In April my friend Russ Gilman-Hunt died. He was one of the first four people who worked at my job with me. He was funny, kind and clever. He was not very much older than me, but he had a deadpan world-weary affect and a quiet warmth that made him seem like everyone’s dad. I wish I had known him better, but most of his life was outside work, with his wife and two children and his community in the SCA. I wish they still had him.
In May I lost the job where I had worked with Russ, as did a number of my colleagues. I have a lot of support from people who care for me, and I am lucky in my socioeconomic class; that has allowed me to inform myself that this is an opportunity, more than a setback. (I have done so often and stridently.) I will probably have a new job soon. I like working, if not always working terribly hard. I hope I can make that work amount to something good.
It sometimes feels like the only things I write here are podcast show notes and epitaphs. I haven’t allowed myself much time to work on podcasts in the last month; hunting for what I perceive as a replacement means of survival has meant little available concentration for creative work. So this goes in the epitaph category. Sure wish there were fewer of those.
I didn’t always love my old job but I always liked it, and I took comfort in the idea that I was cultivating a good place to bring in new people and help them excel. I wanted to contribute patches to the leaky pipeline. I think Russ did too. I don’t know how much of that we managed. Some of the people I patched in got laid off with me. I’d say we did what good we could while seeing to our own survival, but. Well.
A job that you treat like just a job is, eventually, just a job. I want the work of my life to be more than that. Maybe in seven more years—if, God forbid, this WordPress install is still operating—I’ll tell you how that’s going.
In February I got an email from my old laptop, and then another, both suggesting that it was in Germany. I had not seen that laptop since it left the back of my car through a shattered window in 2010. The home page of its default browser, at the time, happened to be one I controlled and that was not linked anywhere else, so I told that page to blare alarms and notify me when and whence it was requested. It took seven years for that to (probably?) happen. I wonder if someone actually has that laptop, in more or less the same crumbling shape it was when it vanished. I wonder how well they read English, and what they can find out about me if they dig around on it. Surely nothing worse than the things I’ve written here myself.
I guess what I am doing here is reflecting, which is to say, looking for myself in a flawed surface. I started writing online in part because I wanted attention and in part because I already knew that my built-in memory could not be trusted to retain my life. My pipe is too leaky. All pipes are too leaky. Among my driving fears is the idea that anything I lose is lost forever, and that history unminded is a black hole, a /dev/null, a point of no return.
But to really believe that is to assert that I know the future, which is presumptive: the future and I have never met. Sometimes a setback is an opportunity. Sometimes the past writes you an email. Sometimes a kid whose dad dies grows up a whole person anyway. Even black holes leak back.
And indeed I think it is best not to be comfortable, no matter how much I want to. But there are still sources of strength.
This is pretty spectacular.
“I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave.“
That’s an excerpt from Erica Goldson’s valedictory address, which she wrote and issued earlier this year. Read the whole thing: it’s brief but convincing.
I wasn’t first in my class, but I was close, and I was aware of many of the issues Goldson raises even then–though less concerned, at a more self-centered time in my life, and mostly just happy that they were working in my favor. (Another thing we had in common: the textbook inspirational English teacher.) I’m less complacent these days, less willing to accept the cruel theater of fear and shame that we expect smart young people to suffer with piety. Our schools are bad, and their splash damage is everywhere.
I’m not sure what use I can be to education reform right now. It’s one of those issues that is never urgent but always important, and I need to figure out a path to involving myself in the cause. Erica Goldson’s example seems like a good start.
Mr. Munson wrote me a great email about The Implicit, and noted echoes of Naomi Shihab Nye’s Valentine for Ernest Mann–which I think we read in his class, and which I had completely forgotten until I read the “poem like a taco” bit, but had clearly absorbed and recycled. Just illustrates the point, really.
And Holly made two cakes (they were supposed to be a four-layer cake, but they got nervous and decided to be two cakes instead), one of which had this written on the dish around it:
Eventually he finds himself writing another pubic hair story, and realises he’s bored. He’s done three zombies, twenty-six otherworldly small girls, ninety-three ninjas; fifty states, every tube stop, all two thousand UN constituent nations, cutting everything he’s ever seen into 101-word pieces. He’s sent the small girls to Ganymede to fight the ninjas (the small girls won), and then set up a rematch deep within the sun (they united against their common enemy, the masked superwhale).
“Next time,” he says, eyes narrow beneath the unruly crest of his white eyebrows, “a hundred and two.”
People read my stuff and write about it. There is no better feeling in the world.
I keep track of Anacrusis anniversaries in an idiosyncratic way, which means that I don’t notice things like June 21st, the day I first went public with it. But Mister Munson did, two days ago:
“Something seems to have worked in your googlebombing efforts. Bobrulez is higher in the google results than your blog site.
Hey, Happy Birthday to Anacrusis tomorrow, and as a nod to that spirited bit of rhetorical dabbling, I have posted my xanga entry in 101-word-anacrusis form.
It’s no great shakes, but it was fun. It is actually more of a writing exercise, isn’t it? It’s like Soduku for the literate.
Not sure I want to get on face book, it just seems so public. Xanga is so much more anonymous.
By the way, this email was an anacrusis!
I’m not sure whether I prefer “Sudoku for the literate” to “fiction for the attention-deprived,” but it is a nice dig at Sudoku. I’m not a huge fan of crosswords, but at least they’re not entirely computable.
As of this writing, NFD is the top Google result for Bryan Munson, which means I occasionally get emails from other former students of his wondering where he is now and how to contact him. While I certainly don’t mind that, I learned yesterday that Bryan Munson does in fact have his own site, and has since 2004! Bad Google! Admittedly, most of the content is surreal and discontented blog entries by his classroom doll-mascot, but it still deserves to be the top Munson for Munson Munson.
Get a Facebook too, Bryan Munson.
Tonight I got an email from Mr. Munson. He’s teaching his first Creative Writing course this semester, and he wants to use Anacrusis as a (positive) example.
Maybe someday I’ll sell a story or a novel and be inducted into the ranks of the print-published; maybe not. Either way I’m going to look back at January 5, 2007, as the day I Made It.
Ian has been and gone, leaving giggles and makeouts in his wake. Thank you very, very much to Deb Core, Sumana Harihareswara, Joan Wood, Sharon Calhoun, Lisa Brown, Scott Stauble, Kyle Neumann, Angel Brooks, Ken Moore, Monica Willett, Sean Hoban, and especially Maria, whose idea this was in the first place. You guys are the champions of friendship!
I like movies. Sometimes, I hate movies, because I realize that hundreds of people spent a year of their lives each, along with tens of millions of dollars, making Son of the Mask. But I really do like them in general, even the kind of movies that wins Oscars. If I was in high school and Mr. Munson took two days out of Multicultural Literature (it was a great class, title notwithstanding) to have us watch Hotel Rwanda, I would be moved by it. I would tell my friends about it and do research to find out more about the situation. I would value the experience.
But if I’m sitting at home with nothing to do and I’m like “hey, let’s rent or go to a movie,” there’s no way I’m going to pick Hotel Rwanda. I just don’t hate myself that much. As a result, I never watch great movies and David Clark embarrasses me in Team Movie Pong.
Since my solution to many of my personal flaws is rigorous scheduling, here’s my idea: Sad And Happy Movie Day. Maybe one or two Saturdays a month, I’d get together with other humans (assuming I could trick anybody else into it) and two movies. One would be a great, depressing film about human nature, like Hotel Rwanda or Dancer in the Dark* or Boys Don’t Cry or The Mission. The other would be a goofy big-Hollywood popcorn flick, like Ocean’s Twelve or The Scorpion King. Maybe something chop-socky like Ong Bak, or something happy-indie like Garden State. Maybe Hackers, the foremost cinematic achievement of all time.
We would watch the sad movie first, and sit there slumped over, realizing that all human hope is a doomed, brief match-flare against the endless dark. We’d take a half-hour break to make popcorn and go get some Sourpatch Kids. We’d walk it off a little. Then we’d pop in the happy movie, laugh and ooh, karate-chop the couch and go home feeling generally not suicidal.
This is not something I will likely start soon, and if it does start I probably wouldn’t be able to host it myself. Still, would anybody else be up for it?
* Actually I am immune to Dancer in the Dark now, thanks to Jon, but I can still inflict it on other people.