2004 seems longer ago than any other year to me, which I understand makes no sense. How can it seem longer ago than 1999, or 1991, or even 1989 – all years I remember, at least in bits and chunks? Maybe because 2004 felt like a bridge, some convergence of the analog past and the digital future. It was the year I graduated high school and started college. It was the year Facebook was invented, the peak of Windows dominance, the calm before the Apple-Google-let-me-check-my-phone storm. It was a time when there was still hope that George W. Bush wouldn’t be reelected. It was a moment at which I could feel the changes on horizon while being able to look into the past and realize how far away it would soon feel.
It was also the year that Above & Beyond launched their massively successful radio show/podcast Trance Around the World. The show ran for 450 episodes until 2012, when it was rebranded as Group Therapy, after their sophomore album. In 2004, A&B was on fire with songs like “No One On Earth” and “Satellite” (by OceanLab, the combination of A&B + Justine Suissa) that mixed drama and unshakable melodies with EDM churn. 10 years later, they’re more popular than ever – the 100th episode of Group Therapy (and the 550th episode of the radio show overall) was a live set in a sold out Madison Square Garden.
I’ve been fascinated with issues of EDM criticism and have even compiled my own list of A&B’s best singles. ABGT 100 didn’t seem like a time for critical reflection, but in the relatively quiet spot I found at the back of the floor, there was time to think. I appreciated how strands of Cygnus X were woven into Mat Zo, how Andrew Bayer unfurled one vocal masterpiece after another, and A&B’s integration of “These Shoulders,” perhaps Julie Thompson’s finest moment on Anjunabeats. I also got this great photo which looks kinda like Deadmau5 lost in a crowd of ABGT partygoers:
It was all so harsh, yet so gentle. All new, yet so old.
This week I completed my second short story, a 7,000 word piece called “The Lightning” that I posted to Tumblr, along with some original artwork and photography that loosely correspond to the narrative. It’s the second story I’ve published to the site – I prefer Tumblr for its relative anonymity and informality, as well as its artistic community – and I plan to add at least 3 more over the next several months. Once I get to 5, I’ll think about self-publishing an actual book of them.
The story itself is a reporter’s chronicle of his investigation of a local tall tale, about a man who is repeatedly struck by lightning. I didn’t go into the story with much of a plan – only an idea of “lightning in a bottle” that was cycling through my head like a cliche during a walk back in September.
Stylistically, I drew upon three major sources:
- Will Self’s Umbrella – a multi-consciousness, stream-of-consciousness novel that seamlessly moves between World War 1 and later eras, all the way to 2010.
- The Serial podcast, a massive hit series narrating a reporter’s revisiting of a 1999 crime
- The Counting Crows album “Across a Wire,” which reimagines the band’s early songs with lyrical snippets from other songs, b both their own and others’.
I’m still very much a novice short story writer. My first one was written back in the summer, called “The Loop.” I’m still getting a feel for narrative and characterization – in this one I took the first-person perspective, despite Jonathan Franzen’s recommendations against it, to try and get inside the investigator’s head. I also presented different layers of narrative. The parts in quotes are meant to be newsy/reporter-y, while the unquoted parts are more free-form, going between poetry and free association. The piece started as a someone walking around in the woods thinking about the Union Jack (I began right before the Scottish independence referendum) and ended up with that as just a passing detail.
There are some details about my hometown in here. The Lebanon Enterprise is a real newspaper, just as Proctor Knott Avenue is a real street. The whiskey distilleries, lakes, and forests are all real characteristics of the area in and around Lebanon.
I published it once and then took it down to do some rewrites. With this story, I rediscovered what I had once learned but forgotten (perhaps since I did so with a different medium, the academic paper): trying to substantially revise an old work that you haven’t gone back to in a while is painful. I probably let 1.5 weeks slip between the first draft and doing substantial edits, which ended being harder than facing down a blank page had been. I’m not going to put off the edit cycle again.
I used iA Writer for Mac to write the whole thing in Markdown. I took the photos with an iPhone 6 Plus. The artwork was done with acrylic paint on a sketchpad.
For the next short story, I’m going to read something more straightforward – maybe some Stephen King and Hemingway – and then tailor my style accordingly. I’ve already got a title: “The Chancellor.”
During a phone call with my mom the other day, I used a word that I used to hear all the time in middle and high school but very rarely since. That word is “ignurnt.”
No, it’s not “ignorant,” tho etymologically – in a loose sense – that’s where it comes from. Technically, it’s just a Kentucky accented version of “ignorant,” but the meaning is different.
“We haveta to take off our jackets when we come into school? That’s ignurnt.”
“This homework assignment is ignurnt.”
Ignurnt almost means the opposite of ignorant. It is an epithet for work or other actions that are probably well thought-out and for everyone’s benefit but are perceived by the speaker as an exorbitant burden. At the same time, the word is synonymous with “stupid,” yet conveys so much more disdain – the target is construed as both idiotic and often from a different class or world entirely. Republican hatred of Obamacare or the faux outrage of “#gamergate” are well served by liberal usage of “ignurnt.”
The word ignorant is not usually applied to actions – instead it is thrown around when talking about people or ideas, usually. “Ignurnt” is more earthy and immediate. It isn’t abstract and is in fact concrete and immediate, a densely packed retort to something that touches a nerve out of nowhere. It is unguarded, off the cuff and brutal, yet full of complex power and expressiveness. I’m looking forward to building a character’s voice around the logic of the word and the types of folks who use it. Maybe it can be an English downhome counterpart to Sehnsucht