Video Bloggery – 6/25/12

On what’s missing.

Published in: on June 26, 2012 at 10:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Everything is Medium: Black Boss

    Since the beginning of 2011, digital photographer Chris Schatz has been hard at work on his ambitious new project, “One Photograph a Day”. From the first day of the year to the last, Chris is going to take one photograph for each of those days and post it on his blog.
    I am excited to announce I will be collaborating with Mr. Schatz on his effort. For one in every five of his daily photographs, I will write a short story inspired by the image. The stories, and the pictures, will be posted on both of our blogs.
    For more of Chris Schatz’ photography, including photos from the project I have not written about, check out his blog.
    I hope you enjoy The Bloggery of Michael J. Coene’s collaborative effort with Christopher Schatz, “Everything is Medium: Literary Interpretations, One Photograph a Day!”


    Her sexuality was as naked as her naivete. She was his Lolita, yet he had turned thirty just seven days ago.
    She was self-conscious, but never shy. Her eyes were large and aquamarine. Her pupils were tiny holes, lost in the center.
    She was smart. She loved to read, or at least enjoyed reading enough to comprehend the literature of it. She was proud of her intelligence, but hesitant to show it. She answered questions as if the answer was hard to put together, even though she had it ready and assembled.
    Happiness for her seemed a far away thing. Far, but still within reach–a resource requiring careful management. If ever she touched happiness, she reveled in its warmth for only a moment, then snatched her hand away, fearing overexposure.
    Her skin was pale olive, young and shining, more butter than earth. She was prettier than she believed. She was prettier than she was willing to believe.
    Her hair was straight and black, and shimmered in the artificial lighting of his dull grey classroom. Her voice was sultry, soft and sleepy, yet somehow clearly audible from across the room. A pair of full lips, writhing with life and vigor, lay coiled in waiting beneath her anatomically balanced nose. She was emblematic of the American idea of “exotic” women, yet she carried herself as if she’d never heard moronic questions regarding her nationality. Her natural citizenship was made obvious by how lazily she donned denim jeans and band t-shirts–such things were not new or exciting on her.
    Frustrating to him–for he was far from statuesque–was her homely behavior. Her body language suggested a plainness that simply was not there. She seemed afraid of men’s gazes, yet in her fear, also seemed to yearn for their approval; perhaps due to her slightly overweight figure, which was enhanced, not encumbered, by the extra pounds. Sadly, America has trained her women to be ashamed of fine curves and good health.
    She was beautiful and truly, though the descriptive may have been cliche, “beautiful” was the only applicable word.
    She was his student, and her name was Sophia. He was newly thirty, at the peak of his arrogance; a product of both fading youth and blossoming wisdom. He had just begun to use words like “heart rate” and “DOW jones”, but still ate whatever he wanted and never looked at his 401(k) plan. He taught Science Fiction at a community college, and Sophia was one of his students.
    Her attraction to him was transparent, and he believed she was both aware and ashamed of this. She stole glances at him even when he wasn’t speaking, and blushed deeply while speaking to him directly. When speaking to the other students, she still blushed, but for them it was the pink of carnations–for him, the roiling red of molten lava.
    He imagined life for Sophia was a struggle, an incessant, exhausting hardship. She seemed detached from her peers even though she desperately sought their approval, and the resulting awkwardness seemed to frustrate her into submission.
    Often he wondered why she behaved so meekly, despite those aquamarine eyes and that buttery olive skin. Perhaps her first boyfriend had cheated on her, or her father had touched her inappropriately. Maybe she’d never had a boyfriend; maybe she’d gotten this far without a male unit present to re-charge her self-confidence, to show her how beautiful she really was. Maybe her only sexual interaction thus far was with some mechanical device–which would have explained how she managed both an ashamed posture and a transparent sexuality.
    However, the Science Fiction teacher believed–or rather, he wanted to believe–Sophia’s ignorance of herself was because she was just too damned smart.
    One day, the Science Fiction teacher decided he could not take it any longer. She had written a marvelous paper on Asimov’s The Gods, Themselves, in which she compared the Rationals to women, and the Emotionals to men. This was remarkable because Asimov clearly intended exactly the opposite effect, but Sophia managed to put together a convincing paper that stated otherwise. As he dismissed the class, most of which had not read enough of the Asimov novel to participate in the day’s discussion, he asked for Sophia to stay.
    “Sure,” she said. Failed attempts at breeziness plagued her shoulders as she waited for the other students to leave. She hoisted her backpack, resting it more comfortably below her tail-bone, and hooked her thumbs into the straps, so that her elbows stuck out a bit.
    The Science Fiction teacher became aroused.
    “Sophia,” he said, once the other students had left. “May I ask how old you are?”
    “Nineteen,” she said.
    “Nineteen? My goodness…”
    She giggled at his use of the word “goodness”, which seemed like such an old-man thing to say. Sophia did not think her Science Fiction teacher was an old-man; not yet.
    “I’m thirsty,” she said suddenly. “Do you mind if I have a drink while we talk?”
    “Not at all,” he replied. He watched her slide the backpack from her shoulders and set it on the floor. Nervously, she unzipped the smaller front pocket, and produced from it a small cylindrical can–black with gold Japanese lettering printed on the side. She struggled a bit with the tab. The carbonation hissed at her when it finally cracked open, and she squealed in response. Roiling red lava began to spread from her chest to her cheeks.
    He would have offered to open it, but knew from her essays that she valued female independence above all else. So he patiently waited, and let Sophia conquer the can on her own.
    “What is that?” he asked, indicating the drink with his pen.
    She giggled again.
    “It’s Black Boss!” she declared, presenting it to him. “It’s a silly Japanese coffee drink. Isn’t it cool?”
    “Cool?” he said. “Well, I… ”
    The Science Fiction teacher looked at this can, this novelty beverage most likely from a nearby dollar store, and saw how happy it was making her. He imagined her standing before a mirror, holding up several cans of different-colored drinks before deciding on this one. Sophia was enchanted by the sheer oddness of possessing such a thing. Her previously introspective shell had been dismantled, and the metamorphosis revealed a mere child within, star-struck by the very thought of being unique.
    All romantic perceptions of Sophia shattered like stained glass in his mind. He dismissed her. She shrugged and left, not the least bit curious as to why he had asked her to stay in the first place, proudly wielding her can as the classroom door clicked shut behind her. Clearly, she hoped passing students in the hallway would have more questions regarding the origins of Black Boss.
    The Science Fiction teacher sighed, remembering how excited he had been to show his best friend Sean a signed, first edition copy of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. The book was currently somewhere in a box, lost to the musty seas of the basement. He realized he hadn’t spoken to Sean in years.

Black Boss

My First Last Words

    There was a tornado warning in Howard County today. A real one–not the kind that beeps during reruns of Friends. That kind, you ignore. This kind, we couldn’t.

    I was at Howard County Community College. I had commandeered one of their private study rooms for my own selfish purposes, and was cheerfully plugging away at the novel. I was on a roll, and nothing needed doing for a couple of hours. Such freedom should have been my first clue a natural disaster was afoot.

    Some guy brandishing a walkie-talkie burst in and shouted something about the windows being bad. I rather like windows, but this fellow was telling me they were bad. As I said, he had a walkie-talkie–I believed him about the windows.

    I started to pack my laptop and journals. The walkie-talkie guy started shouting at me again. He thought I should hurry up.

    “You don’t understand,” I explained. “I’m writing a novel.”

    He was not impressed.

    “I don’t give a God-damn,” he said; and really, who was I to argue?

    I managed to grab all of my stuff and schlep over to where a gaggle of students and teachers were crowding a stairwell. The door to the stairwell was marked, “Tornado Safety Zone”. I wondered if the sign had been there before today.

    When I finally squeezed in, people seemed more giddy than afraid. I liked that.

    I have this tendency, to try and ease uncomfortable social situations. I find awkwardness unbearable, and rather than allow the pressure of it to crush me, I combat it by spitting dopey one-liners at everybody, in hopes of getting people to lighten up. I wish I didn’t do things like this.

    “Who brought the weed?” I declared–the star of the damned tornado show. “If we’re gonna die, we might as well get high, right?”

    This got some laughs, though not as many as I had expected. I made my way to the back, by an exit door where two professors were busily tapping away on their smart-phones. I set my backpack to the ground, and whipped out one of my journals. I like this one because it has the initials, “MJC” engraved into the leather. Three pens protruded from my pocket like arrows in a quiver. I removed one, and set it to the paper. Only one thought was guiding my every movement.

    I haven’t finished my book.

    Immediately I began to scrawl instructions into the journal. I felt light-headed, but in a pleasurable way. I think I was excited by the prospect of writing my last words. At some point, I remembered a mom and a girlfriend were out there, so I paused to text-message them and ask if they were somewhere safe. I went back to the writing. The phone buzzed in my pocket a couple of times after that, so I assumed the ladies were at least safe enough to have responded.

    Not much else happened. It got pretty windy, but that was about it. Outside, everything looked pretty much the same as when I had arrived.

    Disaster or no, I thought it would be neat to post what I wrote in the stairwell onto the Bloggery. So here it is, folks. My very first last words.


    A tornado warning has come to Howard County. Students of the local community college have been moved to a Tornado Safety Zone, which is in fact a stairwell. I am among them.

    If I am dead, and you are reading this, please finish my novel. In my laptop, which is in a bright orange case inside a black backpack, search for a file called, “chrochester”. This is the novel. It’s not called ChRochester; it’s called Khush. There is another copy in a black memory stick at [address has been removed due to author paranoia]. It is on the nightstand, next to my bed.

    This journal–as well as the owl journal inside the laptop case–contains information that should assist with completion, assuming you can read my handwriting.

    As a child, I had many nightmares in which I was suddenly sucked into the air–rising up, up, up until, finally, I would awaken. If such a death is my fate, I hope this is not the one to do it. I don’t fear death, mind you. I just want to finish my book.

    I am planning a second novel, called–wait. They just announced we can leave the stairwell.

    I’m a little disappointed.


    In case you’re wondering… yes, all of this is true. That’s really what’s in my journal and, like a teaser, they really did announce we could leave just as I started to write about my second novel. And yes, I really did blurt out that weed comment to the inhabitants of the stairwell.

    I feel like I should conclude on a profound note, but I think I’ll just let it linger there. Death, when you think about, isn’t all that profound, is it?

Spray-Tan Xenocide

    My name is Michael J. Coene–proprietor of the Bloggery–and I am very upset. If you would lend me your ear… eye? Ear. Ear sounds better. If you would lend me your ear, I will tell you exactly why I feel this way.

    A certain mantra is being bantered about cyberspace. Self-proclaimed writers of all shapes and sizes are playing volleyball, gleefully smacking the motto back and forth over the net, congratulating themselves on a job-well-done. All fine and dandy, but it seems the ball is deflated. It’s a wrinkled mass of rubber and seams, and it keeps flopping into the sand by their tender little spray-tanned feet. Yet these volleyball writers continue to pat themselves on the back. Good show, people. Good show.

    Versions of the incantation are numerous and varied, despite Twitter’s 160-character limit. The volleyball writers manipulate these variations deftly–which is shocking, given the context.

    The following is a quote which seeks to replicate the hymn’s general philosophy. If I accidentally write something you actually tweeted (that word is almost as awful as blog), then I sincerely apologize.

    Wait… no I don’t. If you ever tweeted this nonsense, you should be ashamed of yourself.

    Okay… here goes…


    “Writers who like their work aren’t good writers at all! : )”



    … come again?

    Have you ever read a book? Have you ever met a writer? These people are veritable emblems of arrogance. A writer’s ability is quantifiable by varying degrees of pomp. It’s no secret.

    What? You think Poe was a modest little birdie? You think when Twain revolutionized narrative vernacular, he berated himself for the failure? Do you honestly expect me to believe Shelley considered “Frankenstein” the pinnacle of mediocrity?

    Any recorded moments of insecurity on behalf of literary geniuses are due only to their massive egos. The larger the ego, the more fragile it is (bigger they are, harder they fall–you know the drill). Not because the writer thinks the work is bad, but because somebody in the world has failed to recognize the sheer genius of it. The writer cannot cope with this, and thus becomes fueled and inspired to prove the critic wrong. At no point does lack of skill enter as a possibility.

    The reason for this phenomenon is simple. Excessive confidence is absolutely necessary, in becoming a noteworthy artist. This fact applies to every art form. Convinced of genius, an artist can readily, easily share the conclusion with others. How? With words, folks. With words.

    According to these volleyball writers, a bad writer who acknowledges a lack of skill is a good writer, and a confident, skilled writer is, in fact, remarkably terrible.

    Well, you know what? Fuck. You.

    Look, I’m not saying I love everything I’ve ever written. Certainly, there is work I think is weaker than others. Each work is better than the last, every time–such is the nature of the craft. The older the piece, the worse the prose.

    That said, do I think I’m a bad writer? Not at all. Actually, I think I’m pretty damn good. I love what I do because I’m good at it. If I thought I sucked, I would take up plumbing or occupational therapy or something.

    Volleyball writers would have us be ashamed of our prowess. Quite frankly, I am insulted. Thinking you suck does not make you better, people. That doesn’t make any sense. Modesty does not equal ability.

    It works both ways, you know. Just because some English major has a fancy vocabulary and a published Young Adult Vampire novel does not make the person talented. Excessive confidence, though necessary, is not the only ingredient in aptitude.

    Assert yourself. Be proud of your work. Write like you fucking mean it. Then re-write, re-write, re-write, and re-write some more, until the arrogance is scraped away, and what’s left is solid, effective, vibrant prose. That’s all there is to it. Nowhere does meekness enter the equation.

    Please, volleyball writers, I beg of you–stop tossing this airless ball around. You are misguided. You are misguiding other, impressionable writers who are just starting-out. Because of you, they’ll think their crappy fan-fiction piece about Buzz Lightyear facing Lady Gaga in a dance-off is good, and as a result, they will never, ever grow.

    I work as an IEP Assistant for a special education school. The biggest problem we have is parents who are unwilling to accept their child’s shortcomings. If we don’t work on the parts that need to be worked on, then the kid will continue to masturbate in public long after the parents are dead. In other words, the kid will think the fact that he sucks is a good thing. Get what I’m saying?

    Stop patting yourselves on the back for feeling insecure. Self-doubt is not a positive attribute, so stop trying to convince everyone it is. You are disguising passive-aggressiveness and anxiety as pep-talk. The longer you refuse to re-write the same ten paragraphs for five hours straight, the longer you refuse to read enough quality literature to actually grow in your craft, the longer you will continue to suck. No amount of spray-tan can fix your voice, folks.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go write “Gaga vs. Buzz – The Lady Years” before somebody takes my idea.

Published in: on April 19, 2011 at 9:16 am  Comments (2)  
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