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Posts in Category: My Life and Times and Random Observations

The Notorious G.R.E.

On Saturday afternoon, I took a peaceful drive down to Lombard to take the GRE. Some might consider my decision to skim practice tests to get an idea of what might be on the test, rather than studying my ass off, a poor idea. I’m of the mindset—perhaps motivated by overall laziness—that standardized tests should assess actual intelligence.

If I spent three months studying my ass off, I’d forget most of what I’d learned thirty seconds after the test. Because I don’t give a fuck about, for instance, SOH CAH TOA. I haven’t had reason to use it since I first learned it in high school, so I’ve had no reason to commit it to memory. I’m less interested in getting into the greatest grad school of all time than in providing an accurate reflection of my knowledge, not a reflection of what I can quickly learn and then forget about. Maybe it isn’t an airtight philosophy, but fuck you.

So, I pulled into the parking lot of one of the few corporate centers designed by M.C. Escher, quickly drank a cup of coffee (my performance-enhancing drug) before entering the building the required 30 minutes before the scheduled test time.

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Going Primal

I know every new post starts with me apologizing for not blogging, but what are you gonna do? I’ve reached a strange point where (gasp!) writing about me doesn’t interest me much. I keep wanting to turn back to Cannon reviews in lieu of boring personal essays, but I never find the time to sit down and watch a movie.

That leaves me posting only when I have something new to report, instead of straining for subject matter or writing about unfortunate first dates. Luckily, I have something new.

Two weeks ago, I started a 30-day challenge version of the paleo diet. This was designed by a CrossFit trainer and passed along to me, by no means a CrossFit trainee, as a method for detoxing from my unhealthy, gassy lifetime of consuming delicious starches and processed foods.

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The Forgotten Fake

Several years ago, as I watched the burgeoning self-publishing market grow in both popularity and quality, I came up with a brilliant idea: what if I created a small press so convincing, nobody realized it was 100% fake? What if I made a charming, professional-looking website, created book covers for nonexistent novels, and then buried my own, actual writing within it? Operating under the theory that as long as a con looks convincing, the mark won’t look too deeply at it, I invested in a domain name, whipped up a nice-looking web design, and then got to work on the artifice of the actual company.

The Backstory

I decided the company, Idle Valley Press (named for the elite town Raymond Chandler modeled on the San Fernando Valley in The Long Goodbye), would be based in Lafayette, Indiana, founded by bitter Purdue grads looking to make their mark. Their first decision was to purchase the entire back catalog of an obscure, long out-of-print author named Greenfield McKenna. Who is Greenfield McKenna? Somebody I made up, inspired by the words I hear when Lafayette native Axl Rose squeals “Down in the gutter” in “Back Off Bitch.”

The focus of Idle Valley Press was satirical novels—social satire, political satire, literary satire—to coincide with my own satirical agenda and the fact that I found very few small presses that would publish humor novels. In that spirit, McKenna was a Beat poet who had a sense of humor and was ostracized by his San Francisco community because of it. I’m pretty sure the founders of Idle Valley Press only liked him ironically, but their strategy of reprinting his old books paid off and gave them enough seed money to take on new projects.

Over the course of five years, they developed a reliable stable of writers. In my ideal life, I would continue to perpetuate this company’s existence and write all the books I made up and ascribed to these fictitious writers. I didn’t spend much time or energy on spewing out these ideas, but I kinda started to fall in love with them, especially when I started writing the excerpts.

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Teach: Tony Danza: A Story of Nope

Last week, I didn’t really have the time to ramble about how great it feels to have someone pursuing me for an opportunity, instead of scratching and clawing my way into opportunities the way I usually have to. Here’s the short version: after unsuccessfully applying to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s MFA creative writing program, I found myself being pursued quite intently by the MA teaching program. I have no teaching experience whatsoever, but I have made it clear that I’d like to move in a teaching direction because, frankly, I feel good helping people who strive for improvement. I don’t feel good begging stupid people to make smart decisions for the first and only time in their lives. And yes, former movie-industry employers, I am calling you all stupid. And boy do I ever mean it.

At any rate, here’s the functional difference between the MFA creative writing program and the MA teaching program: SAIC never got my transcript from Columbia. Why? Because, evidently, Columbia College Chicago still has the world’s worst administrative staff. (That’s right, I’m calling everyone out today.) Nobody contacted me from the creative writing program regarding this fairly serious issue. I received a rejection notice in early March, and that was that. Per usual, nobody gave any hint as to why I was rejected. It may have nothing to do with my transcript; they may not have pursued the transcript issue because they already knew I wasn’t desirable for their program.

On the other hand, the teaching program contacted me near the application deadline and announced that they’d never received my transcript. I badgered Columbia into actually sending it instead of just sending me a receipt that they’d charged my credit card for something they didn’t actually do. When they received the transcript, they called to schedule an interview with the program director.

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No Time for Blogs, Dr. Jones

It’s no surprise that my neglect of this blog coincided with perhaps the most delightful, galvanizing epiphany of my life. A single conversation with a friend crystallized years of personal soul-searching and advice from others. I’ve felt great ever since, which creates two problems for this blog: first, the entire foundation of this blog is rooted in the paralyzing anxiety and fear that has driven me to a heady combination of inaction and overthinking; second, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve lost interest to proving anything to anyone, including myself. I know my value; I know what I’m capable of accomplishing—and what I need to do to achieve my goals—and I have no particular interest in either lording my accomplishments over others or of begging for their attention.

It occurred to me, when I remembered I had a blog and tried to figure out what I ought to write about, that that’s what this place has really been to me: a place to prove to anyone who will listen that I’m smarter, funnier, more talented, and more worthwhile than everyone else. That hasn’t exactly paid dividends, although I took some solace in the implied knowledge that Diablo Cody did not like what I wrote about her stupid movies.

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8 Questions to Find Your Day Job

Lookin’ for work, if I can get it
If you put me on, you won’t regret it
And no one here knows more than me what debt is…
— Ike Reilly, “Good Work”

After last week’s longplaying bluster, I’ve decided to kick it into a lower gear and work on a post idea I’ve had for awhile. The content will be geared to a certain type of artistic type, so feel free to ignore this if you don’t fit the paradigm (or don’t think you ever will). The type: you graduated from college with a semi-useless degree (or two or three), you had a five- and/or ten-year plan for success, and you’re nearing (or past) the end of that timeframe with little to show for it. Maybe you have a menial retail or food-service job with the flexibility to keep your options open. Maybe you have a full-time job in the belly of the beast, hoping it will give you the respect (or, at least, the connections) to take that next step, but your job keeps you so busy, you have very little time to devote to your “real” work. This is especially for those in positions like these who are unhappy but can’t quite figure out what to do to change that.

This isn’t a post about giving up on your passion. I certainly haven’t given up on mine, and I’ve reached that age where I start to get funny looks from friends and loved ones for eschewing marriage, kids, and a two-bedroom ranch in favor of pursuing my goals.

What this is about is reshaping the daily grind into something a little less grueling, a little more fulfilling, and a lot more manageable. Because, if you haven’t faced these facts already, now’s the time: you need money in order to survive, whether you like it or not; in order to get money, you need a job (no, really—even in the benevolent Utopia Obama is creating, you still need a job to get money); most jobs, even good jobs, suck if they have nothing to do with your personal goals; and worse than that, jobs that do have to do with your personal goals tend to suck when there’s no forward momentum.

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