as ingenious as making a game for children teaching them how to learn to act as statues and feeling people at the same time. And she was taking that philosophy and applying it to the rest of her work.

She appeals to people directly: or as directly as one artist can to her audience. In addition, she takes the role of a statue–of an untouchable celebrity–and subverts it to remain relatable and to appeal her present and potential fans. Originally, what she did with a statue pose and costume she now does through Kickstarter Projects and her Blog. But one lesson that seems paramount for me is that she originally managed to create this appeal, to hone and develop her own art of asking, but not saying a word. She simply held out a hand and expressed emotion through her facial features and her eyes. It is an experiment in empathy: in relating to people through song, action, and expression through gesture.

Now I’m going to look at how this relates to me.

In a similar way to how her own Blog and Kickstarters function, I have my own 8-foot statue through Mythic Bios. I have admitted that I combine a lot of myself and my observations to make this Blog. I’ve also admitted that I make this Blog to order to find an audience and to relate to them. However much I’m successful is a subjective question. I mean, after all, this Blog still accords me a certain level of distance from everyone else and the role that divides us is still there. I am a writer and you are an audience and sometimes we correspond and sometimes we don’t.

This also functions the same for me offline. One thing that “The Statue Game” does teach children who grow into adults is that there is a distance between us–as fellow statues–but also a closeness in our similar natures. In our statue roles and in a best case scenario, we are polite and formal with a certain social ingrained amount of common decency. But when we get to know each other and playtime happens, we bounce around and jump and sing and dance and cuddle and do all of things kinds of things.

For me, it goes further. Sometimes I feel more like a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who: in which eye contact will freeze me into my vaguely uncomfortable distantly formal polite statue-form, but when others turn their backs I am more like my crazy, warped creative self. Then people leave and I eat the time potential that they leave behind: writing up whatever I glean in different kinds of stories.

Amanda mentioned in her TED Talk that sometimes when she was a statue, people came her way who probably hadn’t talked to anyone in weeks. The Doctor once described the Weeping Angels as “the loneliest beings in the universe since their quantum-lock reaction makes it difficult for them to socialise.” It gets too easy to be the statue and to regain animation when other people are no longer around: a statue that forgets to play or can only dance by themselves now.

https://i1.wp.com/www.caddicks.com/blog/wp-content/weeping-angel-hands-e1351558624422.jpg

I’ve been, and I am one of those statues. So I ask myself what I would feel when someone like Amanda Palmer can actually see through that facade and acknowledge my feelings? I would … feel some discomfort, to be perfectly honest. A statue is often also how we like to present ourselves to the world. And having someone see how I feel makes me feel very … vulnerable.

Don’t misunderstand. I have a lot of people who just see the statue or simply do not get what they see, or ascribe characteristics to it that frankly do not exist. Whenever I acknowledge them, I have plenty of ignorant and misguided people telling me how I feel to last for sometime. But having someone see me for what I am–feeling as though they can see my anger, bitterness, sadness, awkwardness, and general bullshit–makes me feel vulnerable.

I’ve been taught to view the world a potentially hostile place where you always need to have your guard-up–where you always need to save face–and where vulnerability is seen as an exploitable weakness … even when you want, and have the need, to reach out.

On the other hand, I am also an artist. I can write about all of the above through the medium of my Blog and find people who relate who can relate to at least some of it. Artists, to some extent, are empathic beings and have the potential to take their statue-form and open it up to relation. I imagine extroverts and positive, optimistic thinkers who wholeheartedly trust people are better at this.

I am obviously not one of these.

However, I can cheat. I can pretend to be optimistic for a while. I can, as Kurt Vonnegut warns, become what I pretend to be. And I don’t have to pretend to like what I do: because that much of it is true. Also, there are many ways to express vulnerability as strength and I’ve already found a few of these. And as long as I can express it in the best way I know how–through writing–then I will be okay. But more importantly, I am building up to the point where I can ask for help when I need it.

Make no mistake, if I want to move forward in my creative endeavours I will one day need help and I will ask for it. And if I can express vulnerability to the point that Amanda Palmer as: to the point of making other people smile, cry, or feel an uncomfortable, awkward, and twisting form of sympathy–of realness–then I will have begun to do my own job.

So when you get right down to it, and look past all the mixed metaphors, analogies, and references here I’m going to say this: for just as Amanda Palmer states that there should be no shame in asking for help, there should also be no shame in striking an honest pose … itching, sneezing, and all.

P.S. I just want to illustrate what happens when Weeping Angels play the Statue Game.

It’s not very pretty. Or maybe it is. They did ask for it after all.