CHRISTOPHER SLOCE’S DARKWEB #1: DECODING YOUR MILLENNIAL

Throughout my travels and travails on this planet I have developed contacts far and wide always good for a bit of sacrosanct knowledge.  They come into possession of curios far and wide. Sometimes they let me see them and tell me: get the word out. This is Christopher Sloce’s DARKWEB.

Today’s submission and story comes from Bruce Hollywood, an intern for thinklist.org, a think-tank that posts “lifestyle pieces” as they call them. This one has a bit of a contentious history that Bruce will explain from this point forward.

BRUCE HOLLYWOOD: I had just finished up and Hampden and Sydney and just really wanted to find myself, you know? So my dad got me a job at thinklist.org, which he knew about. I was their intern and shit and like I was working on a novel, mainly about me doing shrooms at Quadfest called BRUEGEL’S FOLLY. And there was a guy there named Wix Willoughby, who was their head writer. He was, like, the Gordon Lish to my Raymond Carver, or the Sean Connery to my Forrester. And he always told me about how important access was. Getting on the floor of the story.

wix

pictured: Wix Willoughby

He had a story forever he really wanted to do. Always talked about it. He knew of a tongue, a dark secret held in the head of everyone whoever made a George W. Bush joke. He called it the specter. The specter was ingrained under our tongues, he claimed. He just wondered how to bring that out.

He told me finally he knew how to access the specter. He said he knew of a coffee shop that was a place the specter could be accessed: a coffee fusion ramen shop called OLKA. I asked him what the risk was.  He put a soap statue of Barry Goldwater into his jacket pocket and told me about how he heard of acts unmentionable at Students for a Democratic Society conventions. Orgies of every stripe. Human sacrifice. Bruce Springsteen sing alongs. He slammed his scotch and said to me, “But I am the abyss the abyss stares into.”

We went to OLKA. He told me he’d be back and handed me a small revolver “in case.” He went to the counter and a man holding a mustache mug over his mouth surreptitiously hearkened him back. I sat there and ten seconds later I saw this email come in with the subject line HELP.

I ran back. He was on the floor chanting “on fleek” and told me this was the language that ruined eyes. I knew then the revolver was to take him out if things became too heated. I merely called 911. I would rather have my mentor as a leech on society and alive than dead and heroic.

I know see him once a week at the Nancy Reagan Hospital for the Mentally Deficient. He only responds to me when I play him Disclosure.

Decoding Your millennial

by Wix Willoughby, the “Abyss”

As we know the millennial are a rare breed of human: bred in the excess of a Clintonian economy by Reaganite parents, their self possession takes a particular me-first ethos that shows through in their singular use of language only a codex could decipher. Well, let us be your Rosetta Stone and give you insight into the top ten millennial phrases that have you digging into your scalp.

  1. Stockhop- a portmanteau of stock and hop, this is a phrase used often to denigrate a collection of financial officers in one place. “Wanna go to Horehound”, which is a cocktail bar with a kitsch old money aesthetic your beloved author may or may not have vomited a gin and tonic on a Karl Rove staffer in. “No way. That place is a total stockhop.” Milennials are small hate machines controlled by lattes and memories of study-abroad programs, and chief amongst their imagined nemeses are humble bankers.
  1. Blockdick- a general usage for any sort of STD not yet diagnosed. Like scavenger birds, millennials show themselves to be a Petri dish of stds both exciting and exotic. Blockdick covers all possibilities: horns growing from the head, inflamed testes, and a back to front knowledge of the Gilbert and Sullivan catalogue. Used both in earnest by males and females, blockdick is on the lips of every millennial.
  1. Xhosa- I think this one is just letters thrown together but I know for a fact my 9 year old nephew said this while he was sleepwalking and devouring my petunia garden. He likes to pretend he’s a billy goat during his nap troubles. I think he learned this from YouTuber ScammyRebop, who shows how car batteries can hack the common and humble egg and make it a hardboiled egg.
  1. Wackhack- A common concept among the millennial is the “hack”. A hack is essentially a way to cut through the precepts of order with a disregard for the oxygen that order gives us. Commonly used with “lifehack”, in which a simple everyday trick such as putting out a jar of peanut butter to attract Herflock, daemon of pestilence and decay, to do your bidding, is sold as a brave new concept. Millennials like to put up the flag of their own progress on the Plymouth Rock of life and because they are Godless ninnies believe that they have destroyed what was already known. Their promiscuity extends to the sexual pleasure they feel bucking against the system.

    However! What happens when the “hack” fails? You get a wackhack. A hack that is wack. You might think that you can use a Mountain Dew chiller to exfoliate your skin but instead you will look like a rotting corpse. That’s a wackhack.

  1. Tom-Tom Club- Millennial love irony even more than not paying their goddamn loans. So when a millennial realized that there was an attempt to parse slang before that failed miserably (the grunge speak hoax by Time magazine) then obviously they would turn a piece of linguistic nonsense to their own uses. From what I understand “Tom-Tom Club” now refers to your crew or squad’s hangouts. From whatever I understand anyway. There’s so little I do.
  1. Ickity-wickity-bungo- I don’t even have an idea how this one came about. I really don’t. It’s negative. It sounds vaguely british, I know that. Millennials want to be anything they aren’t, so they’re obsessed with british culture. When I look down the street I hear a group of skinny pantsed children people and this is what they say to each other. I look to my paintings to see them melt and then I come to again. The millennials still say to one another, ickity wickity bungo.
  1. Snake people-  have coopted this as a description of themselves. When the other finds a way to use what is negative about themselves positively, they take advantage of it. The irony they have cloaked themselves with has become a type of performative mask like a snake-skin but down their throats deep behind the uvula you can see them still coiled and waiting to poison your beating heart, probably while applying beard oil. This is what I see outside everyday. Everyday. Every day.
  1. Tang Juice- Because they are literal actual fucking children and literally actually cannot even grow up like the fucking adults they are supposed to be they actually have made this a concept in the language of English and wow I can’t even now, so in love with their nostalgia they use Tang Juice to call something old and as I attempt to get an interview with them what is said of me is that I am tang juice ickity wickity bungo and I can’t even because this is outside everyday constantly like the insistent scream of rain in Vermont  as I am back in the gulags once more and the shoots go up my nails and I can only think of my mother and her breath and scent—-
  1. #- that is a symbol that isn’t even a linguistic damn construct
    language isn’t real none of this ever was or is

    but they use this to find one another in their secret crevasses, touching one another blockdicked all tohell

  1. YOU CAN TALK PICTURES! THEY TAUGHT ME HOW! IT GOES FOREVER, LANGUAGE! IT NEVER ENDS! IT’S A COIL THROUGH ALL OF TIME’S ILLUSION! NOTHING ENDS OUTSIDE EVER!

Today, Bruce Hollywood has moved to the outskirts of Oklahoma to start an emu farm. He is as off the grid as anyone ever will be. Wix Willoughby has somehow gotten my number and calls me and asks for my Netflix password.
I don’t even know my Netflix password.

Sometimes the web holds secrets only a certain temper can process. It is my job to bear witness to these secrets. This is Christopher Sloce’s Darkweb.

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A Movie Questionnaire I Took Off of Roger Ebert’s Website Because Nobody Knows Who I am

I would guess the traffic that isn’t me paying for bots to visit my blog is probably people I know. Which is fine. However, I don’t want people who don’t know who I am to not know anything about me. So there needs to be some sort of introductory thing. I saw Matt Zoller Seitz, who, for my money, is the probably the best media critic working today, did this questionnaire. Am I jacking for questionnaires? Are there rules about this?  Christopher Sloce doesn’t write his own questionnaires. If they hit me with the libel suit I’ll apologize and be glad I’m worth enough to be sued.

Where did you grow up, and what was it like?
Depends what kind of growing up you want. I put more years on my life than anywhere else in Wise, Virginia, coal town near the Kentucky and Tennessee border, with intermittent time as a teenager spent in Bristol, Virginia. As far as experience goes, I grew up the most in Richmond, Virginia, where I went to college at VCU and now live.

My time growing up in the country-country (meaning trees and gardening and being around a lot of guns) was fairly idyllic. I played outside alone until I started watching too much television and reading encyclopedias. We later moved into cul-de-sac/suburb style neighborhoods and those were fine, though I only saw friends after school on rare occasions, so a lot of time to myself.

Bristol had a lot of art things going on by the time I was old enough to care. I worked on a second draft of a really bad novel called From Pit to Crucifix about a Methodist teenage boy’s slow descent into drug dealing in a coffee shop around there. I spent money and walked around. I looked at antiques, crushed on baristas, and then my dad would take me barhopping, where I got it into my head Sprite was a more adult alternative to Coca-Cola. I also got to see a lot of masculine stupidity, got acquainted with the good old boys network, more than I’d like to have. They never cared much for me.

The four years I spent in Richmond almost soured me on Richmond in general. I don’t know if I could sum up the issues I had during college in a paragraph. I enjoyed a year and a half of college and hated everything else. The upside is Richmond’s art scenes do give you a space to do whatever the hell you want, no matter how ridiculous, so I did grow a lot artistically there and got to see a lot of people grow or try to, which acted as an instruction to the kind of writer I want to be but also how to go about representing my work in the world, how to collaborate, how to support other artists, who is worth supporting. So I made an okay number of friends and met some talented people. It also got me in contact with, maybe not mentors, but maybe Beatrice-to-my-Dante figures. I didn’t love VCU, but I also don’t think I’d be me if I went anywhere else. Who, I’ll go ahead and name. Tom De Haven and Kelly Alder (I got them both to sit down with me and teach me how to storyboard comics, which I was really bad at), Paul Robertson, Leslie Shiel, Richard Fine, and Katherine Nash. All innumerably important to me. There’s times I feel like college was a sham and my diploma’s a receipt on heavy paper, but I also know in a roundabout way, it was worth it due to meeting these people.

Was anyone else in your family into movies? If so, what effect did they have on your moviegoing tastes?
Sort of. My granddad had a longstanding appreciation for Clint Eastwood movies which shaped my childhood (I’ll never forget the first time I saw the graveyard shootout in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly) and my dad introduced me to both Michael Mann (Heat) and Terence Malick (The Thin Red Line). There’s a running joke amongst my friends that I’m going to write dad movies one of these days. That isn’t to say I’m holed up in a tree house with a Walter Hill box set and a box of Kleenex. I love a lot of emotional stuff, too. There’s a pretty definitive pull in my life between the example those movies made and the open, heart bleeding stuff.  I enjoy both equally. That’s one reason why I tell everyone if Michael Mann could make jokes and write women, he’d be my alltime favorite director. His movies are stoic and about, when they’re not intimately focusing on streetlights and water, action men doing action things, but they’re also about loneliness, trying to guide your way through the big jumble of the world with your soul intact, and whether or not that’s possible. That’s the secret theme of every Michael Mann movie, and probably the theme of every Wes Anderson movie, too. I’m the split difference between the two.

What’s the first movie you remember seeing, and what impression did it make on you?
The Lion King. Watching Mufasa bite it on the big screen. The fact that’s what I remember is worth a therapy session.

What’s the first movie that made you think, “Hey, some people made this. It didn’t just exist. There’s a human personality behind it.”
Mean Streets. I had an idea great directors existed, but I didn’t know they were allowed to be personal. Tarantino’s movies, for instance, I don’t read them as confessional, they’re things he likes thrown together in a pleasing way. Mean Streets is confessional. No doubt about it. It’s about being religious in a world that doesn’t value faith, but also about doubt, whether your morals mean anything. Scorsese is my all-time favorite director, and while Mean Streets isn’t his greatest movie (parts of it drag and that scene with the two gay guys is uncomfortable as all get out), it’s the one that made me realize you could put your personality into a movie, for better or for worse.

For what it’s worth, I also had Charlie’s ”You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets,” written on a binder divider. I know there were doubts about how insufferable I was in high school, but I hope those are tucked away now.

What’s the first movie you ever walked out of?
I don’t think I’ve ever walked out on a movie. Or even turned one off. I’ve had my limits tested though, best believe. The closest I’ve ever got to turning one off in righteous indignation was God’s Not Dead.

What’s the funniest film you’ve ever seen?
Probably The Big Lebowski. There’s usually one moment per Coen Brothers movie I laugh so hard it hurts and The Big Lebowski has 9 of those. Runners up: Black Dynamite and Hot Rod.

What’s the saddest film you’ve ever seen?
Taxi Driver. It’s also instructive in how your sadness doesn’t automatically make you a better person and can actually cause you to make things worse if it turns to bitterness. Eyes Wide Shut is up there. I watched that as a heartbroken teenager. That was a knight to A 4, signing Eddy Curry to a max deal bad move, just for the level of disaffection it has towards the idea of marriages ever meaning anything. Mullholland Drive, also up there, which, speaking of…

What’s the scariest film you’ve ever seen?
I actually can’t watch Mullholland Drive OR Eyes Wide Shut. I can handle jump scares, but those two movies are so disturbing to me on an almost primal, molecular level that I’m jittery for the next few days after watching them. Special mention to Synechdoche New York which is a horror movie about spending too much time on pet projects to the point it devours your entire life and renders you alienated from other people. But I can actually watch that one. I could only rewatch Mullholland Drive or Eyes Wide Shut if there was payment involved or had a trip sitter or something.

What’s the most romantic film you’ve ever seen?
In a roundabout way? It might be Fargo. I have no doubt that Marge and her husband love each other at the end of that movie, despite all the brutality surrounding them. Originally I was going to say Lost in Translation, however, I could see the weird middle age lust for a young woman grating on me now, even though that movie’s more sensual than it is erotic. Still want to tell Bill Murray to shack up with a Mary Steenburgen type, not Scarlett Johanssen. Stay in your lane, hoss.

What’s the first television show you ever saw that made you think television could be more than entertainment?
I watched a lot of The Twilight Zone but it never really struck me as being as good as the movies in my snobby young mind. This is why instead I decided to stump for some episode of SVU where Stabler freaks out and breaks a lot of things.

I didn’t really realize what TV could do until I saw the pilot for Mad Men and didn’t become a raving TV apostate (IT’S ART, MOM) until I watched The Wire. But the “their cigarettes are cancer, yours are toasted” speech was the first time I ever went “wow” at a tv show.  It also inspired a short stint where I wanted to go be in creative advertising that was actually a long con to get my dad to pay for my English degree.

What book do you think about or revisit the most?
Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree. Maybe my favorite extended word-for-word prose performance. The bar fight is what Gatsby’s Green Light is for other people and I think it’s better because someone uses a floor waxer as a weapon. It should have been a Burt Reynolds movie.

What album or recording artist have you listened to the most, and why?
OutKast. Andre 3000 was a scatterbrained, cool, well-dressed artiste who is in constant discussion as the greatest rapper of all time. Andre 3000 could write about anything. But what really settled it is he was from the South and you could tell he was. His run from ATLiens to Stankonia, in my personal canon, is only rivaled by Ghostface Killah’s run from Only Built 4 Cuban Linx to The Pretty Toney Album, in terms of what a rapper can do and be.

That being said, I don’t think Andre 3000 ever existed in a vacuum and Big Boi was equally great up until Aquemini, when Andre 3000 made an astronomical leap in quality to the point that he was better than nearly everybody, ever.

But OutKast worked as an equal partnership, at its best, and should be lauded as such. There’s an OutKast song for every occasion and I may invent occasions so I can play an OutKast song for them.

Andre 3000 also inspired me to doff a hat. I’m not Andre 3000 so it looked bad.

Is there a movie that you think is great, or powerful, or perfect, but that you never especially want to see again, and why?
I mentioned a couple above but due to some family related reasons, I don’t really want to see The Wrestler ever again. After my first falling-out with my dad, which had more to do with not wanting to be around a failing marriage than him, we went to go see The Wrestler together and he used Randy “The Ram” Robinson’s plights as a metaphor for his failings as a father. Great of a movie as that is (my favorite Aronofsky, period), you don’t really bounce back from that sort of association.

What movie have you seen more times than any other?
I’ve seen Napoleon Dynamite twelve times; I enjoyed 4 of them.

I make a point to rewatch Brick every year, which was another ah-ha moment for me, and my favorite movie of all time.

What was your first R-rated movie, and did you like it?
The first Matrix movie. Yes, I wanted to get a trenchcoat afterwards.

What’s the most visually beautiful film you’ve ever seen?
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford or Il Conformista.

Who are your favorite leading men, past and present?
Robert De Niro and Tom Hardy. Paul Newman and Brad Pitt, runners up.

Who are your favorite leading ladies, past and present?
Naomi Watts and Elizabeth Moss.

Does Julianne Moore count? Most of the actresses I really like feel more in the character actor mold than they do the “Lauren Bacall” leading lady role. Actually I prefer character actors anyway: I’d even argue most of my “leading men” picks are souped up character actors, other than Paul Newman. Tom Hardy can do either, which is why he’s number one guy right now. “Leading” men/women are a completely different beast than, say, character actors, who I find myself responding to the most. James Gandolfini is my favorite actor of all-time, but he’s not what I think of when you say “leading man”.

Who’s your favorite modern filmmaker?
Wes Anderson. Though, I will say, Paul Thomas Anderson is rounding the corner on him.

Who’s your least favorite modern filmmaker?
I know conventional wisdom says he’s better than Bay, but Roland Emmerich’s work drives me up a wall. Bay’s work is at least human in how inhuman it is: there’s a psychology at work. Everything I’ve seen of Emmerich’s is lazy potshots at republicans and divorced dads who just KNOW the world is gonna end. I guess that means there’s a psychology, but it bores me.

What film do you love that most people seem to hate?
I’ve bit my tongue when Only God Forgives gets trotted out for a movie geek beating. Also really like Killing Them Softly but mainly because it introduced me to George V. Higgins. I tolerate Little Nicky if just for that scene where the bulldog gets drunk. The rest is minor Sandler AT BEST.

What film do you hate that most people love?
Requiem for a Dream stands out. Jared Leto is a schmuck.

Tell me about a moviegoing experience you will never forget—not just because of the movie, but because of the circumstances in which you saw it.
Me and my best high school friend going to see Transporter 3.

The girl in front of me in line, I met when she was drunk at a (dry) Halloween party. She was dressed as Alice from Alice in Wonderland. I’m dressed as Conan O’Brien. A few people I was with were throwing marshmallows at her. I thought that was cruel, but not enough to stop them. I told them, I won’t throw any, but let me act like I am. So I pretended to be the one doing it by being the one left holding the bag. Somebody tossed a marshmallow at her, beans her, she spun around, she saw me eating marshmallows.  And, rightfully so, she ran up to me and slapped the living piss out of me. I respond with faux-outrage, but I was mainly just in wonderment at the world and laughing, and knowing I had to sell the joke.

I was also way into her. Like, a lot into her.

So at the theater, I see said girl in front of me and I tense up immediately, because I’m basically a Hugh Grant character and also because I did this thing I didn’t want to do because my friends were doing it and now may have to pay for it. Girl spins around. I begin freaking out.

She looks at me and kind of flirtatiously says, “I like your glasses.” I say thanks but I’m also horrible at getting compliments, so I decide not to chit chat with her. She turns back around. She goes, “Do you know {x person]?” Turns out, her best friend’s older brother, I was in a band with him (shout out to Big Rock Candy Jesus). It dawns on me: oh my God, she doesn’t remember slapping me. We finish up. Me and my friend get into a theater, like, scot-free, laughing, watching Jason Statham drive a card sideways. No tongue-lashings for anyone.

Two years later I dated her for a month, and the tongue-lashing she owed me had a high interest rate, with payments spread out over a 30 day period.

What aspect of modern theatrical moviegoing do you like least?
Cult classics taking up membership before the screen tells you to turn off your phone.

What aspect of moviegoing during your childhood do you miss the most?
Someone else paying.

Have you ever damaged a friendship, or thought twice about a relationship, because you disagreed about whether a movie was good or bad?
When I was a dick I might have. Taste is an overrated indicator of personality and worth.

What movies have you dreamed about?
Not a real movie but I once dreamed a Mad Men movie where Peggy Olson had to market yoga pants. Clark Gregg was in it for some reason. It was terrible.

What concession stand item can you not live without?
MnMs.

Mistakes Were Made

I figured this was as good of as any, though I choked knocking dust off my WordPress.

Here goes: I wrote a piece for Quail Bell, where I’ve happily contributed pieces for the last two years (large in part due to my editor in chief, Christine Stoddard), about my three favorite songs in the year 2014, large in part due to their connections to then-big obsessions of mine: irrelevance, failure, death, and stasis. It was a hard essay to write because of how damn bleak it and everything else felt. The result was an essay people really liked and one I love. The writer’s opinion is the worst one to ask for (two words: sausage factory) but I know when I did well and as a result, I’d rank it as maybe my favorite essay I’ve written yet.

One problem: the song “Elephant” by former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell? It came out in 2013.

Whoops. I didn’t realize this until I was giving Southeastern, the album came off of another shot (I may be committing alt-country blasphemy here: Isbell’s songwriting gets a little too American Songwriter for me, my favorite Drive-By Truckers album has no Isbell on it and given they’re on my Mount Rushmore, I don’t think he’s a deal-breaker by any stretch) and saw it was a 2013 release.

Mistakes were made, to quote Ronald Ziegler. And then I quote Bert Cooper, who cares?

In this nonapology I am tilting at one of the great issues, for me, of criticism: time. Everybody has a best album list, best song, and best Pitbull cameo for each fiscal year. You get into some sort of treadmill thing where you have to have a list all year or you’re committing blasphemy. In my head, I feel like I’ve betrayed some sort of music geek trust, like thinking Jethro Tull is just the flute guy.

But: there’s a new wrinkle to consider. The internet by and large has killed time. Decade demarcations barely matter when a good amount of rare music is on youtube, vinyl scratches intact. The question then is when that music belongs: to the guy hearing it now and putting it on a playlist of lost Laurel Canyon freak folk or to the people who didn’t hear it in 73?

We create our own history with our music. Does anyone besides Joey Badass scream “This is that good 1993 shit!” when they hear they kung-fu sample and the dusted piano walks of Wu-Tang Clan’s“Protect Ya Neck”? I don’t. “Protect Ya Neck” belongs to me cleaning my room as a high school sophomore and throwing on a VH1 special of the 100 best songs of the 90s as background noise. They did an honorable mentions section. “Protect Ya Neck” was 105. What I heard, I went wordless and the world’s possibilities expanded. I knew rap existed. I knew I liked Public Enemy. That it existed like this? Spooky, deranged, far removed from my own conceptions of the gothic. Hearing a man named Ol’ Dirty Bastard threaten to stick pins in my head “like a fucking nurse” was new and thrilling.

That song came out in 93 but for me, Christopher Sloce, it’s a 2007 song, the way 2001 Tindersticks slowburn “Chilitetime” belongs to driving in Wise in 2014, late-night, visions of disco balls and holding someone I liked to me close  and slow dancing, knowing they weren’t in this town and would never appear there. Or the way “Desperados Under the Eaves”, a 1970 song by Warren Zevon belongs to me in several times but most recently me in bed, waiting for all sorts of certain dooms: a sinking California, shaking hands, the world ending but my checking account still in the red, and me drifting off and waking up through the night and not changing to a podcast because that song was that moment. It is now a 2015 song and whenever California sinks again, it’ll be that year’s song, too.

Songs have a life outside of the intended meaning and the ones we love exist in our time, not chronology’s. And when that time goes up for all of us, it’s not the facts that matter that much anyway. Just what you brought to them.

“Elephant” is a 2014 song to me. Mistakes were made. No apologies.

***
Of course, if we must talk this year: the best album is Dr. Yen Lo’s Days with Dr. Yen Lo. I’m still working on a take on that one, which is by far my favorite of Ka’s work. If you’re familiar with Ka, you know that means dense confessions of street sins over minor key, often drumless samples. I don’t listen to it all the time because of that density but when I do, it makes me think of darting glances around telephone poles in black and white. Future’s “March Madness” is the song of the year because it transports me to a white ’74 Daytona every time I hear it.

Runners up: I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside by Earl Sweatshirt is a great descriptor of the first three months of the year for me. Today, I Wrote Nothing is Billy Woods throwing out the rules. Imagine if you stumbled upon the best writer alive’s freewriting exercises and realized they managed to write something as good as “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” for a year straight. I also like baritones and melancholy so I ride hard for Daughn Gibson’s Carnation. And Vince Staples’s Summertime ’06 came out this week and will get nowhere even close to the attention it deserves because it’s not a knotty, complicated mess that touts itself as important. Vince Staples is termite art at its finest and where it burrows, in the gang warfare of Long Beach, California we don’t like to talk about, except as passive spectators or schoolmarms. Also the beats sound like homicidal whale sounds. Links to key tracks below.

Brief Thoughts on Yukio Mishima’s Madame De Sade

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Christopher Sloce is the dramaturge for Kathryn La Trent’s production of Madame De Sade. He is posting this because he has a quota, because he might need to be schooled on some point of this whole thing, and because it looks pretty alright and is written in much the same voice as the blog.

Brief Thoughts on Madame De Sade

            These are a little disjointed. I’m working on a deadline or three and I’ll probably send out the researched things tomorrow. And along with that, I’ll probably give the play another two or three read-throughs and attend the first reading. The style I’m going to use for this is going to be fairly conversational, not very academic.

            To me, the absence of this play is as defined by the absence of Marquis De Sade as it is defined by the presence of the six women. He is a multi-faceted symbol. His character represents French society, the arc of his sins begin as fairly lavish in the first act (economically and description wise), become more troubling in the second act (he uses Renee, who is a heroic character in one of his orgies), and in the third act, the story we hear isn’t even about him. He is implicated in the violence that ends in the death of Saint-Fond and the class every character in the play belongs to. By the time he shows up at the end of the play, he is not even a cute bedraggled bohemian. He looks like death and poverty.

            But his absence fills the play up: the entire action of the play depends on him getting out of prison or someone’s disgust at his actions. Like mentioned above, the characters are looking for ways to define themselves in preparation for what will eventually happen. That at some point, there won’t be a French upperclass, that the French revolution will prove everyone as expendable as the next. It’s a play, to me, about the fallacy of ignoring the bare facts of life, that everything ends in death. It’s a fairly pessimistic work, in my reading. Even attempts to embrace the eventual end, well, end in the ending (Saint-Fond). Mishima is arguing that bourgeois society is as much of an opiate as Marx’s religion.

            So ultimately, if we’re to listen to that argument, then there should be frustration when Anne argues that Renee does not possess Venice or happiness. Anne is missing the point. All attempts to push the animal passions of life are ultimately failures, in the play’s world. Everything degrades, even Renee’s “wifely devotion”.

            What’s interesting about this work and one thing that we have to absolutely comment on is that this sort of material is delivered with six female characters. Usually, in literature, degradation and death and nihilism are portrayed by moody men who have seen beyond the pale. Here, there is not so much a mouth-piece as there is us, as the audience, watching people kid themselves further and further. This play isn’t so much about the gaining of knowledge as it as the continued quest to avoid it.

            Renee is the only person, ultimately, who makes it out. Because she sees Alphonse in herself, she realizes the truth of her commonality and that she’s made of the same stuff as the people who kill Saint Fond. She just has more money. She ultimately doesn’t need the symbol at the end, she is able to reject it.

            Anyway, these are preliminary thoughts. More research things will come as I live with the text more.

            I think this has the possibility to be a really interesting project and tell the absolute truth, and I think the talent is latent to do that.

                                                                                                                                    Yours Truly,

                                                                                                Christopher Sloce, the dramaturge

“Is Your Mother Alive?” “Maybe”: Thoughts on True Detective, Badly Organized

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According to a poll of three Sloceologists: very Chris Sloce things include Albert Brooks, Aesop Rock, and black coal.

            Stop me if you heard this one before: two cops, one damaged, one seemingly less so, catch a case where a young girl is murdered in the woods. The damaged cop is losing a battle with alcoholism, but has a level of intuitive brilliance that seems more musical than it does logical. He lost his daughter in an accident and everybody at his work place hates him but he’s good at his job. The other cop is a family man who is letting the case get to him. Oh, and their chief is a prick who threatens to throw them off the case.

            I basically described True Detective. And every other cop show in history.

            So why do I love this one? I do have to recognize that Nic Pizzolatto is wearing his influences on his sleeve: Rust Cohle, the aforementioned damaged cop speaks in Cormac Mcarthian monologues about the futility of man, refers to the act of hubris of birthing a child into “this meat”. Martin Hart even pays direct homage to The Wire’s Bunk Moreland’s immortal (sorry mom), “I’m just a humble motherfucker with a big-ass dick.” And the propensity for profane monologues and tossing out fifteen thousand dollar words is pure David Milch.

            Guess what? Those are three of my biggest story-telling influences, and Milch is a person I have to find myself careful of aping in about every aspect. There’s a reason I talk with my hands: I picked it up after too many Milch lectures.  And I’ve even described True Detective to friends as “the most Chris Sloce show to ever exist” meaning: if I were to make a show, the show it would look the most like would probably be True Detective.  So I’m not going to think that there’s no level of cultural narcissism going on here. At the same time, you’d be remiss to think your tastes, especially if you’re an artsy type, are no reflection of your unique experiences and how you carry yourself. Like Chandler said, style is a projection of personality. So it just so happens that a novelist who loves those three things made a tv-show and might have a similar personality to me and also says things like, “I’d want to bring a flamethrower to faculty meetings; the preciousness of academics and their fragile personalities would not be tolerated in any other business in the known universe,” sentiments I’ve shared in the past. So instead of acting like I’m biased, let’s go ahead and admit bias and also admit that everybody is biased, whether they like it or not.  We call this bias taste.

            But I don’t want to short sell True Detective either. There’s something special and bizarre bubbling here. A writing style is something you can build upon and sometimes something new isn’t much farther away than jamming together two disparate elements. I doubt we’re going to be calling things Pizzolattian just yet, but the pull between Cohle’s sometimes smarmy and annoying assertions (the way he blows off a whole group of people in a tent church revival was maddening) and Hart’s discomfort and attitude (Hart tells Cohle he sounds panicked when he makes those assertions) is something interesting, especially when in the same episode, you see Hart threaten to send a guy to prison and have his face used as a condom for sleeping with his mistress: that attitude made physical. Not to say we’ve never seen a smart socially awkward detective and his more down-to-earth counterpart before, but usually, we see the socially awkward guy as simply socially awkward and the down to earth guy there to tell him not to tell people they’re ugly. What drives this show forward at its best is a) the chemistry between Harrelson and McConaughey and b) delving into that personality shift in a different way. The vibe is different. Bethlehem Shoals said: “True Detective is so Southern Gothic that it’s actually about Hell.” And the land certainly looks hellish.

            But, I’m pretty tired, and usually I spend some time on these. I think it’s a show worth watching and I’ll probably have things to say about it as the weeks go on. I’m thinking about rewatching the 3 episodes again during its off week. More streamlined, intelligent things to say then.

           

            

Whole Gang Ghostbusters

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Christopher Sloce would like you to know he feels a strong understanding of Egon Spengler’s speech habits, brain, and attraction to Annie Potts.

            Writers should have writer friends that don’t act like writers.

            Writers are scumbags. Let’s be honest here. I know because I am one, I’ve met plenty, and some of my best friends write. Some of the people I hate the most also write. In between there’s casual shade throwing, a trick most artistic people have at this point mastered, and that casual one-upsmanship. Writers are inherently competitive. Every writer thinks he or she is Mike Tyson and every other writer is Lennox Lewis, they want to rip their stomachs out and eat their children. One former friend of mine said, aping a quote from Midnight in Paris, that if you’re going to be a writer, think you’re the best writer. I’m fine with sitting at the table instead of heading it.

            I admit to thinking I’m good, that I might have potential, that I’m proud of what I do when I do it. But finding a Norman Mailer to my Gore Vidal or vice versa is so tacky and lame. What a lot of those literary types don’t realize is that whole crew ate themselves alive with the publicity crap. I fail to see how you can be producing and drinking 9,000 martinis a day and dismantling people on the Dick Cavett show. My heroes aren’t sexy. Faulkner had a crazy wife and worked on a farm. Cormac McCarthy turned down speaking gigs because he couldn’t think of anything to say. Joan Didion was a very beautiful woman in the seventies but played the game, it seems, very little. Flannery O’Connor died young and had lupus.

            However, writing is boring, trudging work. Unlike physical labor, it taxes your mind, not your body. When you’re doing dishes you think absurd and I find writing I’m thinking of practicality, the nuts and bolts of, “Does it work?” I love it, but it’s frustrating as all hell and worse than that, it’s lonely and to me, border-line insane. Telling people you have ideas for people who don’t exist is a way to be viewed as a complete nut house. So I do get the attraction to having writer friends, because they get it. Of course you need support, and I do have that, most nakedly in my friend Brian. But there needs to be support.

            This is a roundabout way of me vaguely mentioning a project I’m writing with two insanely intelligent, smart, capable minds. I don’t want to get into details, but it got me thinking yesterday: writers need that support group, so collectives make sense. And being a massive fan of rap AND rock music, it made me think about small groups. Crews, essentially. Almost a wrestling stable or a sports team. The ability to say “I’m a Paul Heyman guy” or to shout out a label.

            Jeff Weiss wrote about the Wrecking Crew (who, by the way, are a group of Philly rappers that borrow heavily from noir and Wu-Tang Clan. In other words, stuff I would eat up.) , that “they understand how to maximize their personal strengths and compensate for each others’ weaknesses. Most importantly, they call each other out on what’s bullshit and what’s not.”

            I had that feeling last night talking to my friends. I’m keeping this on the down low for now, because it’s not my baby, but I’m pretty proud to be godfathering a script with a writer who gets plot and how movies move (which is a weakness of mine, I come from a different school of plotting) and a guy who, by his own admission, gets atmosphere and tone well (and I agree with his assessment and that isn’t my strongest suit). I’m the dialogue guy. We have a point guard and a center. I think I’m the mercurial small forward, the Stephen Jackson.  I’m the guy who scores 50 with questionable defense or shoots a half-court shot that doesn’t go in. If we were Stanfield organization, I’m Snoop. I’m Paulie Walnuts.

            And the best part is? It’s basically for fun. Which it looks to be. Not a bad way to end college.

Bridge the Gap Between Marachera and Sweatshirt: Billy Woods as Man of the Year

This is Christopher Sloce’s first post at Christopher Sloce Doesn’t Write. He’s written for Drawl magazine, Poictesme, Quail Bell, tumblr, Eskwire, and Junebug Fiddlers Monthly. 

A musician is lucky to get one great album, let alone two. Two in the same year? You’re dealing with a freak of nature. And a freak it is: a New York via DC rapper who preaches more than flows, who writes with the hypnotic force of Virginia Woolf and the street slang wisdom of Scarface, says inscrutable things like the title (a reference to Zimbabwean novelist Dambudzo Marachera and rapper Earl Sweatshirt), inhabits a universe of boring drug deals, unfulfilling “Russian roulette relationships”, occasional romps with an ex-girlfriend, and put Robert Mugabe on his previous album cover. If you’re dizzy, you get the feeling of listening to Billy Woods.

This year alone, Billy Woods released two amazing albums: one with Aesop Rock producer Blockhead called Dour Candy, which is as doom-haunted and unforgiving as any noir, and as part of Armand Hammer with fellow freak Elucid, called Race Music. A few years ago, GQ said Mos Def was the best working lyricist in any genre. I might call Billy Woods the best writer writing. Every word has a propulsive force. The fact I’m comparing him to Virginia Woolf says it all.

When we talk about music writing, specifically with rap, there’s a tendency to put the clever over the sincere. When you find a way to be clever and sincere, you’re hitting something powerful, a nerve ending that every person has. And Billy Woods does. His masterpiece, “Gilgamesh” (also my favorite song of the year), spends the last five lines of the first verse comparing himself, in roundabout fashion to the ur-myth and Rafael Trujillo. Trujillo comes up because he’s sleeping with his soon to be married ex-girlfriend, each one getting the other out of their system. Trujillo had a similar habit of taking newlyweds to his bedroom and giving himself superlatives.

This is how Woods renders that information: “El Jefe/Rafael Trujillo/Came through on her wedding nightGroom peeping through the keyhole/Tears in his eyes/Lights off mijo/All you heard was rattling medals/She left disheveled/ Merrily dug his own grave whistling as he shoveled”. Along with the fact he’s taking someone’s girl, you’re watching him do it, with the amusing image of his epaulets jangling with each thrust. But there is a fallout: she leaves disheveled, and somebody is digging their grave. The writing spins from bleak comedy to absurdist tragedy, in 5 seconds of music. That’s power.

Billy does what every writer hopes to do: create a world, and he does it through these references. On Illmatic, Nas drops upwards of fifty names, all of people who never left Queensbridge. Here and on Race Music, Oscar the Grouch, Willie Bosko, ghost detainees, Larry Merchant, and wandering Jews dot the landscape; different, more primal ghosts, more familiars than dead spirits.

You are never going to hear Billy Woods at a party, even with people in the know. But when the party stops and you find yourself inside of “stolen whips, sitting in Dulles Airport, long-term parking”, at that moment, you don’t need to turn up. And for those of us who find themselves empathizing with serfs instead of the nonplussed lords, there will be Billy Woods and this year’s work.