Toxic Citizens, Bullies Beware

I Y Books ButtonI’ve been thinking more and more that some writers should come with warning labels: “Extremely Volatile,” “Contents Under Pressure May Explode,” “Does Not Play Well With Others,” etc. Perhaps at least with some advance notice, we could choose to avoid situations where citizens of the literary community, especially online, step onto land mines of aggression without even realizing it. To avoid turning this post into an extended nebulous subtweet, I’ll cut to the chase: Why do we often tolerate extremely bad behavior from certain members of our community? 

I don’t know if five years counts as “a long time” — perhaps it’s been just under five — but that’s how long I’ve been an active contributor to the online literary community (though I’ve been a writer since I was knee-high to a grasshopper), both with writing and editing, which means I’ve been a citizen of that community for that long. Citizen is an important word, I think. My default M.O. in dealing with other writers and editors is to treat all of them like a close friend, kindly and respectfully. I treat them like they can teach me something new, with an open mind, because it’s the truth. I also stand up for those who’ve been treated poorly and go to bat for those whose voices have/had been marginalized. I do all of this because I believe in the community and all of the wonderfully diverse things it can teach me and that it stands for.

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The Terror of Fatherly Frailty

Joey Hat Green onesie

Many people are terrified of becoming a parent; sometimes fears overlap with those of others, but often, they feel singular and impossible to cope with. I wrote a piece for Thought Catalog talking about exactly this, opening deeply personal veins and bleeding them onto the page. Here’s an excerpt:

On December 21, 2013, I became a father for the first time. However, I feel like I should qualify what I’m going to say before I even say it, lest I alienate ~90 percent of my audience before this essay hits sixty words. In any case, here goes: I actually never really wanted to be a father. I’ve known many men who’ve shared this sentiment, but few, if any, who meant it the same way I did. I say this now in retrospect, which is an important distinction, I think. I say this because, while most people are universally worried about sleepless nights, changing diapers, a formerly vibrant social life atrophied and on life support, being responsible for another (tiny) human life, or any/all of the above. Admittedly, I’ve always had my own reservations about those things, but they’d barely pinged my anxiety meter (which, n.b. is incredibly sensitive). . . .

My reservations about becoming a father stem from my set of seemingly shattered genetics, the sum total of which often makes it a Herculean feat to simply get through any given day. I’ve become accustomed to reaching the point of each day where exhaustion sets in — deep into the marrow of my bones, my being — turning menial daily tasks into Gordian Knot-like productions. Changing diapers is not scary; trying to raise a child who might have to help take care of you sooner than he should ever have to is scary. It’s the stuff of nightmares. I’ve had them already. . . .

. . . [But even] while there are definitely things I can’t do with my son—and won’t be able to do unless modern science comes up with a full-body transplant for my somewhat functional brain—there’s still so much I can  do, so much I can teach him that isn’t predicated on my health that it makes me feel almost silly for fretting the way I did before he was born. . . .

Read the rest over at Thought Catalog if you’re interested!

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Bittersweet Start to 2014. . .

Antikythera mechanismWhere 2013 went out with a decent bang, 2014 is sort of “meh” so far. Granted, we’re only one day in, but hopefully things progress from here.

Something about which I have a much more significant piece forthcoming is becoming a father. On December 21, 2013, Joseph Paul Owens made his debut into the world. This is important enough that it deserves a post/essay that doesn’t stray from the subject.

Nebraska beat Georgia, but that’s ostensibly irrelevant comparatively (though, still, Go Big Red!).

No, these things I’ve just mentioned are not what’s left a bad taste in my mouth; that dubious honor goes to the special way that only all out, diametrically-opposed arguments with family members can.

I’ve been vocal in my disapproval of A&E’s capitulation in the whole Duck Dynasty racism/homophobia fiasco. I’m not going to rehash it here. The bottom line is that, when you say ignorant things that your insularity has caused (or whatever) in 2013, don’t be shocked when someone calls you on your bigoted bullshit.

Of course — like so many of the most infuriating arguments are wont to do — what amounts to a verbal fraternal brawl broke out on my Facebook wall. I’m embarrassed to say, but I’ve got family members who wish they lived in pre-1860s America (or in the parts of Texas not called Austin, today). I support equal rights for everyone — no qualifications, no justifications. I was accused of preaching today, but if I preach anything, it’s equality and tolerance.

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My 2013 is Going Out With a Bang!

awesome

Well, this has certainly been a pretty kickass year overall for Cat13, despite not writing too many new things — especially when factoring in the second half of the year! Is it a coincidence w/r/t the number 13 and its sheer awesomeness? The moon’s gravitational pull on the tides? Swamp gas? You’ll have to decide. . . .

I found out around June that my “collectio[novel]la” Shenanigans! was a Finalist for a Next Generation Indie Book Award.

My newest short story, “Now You See Me” was published over at Bartleby Snopes, which then managed to snag “Story of the Month” honors for October!

InDigest Magazine had a killer relaunch recently and “Mr. Twitchy,” a chapter excerpt from my forthcoming novel Human Services is featured in the latest issue (and live online).

There rumblings on the music front too. Without too much build up, here we go guys/gals: some remixes I did a long time ago (1999*) before it was easy to do using Traktor or Serato [yes, I know I'm old]: A Gravitaas Playlist: “SDK Sampler Ninety-Nine,” in all its (pseudo-)glory!

More news on the music front, the extraordinarily- and multi-talented Peter Tieryas Liu used a few of my tracks in some new video reviews, which is both awesome and humbling! I’ve listed two below:

HTML Giant featured Peter’s review of The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting Improvised Men by Gabriel Blackwell.

— And inspired by his review for The Lit Pub, Peter created a video for Janice Lee’s Damnation.

I’m working on a collaboration essay for The Good Men Project. More details to follow!

There is also some big news/a possible killer opportunity brewing for something on the horizon — but even I have to wait ’til Monday for more news.

Stay tuned (and bring on 2014!)!!

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Attn. Young Electronic Music Producers!

Ibiza

Though they might disagree — or think it’s silly/weird/etc. — all the young aspiring electronic music producers/DJs should definitely go back and listen to some of the artists that tilled the soil for their “new” EDM to take root (that is to say, electronic dance music has been a thing long before EDM became nearly synonymous with Dub-step and Trap). Too many kids are trying to create stuff that . . . isn’t very good, but a lot of that can be traced to a lack of familiarity with what came before [them] (not to mention a lack of some basic music theory, but that’s an entirely other thing for another post, altogether. . . ).

It’s probably important to remember that this isn’t a “Greatest of All Time” list or an eclectic list of hipster favorites no one’s ever heard of [though some of the artists are fairly strange (e.g. Aphex Twin)]. It’s a list of artists who were instrumental in making the EDM scene what it is today. It’s actually a list most people who are producing the best electronic music right now are already familiar with; I’m really just trying to get the new generation of producers and DJs up to speed on their music history. It’s character building! (or something*) Of course I won’t be offended if people don’t dig the stuff on the list, but the quality/talent level of the below artists in their respective genres has already long-since been established.

I suggest, first and foremost, listening to Orbital and The Prodigy (Fat of the Land, omfg…), then Paul Oakenfold and BT (especially from the 1990s — Ibiza, anyone?!); BT more or less invented the use of glitches in EDM); Photek to see where DnB hit a high-water mark with “Modus Operandi;” Future Sound of London’s “Papua New Guinea;” Kraftwerk (anything); Tricky (ibid); UNKLE, Portishead (especially Dummy), and Massive Attack to get an expert taste of Trip-Hop; the evolution of Beck’s music from “Odelay” onward; ALWAYS relevant are The Crystal Method; Dirty Vegas, if nothing else for the “Days Go By” video; Dan the Automator (who you’ll realize you’ve heard before even if you didn’t know it before); Imogen Heap just because; Justice; AND Underworld (just to list a place to begin).

The Chemical Brothers and Dust Brothers wouldn’t be bad picks for this list either, and I’d be remiss to not also include Paul Van Dyk, Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, and NERO since they’ve all been around for a long time and have evolved their sound to stay relevant!

These are just a handful of artists who influenced me to start cobbling together beats in my basement in the late 90s. It’s never a bad idea to Know Your Roots!

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Deorum et Viri: Of Gods and Men, Chapter 1

So I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on this sort of epic-literary-sci-fi-fantasy thing, and I finally finished the first draft of the first chapter.

And . . . since this site is as much about the process of writing as it is actual writing, I’m sharing said draft with you guys, today! (Hopefully you don’t hate it!)

Chapter 1:
The Pale Wastes

Colossal dust devils carved their way through the ravaged North Pangæan Badlands, whipping microscopic particulates of obsidian and various corroded metals through the air like tiny, invisible daggers. Only the hardiest vegetation grew near the Valmyrian border to the west and the Anukhan border to the east. Boastful adventurers have claimed that the further they trekked into The Pale Valley, the more the terrain resembled a desolate, inhospitable moonscape. As they approached the invisible delineation bisecting the continental rift, the more the land, sadly, became capable of supporting nothing. Indeed all but the most hardened men turn back well before ever crossing the Rubicon.

Despite the savage elements raging through such a hostile environment, a lone figure trudged through sand nearly knee-deep, a dark balaclava barely visible underneath a thick fur-lined hood pulled close to his face.

Kneeling to shield his water skin from the swirling dust and ubiquitous sand, the lone trekker — a man of grizzled countenance — took a small sip of water, just enough to moisten the cracks in his parched tongue, lips, and cheeks. He knew resupplying during the latter stages of this expedition would be out of the question, so he’d packed and carried everything he might conceivably need. Shielding his eyes and scanning the skyline, the man confirmed the soil surrounding him has been utterly depleted — it is truly, in every sense of the word: dead. Even the sand had lost its color — giant, swollen dunes of pale grey and ecru stretched endlessly toward the horizon in all four cardinal directions. The pair of dowsing rods the man had packed, just in case the rumor of small veins of underground water was true, rested splayed and inert in his clenched fists.

The man unwillingly began to recall stories of the Badlands more frightening than any camp fire ghost tales. Men recounted a feeling utter disorientation as soon as they enter The Pale Valley, of feeling mercurial and uncannily . . . adrift. The man remembers being told repeatedly that North could only be determined by orienting himself within the plane of an imaginary meridian while trying to face the rising sun—a strategy predicated, he thought,  upon him surviving the night to actually see the rising sun. . . .

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2001: A Space Odyssey and Also Possibly Acid

_Technics SL1200

Confession time: I had never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey until last week. It’s embarrassing and I feel like my only punishment is the humiliation that stems from admitting this publicly. The movie’s great (obvi.)! Here’s my other confession: I’ve never read the book either… [#DodgesStones] But I’m going to. Totally. Not just because i’m promising to do it on the Internet where “everyone” can see me, either. But because I need to see how Arthur C. Clark decided to write the ending to the book because, in the movie… I don’t even know. I live-tweeted it while I was watching, though. It went something like this:

@JoeMOwens: Dave gets to Jupiter & drops extremely high-grade acid. Trips for like 25 years. Wakes up in a sterile hotel suite.

@JoeMOwens: Old man Dave: “Fuck, I broke my favorite crystal goblet and even older me is dying in a bed over there!”

@JoeMOwens: Oldest Man Dave: “This monolith is totally tilted the wrong way & doesn’t have any good channels. Think I’ll turn into an embryo.”

@JoeMOwens: Embryo Dave: “I’m as big as the fkn Earth!” #StarChild

Can anyone confirm or deny my accuracy here? It was only like 26% tongue-in-cheek. Seriously…

Speaking of 2001:ASO, have you guys seen THE HAL PROJECT yet? It’s worth checking out for the awesome screensaver alone!

What’s the deal with the turntable pic above? Good question! I recently got my listening space set up in the new house and my Technics SL-1200 is basically the centerpiece. It’s by no means the most expensive record player you can buy, but it’s not necessarily cheap either. (And, historically, it’s been top DJs’ weapon of choice for as long as I can remember.*) I think I paid $599 for it in 2002. Little did I suspect that, 11 years later, the same model, used, would fetch about the same price as what I paid for it, brand new. Check the eBayz if you don’t believe me.

I’ve even seen some going for $1,000 or more; now that was a good investment!

Astronomers recently discovered an exo-planet that originated from a different galaxy, so that’s pretty freaking amazing!

Have you upgraded your iPhones to iOS 7 yet? No? Why not. It’s awesome! If you, or someone you know is having reservations about upgrading, Gizmodo has you covered: “How To Talk Your Friends and Family Through iOS 7.” Even my mom loves it! You can thank me later.

Also, I really need to talk to you guys about Breaking Bad, but I have to wrap my mind around where the narrative currently sits. It’s so incredible, I’m basically speechless. Last night’s episode, “Granite State,” was a perfect followup to the wild and emotionally-taxing ride viewers were taken on last week in arguably the series’ best episode, “Ozymandias.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever looked forward to an episode of TV more than I am for the series finale this coming Sunday!

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Rededicating myself to something or another again

I’ve said this here a million times: I need to blog more. Three+ months is a LONG hiatus!

It’s not that I don’t like it: I do. It just gets shoved down the priority list more often than not.

Professionally, I’m still happily working at Metropolitan Community College’s Writing Center, but I’m also teaching English Comp. 1 and 2 at the University of Nebraska – Omaha. I’ve got some really smart kids, too!

On the writing front, I’ve got a brand new short story going live over at Bartleby-Snopes next month, which is awesome! Ever since I started trying to share my words with peeps, B. Snopes has been on my list of places I wanted to see my work published. I’ll probably make a huge deal about it when it’s actually available to read!

Have you seen this Breaking Bad thing? I guess it’s a pretty big deal. (OK, just kidding; I’ve been addicted to it for a while now and this season is insane!) I am, however, late to the Sons of Anarchy party. The show’s pretty great! I’m finally getting around to watching season 5!

I made a reading goal to myself this year. In addition to reading 60 books total — a paltry number compared to some — I decided I’d read both the entirety of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series (10 books) and Iain M. Banks’s Culture series (also 10 books). I think I’m on track.

Since writing a primer for the first 3 Malazan books over at HTML Giant, I’ve finished two more and have a decent start on the sixth book, The Bone Hunters. Here’s my one [long] sentence review of the series so far: It’s the best fantasy series I’ve ever read, including- but not limited to- both George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (even if you include The Hobbit).

Since I always like my fantasy fix with a side of sci-fi, I’m also currently reading my 7th book in the Culture series. Since these books aren’t exactly chronologically written, the order in which you read them isn’t quite as important as it is with the Malazan books. If I remember, I’ve read them so far in the following order — books: 1, 2, 4, 3, 5, 7, 6, i.e. I’m currently reading book 6, Inversions. My good friend Peter Tieryas Liu has reviewed the first two books in the series, Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games, both of which are excellent, but aren’t even as good as the series gets!

Oh, and speaking of, I’d like to put out an APB for George R.R. Martin: More specifically, book 6 in The Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter. WTF, George?! Write faster!

Things are also simmering nicely on the “Pangaea project” front. More on that to come, so stay tuned for that too!

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Some Good News for Grey Sparrow Press

My publisher, Grey Sparrow Press, got some good news I definitely needed to share!
[n.b. line breaks mine]:

“We have received a request for subscription from Yale University for our journal.

“I owe a large debt of gratitude to our volunteer editors [all of whom survived a year with the Sparrow] Annam Manthiram, Joseph Michael Owens, Timothy Stobierski, Amanda Casolo, Townsend Walker, whom I have worked with since the beginning, our amazing writers and I can’t list them all but surely everyone here, Sita Bhaskar, Marko Fong, David Atkinson; Joe after he retired from the Sparrow, Samartha Vashishtha, Bhisma Upreti, Marie Williams, Thomas Smith, Angela Ellis, Julie Mark Cohentruly so many more, and our artists and photographers — BIG BIG Hugs. Love to you all.

“And Professor John Roche, thank you for that fabulous Snow Jewel issue that actually was the one that determined purchases… Incredible poetry and more.

“I don’t know how UC-Berkeley had a copy, but that was why they contacted Grey Sparrow!”

–Diane Smith Fuller

Also, this news is in addition to The University of California – Berekley Rare Books & Manuscripts requesting copies of all Snow Jewel and Grey Sparrow publications (including Shenanigans!), and the University of New York – Buffalo, which is taking our journals too!!

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peterbd says I am the G.o.a.T. — How could I not repost this?

Random things are random (obvi.), but they’re also often awesome. Tonight I got a random email from the elusive peterbd and it managed to redefine the term “awesomeness.”

There were/are “lols” aplenty!

20. joe is greater at creating electronic music than most people.

19. joe is better at creating electronic music than this guy: http://www.blackbookmag.com/polopoly_fs/1.54529.1352141269!/image/image.png_gen/derivatives/landscape_411/image.png

18. joe became the g.o.a.t without selling out and moving to new york

17. joe michael owens > terrell owens and his relatives

16. joe’s writing can be found in multiple places and none of it sucks because it’s impossible for joe to write anything shitty as evidenced by his non shitty writing resume

15. joe is the only man on earth that could wear overalls and still look smooth

14. if you type ‘joe michael owens’ into netflix, a documentary titled g.o.a.t: the true story of joseph michael owens will be your only result. this is an unofficial documentary that chronicles joe’s life as a young prodigy on his way to being the g.o.a.t. interviews include his friends, family, and those who witnessed his incredible rise to fame. the documentary currently has 4 1/2 stars on netflix. it was directed by steven spielberg

13. joe wrote ‘we always trust each other, except for when we don’t’ which didn’t win a pulitzer prize, but when you’re as good a writer as joe and you wrote the awesomeness that is ‘we always trust each other, except for when we don’t’ you don’t need no goddamn pulitzer prize to validate your genius

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