PERSONAL

Follow Your Fears.

Watch out, we’re about to get personal.
I’ve been writing so many memoir essay blog things recently. I’d like to turn these thought into fiction. I’m laughing because I was supposed to be writing erotica on this blog and I’m just spilling my feelings uncontrollably.

 

I’ve been thinking about success a lot, particularly because I’ve hit a slew of less than good grades on exams. (I’m talking 50.5 and lower). Which makes me wish I were a woodpecker so that I could safely bash my head against a wall at a nice couple mph–repeatedly.

I have an account on Medium, but I rarely use it now. I log on and on my dash are a sea of “ways to succeed” articles. They’re all quite objective, and many do provide some good advice. And they all like to say “here, let me tell you the REAL truth about success”.

So I’m going to tell you the REAL truth about success. (The real truth about my success.)

Sometimes I enjoy reading those articles, it throws some instant (and very transient) motivation into my motivation, but after a while it seems a whole lot emptier than it really is and I’m left feeling vacant.
I’ve been calling it the “productivity culture”, and it’s that hustle sort of thing. That make-a-schedule thing. That get-more-done-in-one-day thing. That ten-things-all-successful-people-do thing.

It was that, that effectively threw me into a downward spiral in high school, probably the first turning point in my life, and so since then I’ve been thinking about these things.

I didn’t have a 4.0 but I wanted it. I was in the upper percentile of my class but I wanted higher. I did a lot of volunteering at our zoo but I wanted more places. I slept a few hours but I wanted to sleep less. I would set a vibrating alarm on my phone for 4 A.M. so I could wake up in the middle of the night after going to sleep two hours ago and say, “ah, thankfully I have two more hours to sleep”.

Worst part was the numbers. The cold, hard facts that said it all: you did not do enough–look what other people did, how much more they did than you.
And it was expected of me. I was supposed to compete. I was a chicken thrown in the ring with nice little knives wrapped around my ankles, all poised to duke it out to the death and claim my victory because that was the reason I was there, right?

But, boy oh boy, I didn’t compete with anyone while I was there, I didn’t hinder, block, prevent, do anything to climb up that academic ladder.

I did fight to the death. The only one I ever fought was myself.

And I lost, very, very badly.

It was a horrible, month to month, year to year, hissy fit, arguing, ignoring, patronizing, criticizing, degrading, berating, and whatever other synonyms fit in there.
Though, I don’t regret a single damned thing because I would not be the person I am today.

The real truth about success is that it’s bullshit.

Success has never made me happy.

Only made me feel entitled to hoard all the other potential successes I would come across. First deserve, then desire. It took me a very long time to realize I don’t deserve jack shit. Because it’s not about receiving, it’s not about earning. Play to win the successes put forth by anything beyond yourself and I don’t know what to say. It just doesn’t work for me, maybe it works for you, and that is okay. Maybe I’m just greedy. I am damned greedy–I want to feel successful, I want to ride forever on that proud endorphin high.

In retrospect, it’s very sad to look in the mirror and see something different each day because your self-esteem, self-worth, is entirely dictated by numbers and tangible things and discrete moments and rankings and lists, the academic stock market. A disproportionately large amount of that time I spent feeling worthless because I haven’t done enough.

So skip forward two years and I’m in college and there it is: the ultimate worst time of my life thus far. The lowest low.

And since then I’ve accidentally done something that I hadn’t intended to do, because I never really thought it through.

Whenever I fail an exam I take some time to wallow in intense crisis but I always feel better coming out of it. Not logically, but emotionally. It’s like a welling up, a rising, a walking back from the grave–ha ha, bitch, you thought you killed me? Think again! I’m back to wreak havoc, suckers.

Logically I always knew the standards I was trying to achieve meant nothing, that getting into an Ivy League wasn’t the only way to “be successful” in life, that I could, in fact, survive with a C in precalc and that wouldn’t be the most closely held secret of my life, knew I wouldn’t care a few years down the road at most.

But no matter how strongly I tried to build that logic to influence the way I felt about my failures, nothing worked. I knew it was unsustainable, unhealthy, damaging, I tried to fight it, but there was nothing else that existed to justify that I should try to stop myself from following that productivity standard.

I just got my grade back for my last ochem exam, and to put it lightly, I failed.

Initially there was that horrible swarming feeling of this number is so small. But, oddly, I have that floating up feeling of ascension. And I think I have finally figured out what that is. I’m okay with failing now. I embrace my failures now.

Productivity culture is a jackpot set of numbers, pull the lever and stare, take a card and wait, cross your fingers, wear your lucky hat. Count up all your winnings.

Those days in high school I was working as hard as I could, hoping for luck, chance.

I used to say horrible things to myself in the mirror on bad days.

Most of my days were bad days.

I wouldn’t let myself live by any other standards except the numbers, the count, the productivity because that was the only tangible thing.

It’s very hard to believe in something you cannot see, taste, smell, hear, or touch. Like the electrons moving through the magnetic field, I couldn’t fucking visualize and understand the concept of being successful it meant numbers and something discrete because under all that there is something that is beyond definition and that scares me.

It bites, it scratches, it cries, it screams, and it wants blood, and it has no name and it follows no rules. It just is, and I know it’s there, stalking me every day, lurking, waiting, trying to eat me alive.

It took losing mostly every single thing–failing two classes when I had never failed a class before in my life, losing friends, losing very good friends, losing my significant other of the time, hurting people I cared about, breaking trust, isolating myself until there was nothing else left and I sat on the floor and cried and it was there then, circling me, and we were the only things left in the room now.

Months and months of sitting there and I finally, slowly looked up and looked it in the eyes.

It walked up to me, dragged me out of that room out into the forest, the middle of nowhere, too dark to see anything, but I could smell the night sky. And there, it nudged me with its snout, dropped my sketchbook in my hands and helped me up and it saved my life.

Passion is a very scary thing.

We can’t see, taste, smell, hear, or touch it. It tries to lead us terrifying places that have no maps, no names, no others, no laws, no sense, no sanity, no restraint.

I don’t wait for numbers anymore. I don’t do it for the trophy anymore.

I can look in the mirror and it’s okay.

I’m proud of walking through the forest with no light, letting my heart ooze out of my body in blood, sweat, tears, because it’s the hardest thing I have ever done, and will ever do.

First deserve, then desire. The more it hurts, the more it matters.

I like being afraid now.

That’s what I live for. That’s what makes me feel alive.

Success is jumping down into the pitch black cave, not knowing what horrible things wait down there, knowing horrible things wait down there, all for the fucking adrenaline thrill and a ravenous, insatiable passion.

 

Fuck productive success.

Anyone can be a number.

Run for your fucking life because you’re the only one who can.

 

 

And I humbly thank those few who saw through my successes and chose to appreciate that chaos, the only important thing I have ever chosen to be. For that, I cannot thank you enough, and your support will follow me to my grave.

 

Hoots and Hollers

I’m not big on making blog posts about my life because that’s pretty boring and excessive, but I thought it would be nice to catalog current thoughts and feelings and put it down to pixel paper.

I bought Naked Lunch yesterday on impulse when I saw my university book store had it–my Friday habit is roaming bookshelves and just letting the stuff spark my brain gears–and I’ve gotten about half through it since then.

I’m already a big fan, I love the writing, I love the style, I love the number of fucks given. It’s been inspiring, it’s more of the style I’ve been looking for/writing in, and for some reason I don’t really understand (may even be correlation, not causation), I’ve been feeling super STOKED about my writing.

For the first time in a while I feel like I can really make something, and make something unique and “me” and all that fancy jazz. I think that might stem from an attitude I’ve been trying to pull together–to let the works of others inherently inspire me and make me excited about my own work, which is what I consider inspiration, as opposed to envy and comparison.

But I’ve hit 37K today for Burn-In (I’m also participating in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time) and I’m a bit blown away, after I’ve realized I’ve only been writing this version for a month exactly. Despite all the ridiculousness that happened there and back, so that’s pretty cool. And I wanted to celebrate that because this is my blog so I get to pat myself on the back.

I feel much closer to really producing the kind of content I’ve always dreamed, and I suppose it’s dawned on me that I’m actually doing that, despite some ridiculous circumstances that have held me back for years and years. So I want to hoot and holler but I’m in the university library right now, and that is not an appropriate setting–so HOOT AND HOLLER–I’m excited to keep going and I’m excited to see my own concepts taking serious shape.

So for all you who’ve read through that block of gibberish, I commend you, but I’d like to say that inspiration is everywhere but you have to listen for it, and we can all benefit from shutting up a bit more. And when we do, our passions begin to speak a little louder.

 

On that note,
Koel over and out.

Call for Beta Readers for a Cyberpunk Dystopian Psych Horror Monstrosity

Hi, world. I thought it would be nice to throw this out there just in case I do happen to catch someone’s attention, even though you probably don’t know who I am.
(Hi, my name is Koel and I like disturbing things and Mexican food.)

I’m hoping to find a few beta readers for my novelish thing that I’m planning to release as a serial, chapter a week kinda deal. I’ve got a bit more than the first 30k written out, and I’d really like to get some feedback, as I’m looking to begin publishing chapters soon.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Objectively it’s really just about two travelers trying to survive in this particular world. Ultimately it’s about what that means.

  • Cyberpunk
  • Hard Sci-Fi
  • Dystopian
  • Post-Apocalyptic
  • Dark Humor
  • Satire
  • Psychological Horror
  • Literary Fiction
  • Character-Driven

Deals with mature themes and hopefully things that you find disturbing. (Including profanity, violence, sex, fetishism, unethical amounts of angst and sass, etc.) I’m aiming for psychological  horror and not gore shock value horror, if that helps clarify.

What I mean to say is that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

I’m not looking for extensive critique, mostly trying to figure out if the tone, atmosphere, and plot conveys the mood I’m aiming for, and makes logical sense. So no big commitment.

Anyways, if you’re interested at all, please let me know!
Shoot me an email at ultravirulence@gmail.com

 

 

“Plots are for dead people.”

 

I.

I stumbled across David Shield’s Reality Hunger a few days ago at the Tucson Festival of Books. The first thing that caught my attention was the cover, it’s red, its awesome, and then I noticed the quotations on the front.

“A literary battle cry for the creation of a new genre,” — Cathy Alter, The Atlantic

And then I flipped it over:

“Who owns ideas? How clear is the distinction between fiction and nonfiction? Has the velocity of digital culture rendered traditional modes obsolete?”

Okay, totally intrigued, but then the quotations prefacing the text:

“All great works of literature either dissolve a genre or invent one.” — Walter Benjamin

I was sold I needed to buy it I bought it.

I took a fantastic class my freshman year here at the University called Thinking Critically About New Media, taught by Professor Charles Bertsch, and it’s my second favorite class I’ve taken thus far (Ornithology reigns supreme). Topics of discussion included Blade Runner, Capek’s R.U.R, Gibson’s Neuromancer, Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Cory Doctorow, and Lawrence Lessig. Basically, it was a class that eerily matched all of my more literary and more existential interests.

Turns out, the book is very similar to the course in themes, just a more literature-based focus.
Which means it’s awesome, and I definitely recommend it.

 

II.

I write, I draw. I’ve been thinking about digital art and theft and copying for years and years now, trying to get a better handle on my thoughts and form some sort of intelligent perspective about it because I love opensource content, I love collaboration, I love innovative crowd-sourced and crowd-funded capitalism-by-the-people kind of thing (the creative economy?). But nothing makes me want to wring out people’s necks more than the justification of stealing intellectual content.

“To be fair,” this person in my upper level evolution course says when our TA has to address the mass amounts of plagiarism copy-pasting the article for assignments where we summarize the article, “these journal articles are way above our level, and we just don’t want to get the wrong answers.”
(I almost stood up and crawled over the table and strangled this person, but I did not. I was disproportionately offended they insinuated the intellectual capacity of the entire class was not above plagirism.)

(There is the book Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, which I have yet to read, but a close friend has told me some about. I assume it is sort of relevant, but I cannot say for sure, but I do intend to read it in the future. So there’s that for anyone who is curious.)

Reality Hunger, addresses some of these issues with intellectual property and ownership. Interestingly, Shields makes the case for the dismissal of citations, synthesizing his own words together with other quotations you may not necessarily realize are not his own.

I’m all for remixes and the freedom of information, but it gets touchy once it comes to profiting, because this happens in the digital art community frequently — where a person will steal the work of an artist and draw over it or recolor it or in some cases not manipulate it at all, then sell it on shirts or as prints or etc.
This, I will strangle necks for, but it’s not the same thing as the freedom of information. We’re all talking about people who are interested in transforming and building off of ideas, not looking for shortcuts and quick ways to make money. This is a distinction that doesn’t seem like it can be put into practice — I don’t know how you stop people from being lazy, dumb asses and protect the integrity of content without restraining its freedom.

 

III.

“Good poets borrow; great poets steal.” — Eliot
“Art is theft.” — Picasso

The work that I create is shaped by many things which I had no control over, things I’ve happened to experience, things other people have said, things that I saw, blah blah blah. But what I do with that jumble of information is something that only I can produce, and that seems to be what creativity is. Just using all the scraps you’ve gathered to make something you kinda sorta wanna say, synthesize your own context for the world that already exists using the fragments that aren’t really yours because they are the world’s.

It’s no secret artists influence one another.
But I don’t understand why it has to be theft.

When someone points to something in my work and says, “that’s a neat idea”, I don’t feel like I need to keep quiet anymore, thought I used to. I can say — yeah, I decided to make this story about sentient plant people because of the Wii game Mushroom Men that happened to have some fantastic music by Les Claypool and it was totally fucking awesome, I’d recommend it but the Wii seems to have died out so alas.

I’m not ashamed that I’ve been inspired by someone else because I know my product is not a copy — it’s a remix, it’s unique, it’s in its own context, and only I could have made it.

I’m constantly impressed by the words and arts and thoughts of people around me. They influence me, make me think new things, make me question things, and I feel a sort of pride to say — yes! I would never have written cyberpunk without playing Deus Ex or watching Blade Runner, they said something to me that I clearly think is worth thinking about and haven’t stopped thinking about since and I’m really fucking glad they did.

“Genius borrows nobly.” — Emerson

 

IV.

(Of course it would be silly to cite the origin of every single possible thing that might come up in a work, there would be a footnote on each page, literary analysis within itself, essay after academic essay, footnotes about footnotes. Horrible.
As genius borrows nobly, genius must cite reasonably.)

 

V.

(I’m glad Shields’s publishers forced him to add a list of citations at the end. This allowed me to trace interesting lines and concepts back to someone who could tell me more.
Reality Hunger is not a collection, it is a synthesis. So I shamelessly used that bibliography and I have no apologies. I applaud Shields for his book.)

 

VI.

I’ve been struggling with art.

I’ve been trying to create an actual fucking product from the story in my head, conveying it in a way that actually conveys what I want, looking and feeling the way I want — but webcomic didn’t seem to work, novel attempt #1 didn’t seem to work, now I’m on to novel attempt #2, but this time its working.

A few days ago I wrote that essay/ramble, Stop Thinking About Smelling the Roses because I was so stuck on the idea of authenticity:

And then the acknowledgement of okay, I want to make something worthwhile and quality, knowing I enjoy trying to smush in some literary merit and I have fun making that kind of stuff. And then. . . . it starts feeling fake.

I think not long after writing that I stumbled across this article that had some fantastic quotations:

Picasso was once asked if he knew what a painting was going to look like when he started it. He answered, “No, of course not. If I knew, I wouldn’t bother doing it.

Hungarian photographer Brassaï once asked Picasso whether his ideas come to him “by chance or by design,” and Picasso responded:

“I don’t have a clue. Ideas are simply starting points. I can rarely set them down as they come to my mind. As soon as I start to work, others well up in my pen. To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing… When I find myself facing a blank page, that’s always going through my head. What I capture in spite of myself interests me more than my own ideas.

“With relatively few exceptions, the novel sacrifices too much for me, on the altar of plot.” — David Sheilds.

Nothing has ever so greatly calmed my angsty, confused, self-proclaimed artist self.

 

VII.

A while ago I decided I could concisely summarize that I was interested in the exploration of concept, context, and syntax and the grotesque and uncomfortable.

I’m not interested in standalone pieces anymore. I don’t want to make disembodied works of art, I want to make zines, art books, something all tied up together and cohesive. I don’t know why. That’s just what I want to do.

I want to keep all the pages of this novel-in-progress together with a binding because it is meant to be a whole. Deconstruct it to build upon it, sure, but I don’t want cropped versions of my art floating around the internet for no damn good reason.
There’s something about stripping the fur off a carcass and using it for clothing that is different than stripping the fur off a carcass and leaving it a few feet off in the dirt.

 

VIII.

I’m more excited to write than I have ever been in a very long time because I’m not worried anymore.

Last night a friend wrote to me after reading the first 15k of my novel, kids in high school will read about and analyze this in the future.
I said, if this novel isn’t banned in high schools, I’m not doing it right.

Is it a novel? Is it fiction? (Those words don’t feel right anymore, so I have taken to “monstrosity”.) I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t give a fuck.

I’m not here to tell a good story.

I’m here to say something no one else can, that no one else has ever said before.

 

Cut and Paste Philosophy

I’ve tabbed many pages of David Shield’s Reality Hunger, and I have been rereading these sections in the past few days. They’re particularly helpful in reminding me of my own philosophy on art and writing. Sometimes other people put it in words way better than you can.

I decided it would be nice to create a little archive of the quotations I’ve found most influential for my personal philosophy. (And I will continue to update it as I come across more.)
Without further ado, and in no particular order:

“Picasso was once asked if he knew what a painting was going to look like when he started it. He answered, “No, of course not. If I knew, I wouldn’t bother doing it.”
Hungarian photographer Brassaï once asked Picasso whether his ideas come to him “by chance or by design,” and Picasso responded:
“I don’t have a clue. Ideas are simply starting points. I can rarely set them down as they come to my mind. As soon as I start to work, others well up in my pen. To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing… When I find myself facing a blank page, that’s always going through my head. What I capture in spite of myself interests me more than my own ideas.”
original article

“This is a work of fiction. No person in it bears any resemblance to any actual person living or dead, etc., etc. London does not exist.”
Graham Greene

“Rothko is great because he forced artists who came after him to change how they thought about painting.”
— Unknown Tour Guide via David Shields

“One view is “There’s something in charge and I wanna get straight with it.” Another view is “There’s something in charge and it means me no good and I wanna get the fuck out of here.” And the third is, “There’s nothing and everything going on.” The third, because it contains the other two, is most appealing to me.”
— Robert Hass

“Authenticity comes from a single faithfulness: that to the ambiguity of experience.”
— John Berger

“When we are not sure, we are alive.”
— Greene

“Serious writing actually tries to get somewhere–to make intellectual, emotional, psychic, and philosophical “progress” . . . in the work of my favorite writers, the armature of overt drama is dispensed with, and we’re left with a deeper drama, the real drama: an active human consciousness trying to figure out how he or she has solved or not solved being alive.”
— David Shields

“Kill your band.”
— Lou Reed

“Let us hope a time will come when language is most efficiently used where it is being most efficiently misused.”
— Beckett

“I’ve never heard of a crime I could not imagine committing myself.”
— Goethe

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”
— Gore Vidal

“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”
— Pablo Picasso

 

“If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.”
— Carl Sagan

“I’ve never tried to be shocking. The only thing you can do is confuse people, because it makes them think. And the art of confusion and chaos is the way to make people think, the way to create a catalyst of change.”
— Marilyn Manson

“Any A.I. smart enough to pass a Turing test is smart enough to know to fail it.”
— Ian McDonald

“Sometimes I worry that not enough people hate me.”
— Amy Poehler

“Have no fear of perfection–you’ll never reach it.”
— Salvador Dali

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
— Cesar A. Cruz

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”
— The Usual Suspects

“I am more than a devil; I am a man. I can do the one thing which Satan himself cannot do— I can die.”
— G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who was Thursday

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all of its contents.”
— H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

 

“It is homage to the majesty of the absurd which bespeaks the presence of human beings.”
— Paul Celan, The Meridian

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
— Fitzgerald

“Great art is clear thinking about mixed feelings.”
— W. H. Auden

I am god and I need to be destroyed.

“To see what everyone else has seen but to think what nobody else has thought.”
— Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

 

 “For now in every exuberant joy there is heard an undertone of terror”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex . . . It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
— Albert Einstein

 

Follow your fears. Run for your life.

I’m not sorry.

You’re wrong and you know nothing.

No.

Why aren’t you dead.

Cut it out.

If you aren’t more afraid of living than dying, you’re not living.

Bad?

Good.

Run.