Category Archives: dialogic jam sessions

Grainwaves

DOCTOR: Linda

LINDA: Herry

DOCTOR: Linda

LINDA: I checked out thirty books from the library today but I didn’t bring any of them home.

DOCTOR: What books? Why so many?

LINDA: I’m writing part of a master’s thesis this summer.

DOCTOR: About what?

LINDA: Just a fat fake scholarly elaboration of this Transom article from 2010.

DOCTOR: That sounds interesting!

LINDA: Yeah, I’m having fun researching it. The fake

DOCTOR: Hang on that’s the second time you’ve said “fake.” I think it’s become a tic. What do you really mean? Instead of fake, think of a more genuine, a more authentic

LINDA: [Seething] Why say both genuine and authentic? Is there a difference between the two that requires you to use both words?

DOCTOR: [With dignity and reserve] I merely used both words for emphasis.

LINDA: I’m sorry. My worst enemy had a baby last night. I just got the email announcement.

DOCTOR: It’s OK. I know you’re going through a lot.

LINDA: You mean my eyes.

DOCTOR: Yeah. Do you want to talk about your eyes?

LINDA: OK. They’re fucked.

DOCTOR: Ha. How are they fucked?

LINDA: I was taking Acetazolamide

DOCTOR: —a generic of Diamox, a standard diuretic used for glaucoma patients —

LINDA: —and also commonly prescribed for cystoid macular edema, which I have.

DOCTOR: A swelling in the retina. Which is itself a common complication of retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

LINDA: Yup. The RP is the main event — that’s the degenerative retinal condition that’s inexorably eating my vision from the outside in

DOCTOR:  At your diagnosis, at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, when you were a teenager, I asked if you could see stars. You said no, and I knew it was RP.

LINDA: You asked if I could see stars in the night sky. It felt a little creepy. That you knew I couldn’t see stars. like you’d asked me, “Do you have a fantasy of being reborn as Frank Whaley’s character in Career Opportunities (1991), locked in an after-hours Target, rollerskating and making out  with Jennifer Connolly for eternity?”

And I was like…”uh, yeah. No, I can’t see stars.”

MSDCAOP EC005

CAREER OPPORTUNITIES, Jennifer Connelly, Frank Whaley, 1991, (c)Universal Pictures

DOCTOR: RP often first gets diagnosed in teenagers as night blindness.

LINDA: That movie (and, let’s be real, Jennifer Connelly) made a strong impression on me when I first saw it. I was probably 11.

DOCTOR: What made you think you had RP?

LINDA: It must have been… I don’t know. 2000, 2001. People were already Googling their ailments by then. Or, I guess, Yahoo!ing their ailments.

DOCTOR: Webcrawling across their pain.

LINDA: Ha. That phrase

DOCTOR: I just thought of it! I love riffing with you!

LINDA: Ha. That phrase reminds me of Chris Burden’s TV Ad, where it says “through the night softly.” he bought a TV spot on national television

DOCTOR: He’s the performance artist famous for the piece where he crucified himself to a Volkswagen.

LINDA: Right so he bought a TV spot on national TV where it shows him crawling through glass with his hands tied behind his back and then it says through the night softly

All this talk of my night blindness, kind of reminds me of this Chris Burden piece.

DOCTOR: Was it that painful?

LINDA: not at all. I mean that’s the thing unless you count walking into things (which hurts) or feeling sad or worrying you’ve passed it on to your son

DOCTOR: RP is genetically marked in some people but many with the condition have no record of it in their bloodline

LINDA: But it’s not painful. The Burden connection is more about the way I went through the world at night, and now the way I increasingly do during the day. Softly, at pains. But also something about the way that Burden has uhhh burdened himself with this difficulty himself. he’s not being tortured — he’s going through the night softly for an artistic reason.

DOCTOR: Cut that pun but my question is why do you think of the blindness as self-imposed?

LINDA: More that i have to perform it, that blindness becomes a sort of performance art. The cane really creates that feeling: when I unfold my cane, with a flourish, the social situation is transformed so fast it’s like Chris Burden just walked into a room and started doing one of his pieces. Of course I’m exaggerating

DOCTOR: At the time of your diagnosis you still drove a car

LINDA:  I still drove back then — even at night! Kind of unbelievable to me now. At first it was really only noticeable when I was like running through the woods with my drug-friends after dark

DOCTOR: But over the years…

LINDA: It’s gradually degenerated. Anyway I was living in NYC for a year recently

DOCTOR: You were in that one-woman show on Broadway.

LINDA: Grainwave.

DOCTOR: That got great reviews, didn’t it?

LINDA: Uh, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer. Yeah, we did well.

DOCTOR: What was it about?

LINDA: I adapted Dwight MacDonald’s Against the American Grain and sort of did a mashup with that and “The Star-Spangled Banner”  

DOCTOR: “Amber waves of grain”

LINDA: Right and there was also a thread about brainwaves

DOCTOR: “grain waves”

LINDA: Yep and one of the characters was the lovable fascist Walter Starkie whose autobiography was called The Waveless Plain 

DOCTOR: I thought it was a one-woman show. “Characters”?

LINDA: And I  performed the whole thing in a Lieder style inspired by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau who  Roland Barthes writes about in  “The Grain of the Voice,” his wonderful essay on the linguistics of sound.

Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings are played at loud volume at various times throughout the piece

DOCTOR: Wait didn’t you say it was a one-woman show?

LINDA: It took a lot out of me. Also Terry Eagleton has a book of essays called Against the Grain and he’s a character in it and so is an eagle that my mom made out of felt and I did the whole thing buried up to my waist in raw barley

DOCTOR: But so you said you stopped taking the Diamox?

LINDA: The Acetazolamide.

DOCTOR: Why?

LINDA: Well I was taking it because I had the swelling in my macula and that was fucking with my central vision

DOCTOR: you also have cataracts

LINDA: which are super treatable but I don’t want to fuck with surgery until it’s absolutely necessary because my vision is like a little scrap of parchment that I have been carrying with me through the wilderness

DOCTOR: the wilderness of, say, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

LINDA: Sure. Or maybe a YA adventure book à la Hatchet

DOCTOR: OK

Hatchet

LINDA: And I think of someone with otherwise healthy eyes getting cataract surgery they’re worried but also if something goes wrong there’s a lot more…uh… parchment left over for them even in a worst-case scenario

DOCTOR: Whereas you have just this tattered soft decaying square that you’ve worried over and sweated through and pissed on and so on through the King Lear style Tempests

LINDA: seriously, the literary references here are a bit much what is going on

DOCTOR: I dunno just feeling my oats

LINDA: right so I’m understandably wary of laying my precious little square of fabric out on the operating table. so when I’m living in NYC i finally decide to go see a retinal specialist which i haven’t been to for years because I figured what’s the point there is no treatment for RP

DOCTOR: At least not for someone with as much vision as you have left but recent developments such as the Argus 2, an artificial retina

LINDA: Right sure but I’m a few years out from needing one of those and it just recently became commercially available and anyway the specialist on Gramercy Park looked at my eyes and was like jesus I don’t know how you get around — i had folded up my cane when i arrived so he didn’t know i used one? — and told me I was legally blind and could collect disability and then said the good news is you have this swelling which we can treat with Diamox. So  I’ve been on that  for a year or so and the only side effect I noticed was that it makes beer and most carbonated beverages taste bad

DOCTOR: which is a shame because you love craft beer!

LINDA: yeah, woe is me. but then i started having tinnitus. which for a person who’s gradually but inexorably going blind tinnitus is really fucking scary. because I was just imagining myself once i’d lost all my vision,  sitting there in the dark with my family nearby reading books that i’d only know the titles of if I asked them and not being able to quite make out what they’re saying because of the painfully loud ringing in my ears

DOCTOR: jesus

LINDA: and then one day i was re-googling my ailments and remembered that tinnitus is a listed side-effect of the drug

DOCTOR: motherfucker!

LINDA: so I stopped taking it right away and then really quickly and dramatically my vision went to shit. like a new level of shit. it took about a week off the acetazolamide, and  suddenly reading got really hard. as did moving around, even familiar places. chances of knocking over my son went up by 40 percent. asking if anybody had seen the thing sitting on the table in front of me became a daily thing.

DOCTOR: ugh

LINDA: so anyway i found an alternative treatment which i’m trying but i’ve only been on it like 2 weeks and I’m not sure if it’s working yet or not

DOCTOR: what’s the new drug called?

LINDA: spousal love

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When Is It Too Late?

A: Help! I’m curious when it’s too late.

B: Do you mean you’re curious when it’s too late? Or you’re curious when it’s too late?

A: Help!

B: Calm down. We have an audience [Gestures to the audience.]

A: [Gestures to B’s gesturing]

B: Mocking me?

A: Mocking you?

B: Aleatoric birdsong

A: Harpsichord deathmonk

B: [Holds her tongue]

A: [Peacefully abides within a privileged suffering]

B: [Blows another imaginary deadline]

A: [Participates in careless riffing]

B: [Subscribes to a community newspaper with at least one racist reporter]

A: [Eats a great deal of Japanese bean-crackers]

B: [Watches Daniel Radcliffe rap a Blackalicious song on Jimmy Fallon on YouTube]

A: [Hurts himself with a mental needle]

B: [Farms out some stuff to a Little League of refreshment-and-freelancers]

A: What was your question during the Q&A?

B: I asked if a certain compound phrase the short-fiction writer used in her story was hyphenated

A: Cos you were trying to picture the phrase, how it was printed?

B: It changed the meaning for me, whether it was hyphenated or not

A: What was the phrase? How did a hyphen change its meaning?

B: Well OK It didn’t change it dramatically. Or… even … like… semantically. It was more of an aesthetic thing.

A: Like a blind guy at the opera who wants to know what color are the buttons on the Colonel’s vest

B: Exactly so

A: —B, the colonel’s buttons were orange

B: What sort of orange?

A: Brass— in a child’s imagination

B: Why does a child’s imagination turn brass orange?

A: The child has never seen brass, but the child does have a sense for what brass is, kinda generally, and so his imagination bronzes it

B: Bronzes the brass?

A: The brass is bronzed by the child’s imagination

B: Talking to you feels like passing a school of eels and neckties and their hybrid offspring through an eternal dishwasher: loading it up, running it, sitting near its quiet warmth during the dry cycle, unloading, beginning again with the fresh neckties and eels and their hybrid offspring, loading them in, draping them over the rack, pouring in the detergent, starting it up, sitting down, sliding over during the dry cycle, over and on and on and over again and on. Is what speaking with you today and most days feels like

A: Oh B, My dick is limpid

B: u mean limp?

A: No, limpid, which means “totally clear, un-dark”

B: it’s a bright cock?

A: Right, bright. Filled with natural light

TFP1

DARREN: My favorite kind of music is trust-fund punk.

KARREN: My favorite kind of tunnel is carpal. My favorite academic trend is the linguistic turn

DARREN: like in the 80s?

KARREN: yeah. I felt so good when scholarship took a linguistic turn

DARREN: One time you told me that you thought my blog was really well proofread

KARREN: it is!

DARREN: But I only thought, Ouch! faint praise!

KARREN: what’s faint about well proofed?

DARREN: i want it to be blazing and arresting, not clean

KARREN: well

DARREN: who will run the frog hospital?

KARREN: who will boost our followers?

DARREN: Steve Roeggenbuck will run the frog hospital

KARREN: we can’t name our son Ben Smith because he won’t be googleable

DARREN: I didn’t study search-engine optimization in college to help inform what we’re gonna name our son. anyway i thought we were gonna name him derrick?

KARREN:  like oil derrick?

DARREN: Like derek jeter?

KARREN: you’re embarrassing me. Have we gotten everything on our list?

DARREN: we still need salt-breath

[they turn down aisle 9, where the salt-breath is stocked]

DARREN: here’s the salt breath

KARREN [selecting a less-expensive brand]: let’s get this kind. that kind is eleven dollars!

DARREN: OK. I like this brand tho

KARREN: 11 dollars!

DARREN: OK, get the cheaper kind, but it’s not as salty. Or as breathy. It tastes like evaporated seaweed milk

KARREN: kan we talk about theater and radio and improvisation and the experience of reading plays or reading radio drama scripts

DARREN: darling i’d prefer not to in the supermarket. can it wait till we get home?

KARREN: I dunno. did you hear annie baker on WTF?

DARREN: yes. a fine reminder  that self-deprecation can sound 100 times more self-involved than self-aggrandizement

KARREN: or you mean that self-deprecation can just be another form of self-aggrandizement

DARREN: that’s a finer way to put it

KARREN: do we like these Deep Noodles?

DARREN: I’ve never tried them

[tosses the Deep Noodles with nonchalance into the brimming cart]

[a loud trust-fund punk song begins playing on the supermarket stereo]

KARREN: but Baker was sharp and charming in that interview

DARREN: i know. it was just when they were talking about the Pulitzer that it bummed me out

KARREN: what if I’m more interested in writing dialogue that’s read on the page than I am writing something that’ll be performed?

DARREN:  watching tv or film, the only time i’m conscious of the writing is after the fact. i only think “that was well written” once it’s over. as opposed to obviously reading a novel or a poem where every sentence is another opportunity to evaluate — and consciously appreciate — the writing

KARREN: sure because the writing is submerged in film or tv or theater — you have so much else to evaluate first — the performance, the images, the sound

DARREN: why don’t more people publish novels in dialogue?

KARREN: Because they have to feed their families.

[Throws a vegan suckling pig shrink-wrapped in hot-pink plastic into the cart, which buckles and implodes]

A: I HEAR YOU HAVE A BABY

F:  YERP

A: When you have a baby you don’t have time to do ANYTHING

F: That’s because babies take up so much time

A: I know

F: What is it that babies take so much time doing?

A: The babies are very busy, they are constantly reading dense texts and challenging your preconceived notions about things

F: Like what sorts of things?

A: Like … arbitrary–

A+F [in unison] …arbitrary taxonomies of genre!?!

F: Whoa.

A: Luv.

F: I’m bummed out again about how I don’t feel like I know how to make sense. Or, maybe, I hate making sense. Making nonsense is much more fun.

A: It’s hard to tell the difference between making nonsense is more fun in the way that smoking lots of pot and watching Adult Swim is more fun, or making nonsense is more fun in that you are an acolyte of Jarry and Ionesco and Stein and live your life in a radical subversion of standard bourgeoise modes of expression etc

F: I think I sometimes milk that ambiguity. Like I pretend to be a highbrow Dadaist when in fact I’m just waiting for the next fortnight of pajamas and Xavier Renegade Angel

A: Xavier Renegade Angel

F: But Xavier Renegade Angel is made by guys who split that difference. They’re students of Gordon Lish, they seem like they’ve done their homework, and they might have pretensions for their show to have a depth or at least a terminal bleakness that makes the comedy that much more “fucked up”

A: Did you ever check your email during the dark time of hospital visits and black veiled hospitalizations

F: There’s never been a time in my life when I haven’t checked my email every fifty minutes

A: remember when you first went camping and they explained what the trowel was for?

F: Yes. The trowel is for digging a little pit for you to shit into. Then you wipe with leaves, and bury your poo like a tiny funeral rite.

A: That’s a lot of work for a poo.

F: You’re not pooing so much in the forest. Maybe once a day if you’re lucky

A: Also not a lot of urgent emails to respond to in the woods.

F: Are you pining for the pines, blood?

A: The grass is always greener in the other bong. I had my dream job, and now I have my other dream job. Someday I won’t have any dream job and I’ll be shooting squirrels for sustenance

F: Shooting them with what?

A: An inherited crossbow.

F: Inherited from who?

A: A girl I met on the internet

F: Why did she leave you the crossbow in her will?

A: She said she liked my blog.

F: How did she die?

A: She faked her own suicide.

F: So she’s still alive?

A: No. She actually killed herself, but she didn’t mean it.

F: You know how if you commit suicide you don’t get in to harvard I mean heaven?

A: yes

F: that’d be funny if whoever the last person you slept with got to rewrite your will if you ended up killing yourself

club

—Really wish I was a peace activist right now.

—Why, for the tax breaks?

—Peace activists get special tax breaks?

—I thought they did. Maybe they don’t.

—I don’t think they do. I think the biggest perk to being a peace activist is occasional free lentil soup from potlucks.

—That sounds pretty yummy.

—It is! Garam masala and roasted carrots, yum.

—Yum!

—I know, so yummy.

—And all that shit is vegan.

—I know! Yum.

—Although can I make a confession the other day at Paul’s I had some of this frittata?

—Vegan police!

—So yummy though. The olives were from Israel.

—Yum.

—So should we talk about these poems?

—OK. Let’s start with yours.

—Oh no! [Laughter]

—Your poems are amazing.

—No they’re not.

—They are! They’re like Rilke.

—Shut up! I’ve actually never read Rilke.

—Read his poems. They’re amazing!

—I know OK!

—I have constructive criticism. All the raven imagery is bullshit.

—I know, I already cut those parts.

—Oh really OK well I don’t have any other comments actually so now let’s talk about mine.

—OK. My main thing was I don’t like poems about rape.

—Wait, did you get that my poem wasn’t about sexual assault?

—What?

—The poem is  about rape, or Brassica napus, a bright yellow flowering member of the family Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage family).

—Fuck, I actually read the poem over the weekend at my mom’s cabin which doesn’t have internet so I couldn’t look it up!

—You couldn’t look it up on your phone?

—You’re right, I should have. I’m sorry.

[The oven’s electronic timer beeps, signaling the “ontological arrival” of the “popovers”]

Wales

—Here, you don’t have a job?

—No, I’m all alone, on a computer not hooked up to the internet, drinking a craft beer out of a can, composing an email to you.

—It’s almost like we’re having a beer together.

—How romantic.

—How are your studies?

—You mean the life of the mind?

—How is your life?

—My mind hurts.

—How is your salad duty?

—I’ve been making bad salads. Bag salads.

—How is your girlfriend?

—I had a dream that she died.

—But she’s alive?

—She’s working on a new translation of Émile Zola’s Germinal (1885). It’s an experimental translation where she takes liberties with the text. Instead of mineworkers, her version of the novel centers around a group of flowers.

—Anthropomorphic flowers?

—Is there any other kind?

—Yes

—Non-anthropomorphic flowers?

—The flowers take place in an election year and the gummy part of my car’s tyres.

—Huh. I think Uncle’s gone into one of his Tish-rages again, Paulice–

—Right. Grab the corduroy. A wide wale will be wanted for tonight. Oh, hush, Uncle; please don’t. Stop fussing. It’s Auld Hallow’s Ween, for aunt grable’s sake. We musn’t brackish the whoolinancy — I mean the whoolery.

—Genre’s got a beer-boner for stoners tonight, Barbara. Barbara.

—I can’t tell if you want this exclamation mark.

—I don’t want just any exclamation point, Mark. [Pause, applause.] I want yours. [Renewed, sustained applause. A child is born.]

—This boner’s gone free.

—Now that you’re a dad, and a city councilman, you mustn’t post pseudohomoerotic flash fiction on your blog. You must only post outspoken 5 point rejections of Romney’s 5 point plan and so forth.

—You remind me of the news.

—Witch part?

—The fuzzy part with no skin.

—That’s called the Purloined Lettuce. [A mouth.] I am studying Botany with your Aunt.

—My nude aunt?

—I have a newborn baby. A child. I haven’t slept. No longer drink coffee. Go Tigers.

— I expect you’ll want to tell me about your craft beer in a can, now.

—Yes. I bought it at the supermarket with some hummus and the halloween candy. Came in a six pack just like a set of Diet Dr. Pepper, but in fact it’s an intensely hoppy microbrew from Whole Foods, Colorado!

—Durango. That candy’s not vegan

—Let’s get personal. I know writing on your blog makes you miss San Francisco.

—Of course. Who doesn’t? But the thing San Francisco doesn’t know is that I took all my shit with me to Missouri so I still have it so if I want to look at my shit like my books or the only one person I love more than anything

—Hang on, there are trick or treaters at the door. [Inaudible] [Audible] [Inaudible]. Fucker just took my last Krackel. [Pause.] Nice costume… What are you?

—Desert clown.

[Doug Liman, director of Swingers (1996), The Bourne Identity (2002), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Jumper (2008), and Fair Game (2010), walks in with Studio Monitors around his neck. Curtain.]

My College Radio Application

Dear mom and dad,

I went to college from 1999-2003, where I lived, ate, breathed, and smoked college radio (WOBC-FM) all day every day. Then, with a year left, I dropped out to move to CA to work for a magazine. I worked there for the next eight years. Then I fell in love with a beautiful woman and she got a job in town, so I decided to follow her here and finish my B.A. To my intense delight and surprise, this makes me eligible for a show on [yr station]. When I dropped out of college, I cryogenically froze my radio show and now, eight years later, [cue music bed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_tVZFZ5PR4] my beloved show is going into the industrial microwave on MEDIUM for 6-8 minutes and dragging itself through the halls of the academy once again!

My show (TITLE TK: “WEIRD OLD GUY?”) will be freeform radio at its finest, pushing into the red w/r/t innovation and FUN. Fun must never be sacrificed to innovation. And vice versa.

Music is the bedrock of the show, and I plan to make the most of [yr station]’s rock library, in addition to my extensive personal vinyl/CD/MPEG collection. The best rock — from oddities, novelties, classics, forgotten b-sides, to brand-new singles and previews of bands coming through town. But sprinkled throughout the music will be the true jewels of the show, the multiple talk-based segments. Possibilities include:

• “Walking the Line”
Each week, a different writer (from creative writing profs, to visiting poets, to MU poetry/fiction PhDs and even undergrads) brings in one line — a line of their own poetry, or their favorite poet’s, or a sentence from a novel, or from a piece of journalism, anything — just has to be one line of “literature” for us to discuss.

(Each of these segments will have its own musical intro. Maybe Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines” for this first one? Or Johnny Cash, sure)

• “Comics Digest”

A weekly verbal recap of what happened this week in the comics page of the Missourian

ex: “It’s been a tough week for Lois of ‘Hi & Lois’; she’s been home with the measles and her little brother won’t leave her alone!” etc etc

• “Vibin’ with the City Council”

Each week I get a Columbia city councilperson on the phone (pre-recorded, most likely; I have a ZOOM H4N I can produce several of these segs in advance, but I’ll always cue and introduce them live) and ask: what’s the vibe of the city council like this week?

• deranged/brief Self-interviews; fake interviews with pre-recorded interlocutors

• I might try a recurring feature about being a 30 year old dude taking computer science with freshman; I will probably rip lots of samples from my DVD of Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School for this (maybe rent Happy Madison, too…). Find other old undergrads and ask them about their lives, what it’s like here for them

• I have an MU football-related idea that I’ll only tell you if you give me a show with a legit timeslot

• Reviews (with field recordings) of frat party bands (!!!!!)

• as many opportunities for live call-in segments as possible (TBD)

• Guest singles (a guest — anyone from the dean of grad studies to that girl who works at Sparky’s brings in 5 singles and we play them and talk about them)

• tiny, hilarious 5-minute radio dramas

• even tinier, even more hilarious 2-minute radio dramas in foreign languages feat. students in various MU language departments

• Much, much more

• Seriously, so much more you have no idea

• And, as I mentioned above, all of these segs, some of which may happen every week, some once a month or so, will all be sprinkled like cherries and chopped nuts over the wide swath of whipped-creamy dark-chocolate sets of top-shelf weird/funky/great music. Wire, the Fall, Olivia Tremor Control, Pixies b-sides, Unrest, Big Dipper, Deerhoof, Beefheart, Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Sonic Youth, Truman the Tiger’s Drug-Hell Singers, Is That a Real Band?, That Would Be Amazing If So, Go Betweens, Soft Boys, Soft Machine, Soft Cell, Soft Bulletin, Don Cherry, Destroyer, Cluster, Tyvek, Essential Logic, Glasser, Wreckless Eric, Nick Lowe, Sparks, Magazine, Melvins, Cardigans, Acrylics, Pterodactl, Fela Kuti, R. Stevie Moore, et al!!!!

Please let me know if you have any questions. I love you.