Make Your Story: Treasures from the Underworld

27 Apr

Make Your Story is a series of articles by novelist Barth Anderson about things you might consider when writing your life-story, autobiography, or when mining personal material for your art. 

In approaching your life story, you should consider that you might not know it as well as you think you do. Consider your own life the way you might consider a stranger’s. Consider it unknown territory. Terra incognita. If you don’t, you’ll miss diamonds hiding in the shadows and truths you never considered. Consider what you’ve never considered before.

Consider the darkest. Consider the most painful. Remember that time you had to walk through the underworld.

Do you remember what you were most afraid of being true while you made that trek? So afraid that you probably don’t ever tell that part of your story aloud, because you can’t bear to say the words, report what actually happened?

Let that stay unsaid – keep its mystery potent – but create a single vivid concrete symbol for it. It could be a cursed treasure or a white-eyed demon. Your underworld symbol can be frightening or it could be random, dreamlike. It can be mythic or culturally known, but it’s best if this figure resonates with threat and menace from your unspoken fear so that it hums that way in your story/performance, too.

#makeyourstory

 

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Gustav Dore, “Cursed wolf, thy fury inward on thyself prey and consume thee.” (1857)

 

 

Make Your Story: The Nemesis

27 Apr

Make Your Story is a series of articles by novelist Barth Anderson about things you might consider when writing your life-story, autobiography, or when mining personal material for your art. 

In approaching your life story, you should consider that you might not know it as well as you think you do. Consider your own life the way you might consider a stranger’s. Consider it unknown territory. Terra incognita. If you don’t, you’ll miss diamonds hiding in the shadows and truths you never considered. Consider what you’ve never considered before.

Consider your nemesis.

I don’t think you can know your nemesis at a young age. The maniacal architect of your undoing shapeshifts so many times in the course of a life that you need 2 or 3 tragic demises before you see how your nemesis rolls.

Warning: A true nemesis doesn’t want merely to thwart you like a villain will do in a melodrama. Your nemesis is terrified of you. it fears you resurrecting so it pounces on your missteps, “crimes,” in order to humiliate and demoralize you. A true nemesis doesn’t ever throw a punch. It deceives you in order to convince you to never get up again.

Your nemesis will appear in the silence of a wakeful sleepless night, when you scold and abhor yourself most. It will appear when you think you are strongest, right in front of you, real as rain. Inside. Outside. Nightmares and stark reality. Both. To assume it appears in only one place or the other is to play into the nemesis’s shapeshifting game.

Is there a tell-tale clue that allows you to spot your nemesis before it begins its sadistic art? A sign or tic you’ve identified as belonging to the nemesis? A pop-song that plays in the background when you encounter it? A phrase that it can’t help but repeat? When you spot it, do you know that your demise is about to happen once more?

Consider this when approaching your o0wn life-story.

Nemesis_by_Albrecht_Dürer

“Nemesis” by Albrecht Durer, 1501  (more info on the goddess Nemesis here)

Mel Brooks’ Fight Against Fascism

6 Apr

mel brooks hitler

BREAKING: MEL BROOKS IS NOT DEAD!

But before my lifelong hero leaves the building, and while he’s still using a comb for a cheesy mustache, throwing fake salutes, and mocking the most evil dictator in the modern world, Mel Brooks needs a gigantic thank you from the United States. And from me.

If you think punching Nazis is a good idea, my fellow American, please take some time and thank our good buddy Mel, too. No one has done more to shrink Nazis down to punchable size than Mel Brooks.

Before his movie The Producers (1968), Nazis were still an ominous almost cosmic evil, too sprawling to destroy utterly. They still showed up as viable villains in the two decades after WW2, and I think the “specters of returning evil” trope (LOTR, Harry Potter) was fed in subsequent decades, by fears that Hitler had escaped death and that Nazism would rise again — see Boys from Brazil (movie and book, late-Seventies) for examples of that fear.

It might have been just a tad too soon, when Mel Brooks faced that evil for everyone in 1968, doing it not like a soldier or a knight, but as a fearless jester. Writers of heroic stories, by design, keep the villain large in order for it to be worthy of panic and anxiety, or it’s not a very good story. Only a comedian could poke fun at the world’s worst fear and only an excellent one could actually make people wet their pants laughing at it.

And in the fight against fascism, Mel Brooks championed our side with the precision of a master, with demolishing satire of the Nazi demeanor; epic derision of the rise of Hitler in Germany and the absurd Riefenstahl-esque production value of the Nazis. He was so bloody good, he could even satire himself satiring Hitler, and still make it funny as hell. Mel’s was the most astonishing use of free speech that I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I feel so lucky to have been able to watch Mel put the mock in democracy.

Sure, Indiana Jones punched more Nazis, and the gods only know how many Nazis Captain America killed. But without Mel, we might not have embraced either of those heroes as completely as we did. We might not be spotting and standing up to fascism as bravely as we are now, three (?) generations after the fall of the Third Reich, if we hadn’t been able to first laugh at Hitler.

Mel, you have been on my mind so much lately, with the ghost-like return of Nazi salutes and white supremacist evil on the rise. Thank you for inspiring me with your bravery and your gift for diminishing villains.  Thank you for providing an example of someone with a moral base for their politics (and art). I know what my beliefs are and why I have them when I watch Springtime for Hitler or the Inquisition number. Thank you for wrecking me with brain-clearing laughter my whole life.

I love you for your passionate hysterical fight against fascism, Mel Brooks. Thank you.

And remember: MEL BROOKS IS STILL NOT DEAD!

Barth’s Bus Stories: Bestiality (NSFW)

5 Apr

Basset_hound_0003

On the 23.
Two fourteen-year-old African American girls board and sit.

Girl1: I was on Facebook last night and I saw a white lady fucking a dog.
Girl2: For real?
Girl1: [knowledgeably] Yeah, white ladies do that.
Girl2: [flabbergasted] Why?
Girl1: She wrote a real long post about it but I didn’t finish it. She said it’s called bestiality.
Girl2: Bes-ti-ality??
Girl1: She fucks beasts.
[Long Pause.]
Girl2: Why does she fuck beasts?
Girl1: She didn’t say why. But I’m pretty sure it’s because beasts are sexy to her.
Girl2: Any beast?
Girl1: Any and every beast.
Girl2: What all are beasts?
Girl1: Anything that moves. Anything that breeds that, you know, she can do it with. Not mice. No one can do it with mice. [Thinks] Maybe mice.
Girl2: Really?
GIrl1: I didn’t finish the article.
Girl2: Dear God. [Staring out her window. Head shaking slowly.] The world is all wrong, Trinity.

 

Image courtesy
Lilly M – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1425693
Wikimedia Commons

The Train to Busan review: Prepositions of the Undead

3 Apr

 

train to busan

You Must Take the Z Train

Train to Busan is a 90-minute grammar lesson on prepositions by way of zombie apocalypse: The humans are on the train. The zombies are on the train, too! Now the humans are crawling OVER the zombies. Uh oh, now the humans are OFF the train and IN big trouble. Whew! Back on the train going TO Busan. But, oh no, now, some of the humans are IN the zombies on the train!

School House Rock Grades: Action A-. Script B+. Acting: N/A (zombie flick)

World Poetry Day: A Poem by Pablo Neruda

21 Mar
Neruda Young
“Spain Poor by the Fault of the Rich”
Pablo Neruda
Cursed are those who one day look no more
Damned and cursed blind are
They who pay their sacred homeland not with
Bread but tears, damned
Filthy uniforms, or the cassocks
Of bitter, hideous dogs of cave and sepulchre.
Poverty was throughout Spain
Like horses full of smoke,
Like stones from a spring of misfortune.
Lands of grain were left unopened,
Secret wineries of blue and tin,
Ovaries, gates, closed arches, profound depths that
Yearned to give birth, but it was all guarded
By triangular soldiers with guns,
By sad rat-colored priests
By toadies of the fat-assed king.
Muscular Spain, apple and pine country,
Your lazy overlords ordered you
Not to sow, not to midwife the mines,
Nor breed cattle,
But to contemplate gravesites
Visit a monument of Christopher Columbus annually and
Neigh your speeches with those monkeys from America,
Equal to them in “social position” and moral rot.
Do not build schools,
Do not break the earth with your plows,
Do not load barns with wheat abundance. Instead,
Pray, beasts, pray
Pray that a god with a fat ass the size of the king’s fat ass
will be waiting for you
“There there, have some soup, my brethren.”
 
Translation by Barth Anderson

Barth’s Bus Stories: Ear Bud Couple

15 May

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May 14, 2015

It’s chilly and rainy. Two teenagers are under the bus stop, both with ear buds plugged into the same iPod. Girl sings snatches of what they’re listening to in a decent voice. Boy too. They’re so young they may not know they’re in love.

Long pause as they listen intently, spying on each other, waiting, then they both gasp in awe and start dancing. They catch me grinning, laugh.

Barth: What is it?

Boy: [pulling out ear bud] What?

Barth: What song?

Boy: Bitch Better Have My Money by Rhianna.