My blog has moved! Redirecting...

You should be automatically redirected. If not, visit and update your bookmarks.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Living in LA has liberated my ideas about success. There was a time when I thought artists had two options: 1) Become wildly popular and be known nationally or 2) Work in obscurity generating art for Art's sake.

As others have mentioned, LA is a city that values the independant spirit, the mom and pop shops, the underground musicians, the quirky artists. And as a result a vibrant community of artists, from all over the world, have found their voice here. It's been alot of fun running across these pockets of creativity.

On a personal level I've been inspired to expand my definition of success. Suddenly the idea of doing readings in a small coffee shop for an audience of 12 sounds really good. Suddenly, a blog written for a handful of readers is -- cool.

With that said, not all of the people below are independant/underground artists. I just wanted to share the pockets of creativity I've been enjoying.

"Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight," by Alexandra Fuller. The memoir of a white-african girl growing up in Rhodesia, Malawi, and Zambia.

Literary Journal:
"Rock & Sling," a journal of literature, art, and faith based out of Washington. R&S proves this statement: "Creativity is the natural result of Spirituality."
- E. McManus

"West" magazine, a publication of the Los Angeles Times. Where do they find these writers and topics? Riveting! This is fast becoming my second favorite thing about Sundays.

"Eye to the Telescope" KT Tunstall. For the first two weeks I played this album in the background, Dwayne walked by oblivious. One day, he suddenly turned around and said, "This is a really good album!" Now, he says it everytime he hears her, as if he's never said it before.

Radio Station:
KCRW - "Hand-picked music and NPR news."

Visual Art:
"Ashes and Snow," currently exhibited at the Santa Monica pier. Words just can't~ You must see for yourself!

Urban Poets - specifically Mosaic's dance team. Okay so you can't and probably won't get a chance to see these preformances, unless you come to a service. But I have now discovered the art of dance as worship. These preformances literally make me shake. You can feel the entire sanctuary tense with anticipation when the dancers walk onto the stage. How many times does a church preformance (dance, drama, song or otherwise) make you want to burst from your seat in a standing ovation? They move us, and never for a moment do I think about their bodies while I watch them dance.


Monday, March 20, 2006

The Power of Dignity

The intersection at Wilshire and Little Santa Monica has a crossing guard. He wears a bright orange vest and carries a red stop sign. His shoulders are big and crooked and his head tilts lopsided on one ear. The effect is no visible neck and an upper body which turns entirely when he looks both ways.

Little Santa Monica is the main street of Beverly Hills. Along this drag other famous streets intersect: Rodeo, Beverly, and Canon. Along these streets sit many high end shops: Armani, Gucci, Christian Dior.

When I drive down Little Santa Monica I notice the people. I watch them at stoplights and scan their clothes, their bags, the way they walk. Mostly I see tourists looking for movie stars, but there is a smattering of the Beverly Hills crowd too. A couple business men cross the sidewalks in suits on their way to lunch. A woman carries her toy dog beneath her arm and ducks into Coco Chanel. A famous man hides behind sunglasses, baseball cap, and goatee.

On this particular day, I watch the crossing gaurd. He waits until the little white man appears on the meter and then charges into the street. His red sign is held high, his head tilts sideways, and his arm stretches out in a stiff "Halt!"

The woman on the curb moves impatiently. In her black heels and sunglasses she hurries off the curb and into the street. When she reaches the crossing guard she turns her body and veers away from him, careful not to touch him.

He, on the other hand, stands resolutely holding back the current of cars for her. The earnest look on his face warms my heart, and I press the breaks a little harder.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Million Little Pieces of truth Make One Big Truth

For those who may not know, James Frey wrote an autobiographical account of his life as a drug addict. After selling thousands of copies, reaching national celebrity, and appearing on Oprah, Frey admitted that several parts of his book were fabricated.

This caused a national outcry. Oprah brought him back on her show and made him apologize on national TV for "lying." The publishers said Frey lied to them about the authenticity of his book, and now he's released a statement clarifying the accuracy of his memoir.

As a student of non-fiction there is hardly a seminar or workshop that goes by without the issue of "truth" popping up. Are we telling the truth? What do we owe the readers? What do we owe our writing? What is the definition of "truth?"

There are two types of truth that any author approaching CNF must consider. There is little "t" truth*, meaning the recordable facts. I'm wearing a brown sweater and listening to Postal Service as I type.

Then there is big "t" Truth*, meaning the emotional facts or how it felt. Joan Didion writes in her essay, "On Keeping a Notebook" --

"I tell what some would call lies. 'That's simply not true,' the members of my family frequently tell me when they come up against my memory of a shared event. 'The party was not for you, the spider was not a black widow.'...How it felt for me: that is getting closer to the truth [I write]."

The presence of these two truths creates a spectrum with either one positioning itself at a polar end. Some writers believe that the recordable facts only bog down their prose, and distract from the "True" story. And so these writers work closer to the end where embellishment and imagination reign. Other writers are pulled to the end where hard facts delineate like anchors.

Author John D'Agata is a good example of an author who positions his writing closer to emotional truth. In his introduction to a book of collected essays edited by D' Agata, he lists several sentences of facts about the authors. Then he writes, "I'm telling you this now, at the start of our journey, because I know you are expecting such facts from nonfiction. But henceforth please do not consider these 'nonfictions.' I want you preoccupied with art in this book, not with facts for the sake of facts."

On the other end of the spectrum we have Lee Gutkind, editor of the literary journal "Creative Nonfiction." Gutkind has established himself as the advocate for factual creative nonfiction. He writes in his introduction to _In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfition_, "Wherever you draw the line between fiction and nonfiction, remember the basic rules of good citizenship: Do not re-create incidents and characters who never existed."

When authors decide to write creative nonfiction they must choose where to place their literature on this gradient of Truth. Sometimes, this happens instinctually. Sometimes, it is a deliberate choice.

If you ask me to "fall off the log" regarding James Frey's fiasco I will tell you this: I do not believe that what makes cnf, nonfiction is the amount of factual truth. It is however, the relationship between the author and the reader. In fiction, the reader can forget the author. They can engage with the text as an autonomous source.

I believe cnf distinguishes itself from fiction because it introduces the author. The reader engages not only with the text, but also with the voice of the author who is telling them through out the narrative, "This is t-True."

I don't believe an author owes it to their audience to tell the truth in their text. Let them instead be True to their art. I do believe the author owes it to their audience to clarify somewhere along the way where their text stands on the spectrum between truth and Truth. (There's more to be said about how an author can do this.)

And this is where I believe Mr. Frey got into trouble! I think an audience wont mind if you give them the emotional Truth rather than the factual truth. I do think, however, they want to know which you are telling them.

*These phrases coined by Dr. Mary Brown.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ash Wednesday

"Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee."
TS Eliot from the poem Ash Wednesday

In our office complex, there is a dry cleaners. It's located beneath the offices, underneath the ground, on parking level one. The cleaners is nothing more than a painted closet next to the mail room. Every day, when I get the mail, I swing around the corner and pass the open door to La Mirada Cleaners. Every day, the small lady who runs the cleaners jerks her head up expecting to see a customer walk through the door. When I pass, I notice her wrinkled forehead, her mop of dark brown hair.

Twice she's come to our office to pick up dirty clothes, and both times I've noticed her eyes. They are the eyes of a woman who is always shrinking back. She walks in with a battered Banana Republic bag for the clothes. She wears old knitted sweaters, and puffy hair bands. She tips her chin down and she slumps her shoulders as if she were about to bow at any moment.

Seeing that worried face, that small stooped body makes me strangely apathetic. In any other setting, I would feel sympathy. I would wonder why she is so shy, so uncertain, but in this building populated by models, celebrities, and savvy business men, she just seems out of place.

Today I left the restroom, and as I closed the door behind me I saw her walking down the hall. I smiled at her and nodded. She gave me a smile that looked more worried than friendly. I noticed a mark on her forehead. At first it looked like shadows, then like a dark Buddhist dot, but as she got closer I saw what it was: ashes in the shape of a cross.

In an instant I saw her kneeling at an altar, the thumb and finger of a priest drawing across her skin. I knew exactly where she had been, and everyone in this building would know too, everyone in this building with its fine lines, clean faces, beautiful clothes and limbs, moving across courtyards, sliding beneath eucalyptus trees, sitting behind big oak desks, and glass doors, glass windows touching the ceiling and letting in light, letting in faces, mouths moving saying, I saw Billy Crystal next door, have your read the new script, they said commercial modeling not high fashion, and the click click click of high heels on marble polished to a smooth gloss.