Monday, December 14, 2009

Not Dead

Geez, wait three weeks to write a blog and you lose two followers. I was cramming for the LSAT (an uncrammable test) the first week and then brooding over my performance the second. I’m glad it’s over. I’ve been rescheduling it for a year and would have rescheduled it this time, but I missed the deadline to do so, hence, the mad scramble for preparation. The week before was a nervous hell, and my plan was to write a cathartic blog about the experience and have a solid night’s sleep after, but I was informed that my legs would be broken and my score nullified if I talked about LSAT content, so I’ll just have to find an abandoned warehouse somewhere and dance my frustrations away (see Footloose).
So listen, folks. The fall semester has ended, and I won’t be tutoring the next five weeks. I’ll have the semblance of a normal life and will be focusing on my various literary projects and less on blogging or blog reading. So don’t “unfollow” me or I’ll find out where you live and kidnap your pets for my voodoo.
I’ll be in touch.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hey Texas State U, I want my money back, you jerk.

I wrote this little number about a year ago but never posted it because I felt like an asshole. There’s still a little nugget of karmic fear in its publication, but hey, I’m uninspired right now, and I’ve already spent too much time staring at a blank Word document. Besides, I’m not going to be a teacher anyway, so karma’s just going to have to kick me in the balls or something if the universe is to balance out.

I’d like to regurgitate a small resentment that’s been festering in my heart for some time. So, a reason for my directionless plight of so long is because an English degree standing alone is only an intrinsic reward, as I mentioned once upon a time. Initially, I was going to be teacher certified, so I could enjoy the same high school disrespect that I offered to my teachers in the 90s. I quickly discovered that the renowned teacher certification program at Texas State University is a joke. The two classes that I took, and I’ll be singling out instructors in a few sentences to come, were a complete waste of time, all exaggeration aside, I can’t think of a single useful thing I learned in either class. The first of my Curriculum & Instruction classes was taught by a very nice man named Hal. Professor Hal was genial and entertaining, but he didn’t know the material beyond his interesting personal experiences as a teacher and principal. His test reviews were his tests, verbatim, and they required almost no memorization or utilization of study habits. Again, I liked the man, but he struck me as a fellow who was placed at the head of a class whose subject he understood through years of experience but didn’t understand the science behind his knowledge. The second C&I class was taught by a man named Christopher L. Sisto. Unlike Professor Hal, Sisto was a complete idiot. His lectures involved the literal reading of the textbook. That’s it. He was an extraordinarily lazy educator, who reminded me more of a high school coach than a real man. Fine. I could have just quietly despised him if I were able to simply skip his class and show for tests, but the strict Education Department policy, which he arbitrarily enforced, established an entire letter grade drop after three unexcused absences, and I had no choice but to sit in his classroom and squirm with outrage. So to my immediate regret, I dropped the certification part of my English degree and have suffered financial hardship ever since.
But the gold medal for the world’s shittiest teacher goes to a man not in Texas State’s Education Dept. but the English Department. His name is John Hill, and if he’s not dead from old age, retired, or beaten to death by a seriously disappointed student, avoid his class. At the beginning of my college career at Texas State, I noticed an interesting class called “The Concord Writers” in the school’s catalog. It wasn’t offered ever semester, so I was delighted to find an opening in both my schedule and the school’s, allowing me to enroll. I brazening skipped almost the entire semester, showing for maybe eight days of class in the four months of schooling. Why, you ask? Because Dr. Hill was an even lazier teacher than Sisto, but he was tenured and involved with many English- and Academic-related committees for the school. This academic involvement left him untouchable in his position, and we never, never discussed any of the Concord writers in his Concord Writers class. The preferred topic was Paris Hilton or Britney Spears. No shit. The closest thing to covering Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Melville were questions like, “What kind of car do you think Thoreau would drive today?” to which an idiot student (much to my distress) replied, “I think he would have driven a Prius because he liked nature.” We only had two grades in Hill’s class: two papers at 40% and 60%. I received A’s on both but got a B in the class, probably for attendance. I never complained about any of my teachers. I regarded it as bad karma, and I didn’t want to be responsible for their losing their jobs, but after all these years, I still feel cheated, so I thought I’d at least mention it, here, on my low platform.

Update: Dr. John Hill retired in 2008, and Christopher L. Sisto is now Senior Lecturer. Professor Hal is still at large.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dear Charlie Kaufman, I love you.

I've been thinking screenplays lately. They seem easier than the books and short stories that I haven't been working on these past few months. I just don't have the time. It's true. Even these self-indulgent "me" blogs are written during slow moments at my two jobs. Any minute now, I expect a student to timidly appear at my side and interrupt my thought process for the next hour...like that. What was I saying? Writing. You can't write a committed story between moments of interruption. You're not committed. You can, however, write a disjointed blog posting. They're short and wandering, and since I have my finger on the button, I know I'll be published regardless of quality. Take that Harper's Magazine, you bitch. Digression! Screenplays. Roger and I were collaborating on one a few months back, but he has psychological problems, and I expect him to be dead before either one of us overcomes procrastination. That's just inconvenient for me. He reintroduced me to Adaptation. That's a damn fine movie, folks. Charlie Kaufman wrote it, and after watching it as an adult and not a shit-for-brains kid, I will now boldly claim that Kaufman is not just a screenwriter, but a literary icon, alive and well and still creating. Spike Jonze played a directorial role in Kaufman's story, I won't take that away from him, but that's just well-executed aesthetics. Kaufman's the wordsmith, and I'm in love with him. I read the screenplay for Being John Malkovich, another Charlie Kaufman/Spike Jonze collaboration, and while it, too, was eye-wideningly impressive, it was Kaufman's authorial introduction that resonates. I've never been more entertained with a man's self-deprecating ramblings. I'm so impressed with this person that I am now including him in the canon of living writers (Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, and until recently Kurt Vonnegut) whom I'd publicly avoid for fear of transforming into a hysterical fan, red-faced, tear-smeared, dangerously unpredictable.
Transition.
So yes, I supposed I could try my hand at sensational screenplays like Saw or...or whatever other paycheck movies the kids are droning to, but Charlie (that's Mr. Kaufman to you) would judge me. I'm sure of it. Or, maybe not. Maybe he likes Saw. Roger likes Saw, and he's an intelligent man. Maybe it's me. Is it me? Crap, it's me. I'm in an ivory tower on an island of conceited stupidity, an all I have is Internet access. Sigh. You see the delineation of this short blog? It's taken me three days and many "between moments interruption" to complete it. I don't even like the damn things after three days, so why would I concern myself with proofreading and transitions? Damn you people and your external pressures. Damn you Kaufman for making me realize that screenwriting is a legitimate form of literature. I'll just blog until I grow bored and leave it laying half-finished and half-passioned among the rest of my quarter creations. What monsters they would be if electricity were to jolt them to life. Would they try to kill me, their negligent father? Bah! I'm done.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Swine Flu, You're Just Bacon.

I’m rather irritated with myself for getting so caught up in this whole swine flu paranoia. When it first appeared on the scene of my heart, I scoffed at the fear it was creating not just internally, but externally. The media virus spread its existence like STDs, and from the mouths of one, two, three networks, the idiot public began French kissing each other en masse, while I watched like a pompous voyeur. But like all heroes facing superior numbers, I’m finally in “the shit.” I wouldn’t be if my lovely girlfriend didn’t have these so-called “preexisting medical conditions” that this H1N1 nonsense apparently enjoys partnering up with, but she does, and I am. Sensational media is terrorizing me, folks, and I, in turn, am terrorizing my darling, angel, pumpkin culo, who without my paranoid ravings would be living blissfully free of media hype. It’s a sickening carousel, an ironic beast that has my head and 20 million* others’ way up its hairy ass.
And who is at the greatest risk for this plague-like nightmare? Oh no one special, just your BABIES! Your babies and your pregnant wife and secretary. Do you want them dead? Because they will be. Grandma, Grandpa, you’re cool. You’ve got grit, and I admire that, but we need you to unsnap your pocketbooks now and start shelling out dough for little Timmy and his preggo mama’s vaccination. They were sniffling this morning. Whoa, whoa, not too fast now. The healthcare cartels have a delicate balance here. It’s important to bank on this, of course, but it’s also important that they create the right demand as well as the right shortage for the government to appear incompetent with its distribution. Damn, dirty apes.
Anyway, I’m still paranoid.







*This is a completely arbitrary number since "research" tires me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Austin, a Pictorial (The Unusually Long Book Fest Edition)

This is a two-part posting, folks. The first part is about the annual Texas Book Festival and the second is about my discovery that despite Austin’s buoying progressiveness in a sea of Texas rednecks, I still live in a state with a shockingly brazen, Deep South mentality.
This here’s the Texas Book Festival. It was conceived and executed, so to speak, in 1995 by Laura Bush to promote Texas authors, but it has since gone international and attracted tens of thousands of literary aficionados, year after year. The festival's tents stretch several city blocks in front of the Capitol for a single weekend out of the year. There are readings, performances, and demonstrations, and you can often times meet a favorite author or two. There’re usually panels of ‘em pompously speaking from House and Senate floor podiums within the Capitol building or they're signing within tents. You can find local and statewide publications ranging from cookbooks to periodicals to fiction to...The New York Times? Why was that there? I don’t know. Anyway, I ran into Mr. and Mrs. Bash along with a sibling Bash, and together we met a friend who works at the Capitol and received a guided walk through with an inside man’s knowledge. That was cool.



































This picture requires some explanation. While it looks like a 50s diner, it’s actually the office of Representative Joe Pickett. He tricked it out retro-style, presumably because working in a Norman Rockwell painting is much more pleasant than the windowless basement where his office is located. I'm not quite sure how to react to it.
This is an acknowledgment to the Confederate dead. I’ve seen the statue before but never really took the time to pay it any attention. I find an eerie correlation to the disconnected idealism of Joe Pickett’s office and the clear animosity in this Confederate tribute, but I can’t quite figure out the connection because I have a problem with this supposed "critical thinking." Perhaps I’m grasping at nothing here. That fellow at the monument’s pinnacle is none other than Confederate president Jefferson Davis. No big deal. It’s all historical, but then I read the memorial’s inscription:

Died
For State rights Guaranteed under the Constitution. The people of the South, animated by the spirit of 1776, to preserve their rights, withdrew from the Federal compact in 1881. The North resorted to coercion. The South, against overwhelming numbers and resources, fought until exhausted.
During the war, there were twenty two hundred and fifty seven engagements; in eighteen hundred and eighty two of these, at least one regiment took part. Number of men enlisted:
Confederate armies, 600,00; Federal armies, 2,859,132.
Losses from all causes:
Confederate, 437,000; Federal, 485,216.

If you’re not schooled or interested in American history, you can trust me when I say that this is fucked up and even a little unsettling. You’re free to draw your own conclusions, but I may be returning to this subject later so that I may help you see it my way. I’m still scratching my head over the audacity of "to preserve their rights." The book festival, however, is barrels of geek fun. It’s over now, but it's still small enough to be a great opportunity for recently published authors, so drill down here for more info.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One Down, Ten To Go

Well, my first rejection has reared its ugly head. Harper’s Magazine politely told me to eat shit in a SASE (that didn’t contain my short story by the way) I received Saturday. In a way, I’m glad I heard from them so quickly. Of the 11 publications I submitted to, around three are major magazines. Had a smaller one immediately decided to print my short, I’d have always wondered if a larger publication would have scooped it up if given enough time. Regardless, my reflexive response to instantaneously being jilted was, “Dicks!” How could they have given my story “careful consideration” in such a short amount of time?! My obsessive mind immediately broke down the US Postal timeline: I dropped my bundle of envelopes in a mailbox on Saturday the 17th (where they laid patiently until Monday morning); Sunday the 18th goes by with no delivery; there’s no possible way it could have arrived on the 19th; it’s likely the envelope to Harper’s arrived mid morning to early afternoon on Tuesday, October 20, where the editorial assistant “Julie” read the first two pages, realized my story was a self-indulgent piece of sexist literature, trashed it, and happily dated a rejection form letter for the 20th and mailed it back to me.

That was my immediate response, but then I got to thinking. I didn’t submit to Harper’s Magazine because I’m a huge fan of their work. In fact, I’ve only ever skimmed the magazine. A smart writer would have cased out a magazine and whored his or her style in order to match up. But then what’s the point of writing? I like the way I write. I’m hyperaware myself and how you, dear reader, might be reacting to the words “shit,” “dicks,” and “whored,” but still, I make controlled decisions to use them, and I sneer with vulgar accomplishment at the thought that you’re tastefully averted. I’ve said before: there’s virtue in being awful. Perhaps I’m just a sore loser. Perhaps I’m just a troll. That doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t perform any quality research on who exactly might be interested in my literary themes. Oh well. One down, ten to go.

 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Without Motivation, You're Just a Jerk.

I was "shopping" at HEB, holding a 40oz Corona, a lime, and a frozen pizza under my arm when my radar eyes fell upon Austin Monthly and the gorgeous folk singer Erin Ivey on its cover. Naturally, I looked closer and found that there was a section naming Austin's most beautiful women. Being the consistent creep that I am, I leaned comfortably against a mound of produce and fanned the magazine's pages until beautiful people started appearing. Most of them were overly done-up cougars, fives on my chauvinist's scale, but one of these demi-beauties was my age. More importantly she went to my high school. Holy crap, she graduated in my class. My, how she'd blossomed. I remember when she was a skinny geek who was shot in the leg when a hillbilly named Dale accidentally fired a gun in class. She's a real estate guru now. She's also an entrepreneur. And a philanthropist. And a model. Oh yeah, and she's featured in a magazine for her accomplishments.
Which brings me to my greater point: what do I do? I make dick costumes for myself on Halloween (See previous post. Or don't. I'm ashamed). I'm in serious need of something to be proud of, folks. Sigh. Don't think that I'm completely wallowing in self-pity. I mean, I am, but a wonderful positive to this whole deflating ordeal was that within ten minutes of leaving the grocery store, I was buying fourteen sets of postage for the seven short stories I'd been meaning to submit to publications across the United States. Seven for the stories, seven for the victory/rejection SASEs. Four more were submitted electronically. I've been putting that off for months, but it took one moment of loser self-actualization to spur immediate action.
I feel better already. I'd rather fail than wonder if I could have succeeded. Know what I mean, Vern?
I'll get back to you.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

When Creative Minds Go Bad

I’ve been working on a Halloween costume for a couple days now. I call it “The Smug Prick,” and since I’m the Martha Stewart of filth, it promises to be amazing. The materials I’m using are as follows: a pair of balloons (balls), papier-mâché, cardboard, wire, and hangers and burlap (the shaft). This is really happening, folks.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Austin, a Pictorial

Three things in this pictorial: the 360 Bridge, sagebrush, and cedar trees.
This is the 360 (Pennybacker) Bridge, shown from a favorite vantage point that most Austinites have seen overly reproduced on murals, photo galleries, and genius blogs. I’ve affectionately dubbed it (the vantage point), “Hold My Cowboy Hat So I Can Drink Sixteen Cans Of High Life And Fall To My Death Peak” since I’m not aware of any official title for it. Notice the spotted homes among the green hills in the distance? That’s Westlake, where rich people live. I try to avoid going there because local lore has it that most of them belong to a sodomist sect, founded by none other than Texas’ own Stephen F. Austin. I made that last part up. But, they are rich.
From the same perspective, this is our lovely, drought-resistant sagebrush. It’s wild and native and fragrant, and it’s a pleasant opposite to the also native rattle snakes and cacti with which most of us are more concerned. It's purple. Just trust me. If you follow the Colorado River, it’ll cut through downtown Austin. True story. See the buildings?
I like this picture because it captures these gnarly cedar trees, sagebrush, and that orange monster in one frame. Cedar trees as well as high humidity, molds, and pollen combine year-round to make Austin a kind of allergic nightmare for people who first arrive. I couldn’t breathe out of my nose for the first 15 years of living here, but my manliness overcame and now I eat a bowl of cedar chips with pollen sprinkles every morning. Notice the tree roots breaking the limestone? That’s called mechanical weathering, kids.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

ACL Fest, the Grunge.

Folks, if I hear any more about Austin City Limits Music Festival, I'll kill a stray animal...or a wild urban one. I normally don't mind missing out on the hordes of drunken assholes, sun-baked and sardine-packed in a field at Austin's own Zilker Park, but this year's three-day event culminates with a Sunday night performance by Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam. We're talkin' Ten, Versus, Vitology. These were puberty albums, people. I was air-guitaring "Even Flow" and stage-diving onto my twin bed well before my testicles eased into the pendulum mammoths that they are today. "Dissident" was on my mind the day I discovered and planted my eager face between a pair of real-life (and what were once described as "unattainable) boobies. "Corduroy" was the song I'd cheerfully whistle every time I'd climb out my bedroom window and down our backyard tree to unauthorized, midnight freedom.
Sigh. But I'm not going.
Cost was a factor but not really. The early bird three-day passes sold out a year ago for a measly 135 clams, and I'm quite sure I've since spent much more than that drugging myself with Blue Bell's glorious Rocky Road ice cream (my primary sleep agent) and gallons of Lone Star beer (my secondary). But I'm still not going. That's 135 dollars (185 by regular admission) that I could use toward my black sea of college debt or, even better, the Orion Sky Quest XT8i Computerized Intelliscope I plan on buying in order to search the heavens for signs of God or extraterrestrials or my parallel self staring back. I figure amateur stargazing is much more important than aging grunge bands or repaying that spider woman, Sallie Mae. So please, if you go to the ACL Fest this year, keep your goddamned stories of how plush the new irrigated turf was on your bare feet to yourself, and don't update your Facebook or Twitter status with which stage you're walking to either because I'll drive to your vacant home and lay a dead animal on your doorstep.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Austin, a Pictorial (the lazy edition)

Folks, this is what Texas has been dealing with all summer, but it's over now. It's been a time when neighbors suspiciously eyeball each others' lawns and determine if they've been following the no watering ordinance, a time when anything you leave outside warps or dries out but is still annoyingly useable, a time when (if you're a decent human being) you don't leave your pets outside all day because they might be jerkied by the time you get back home. But, it's over now. The rain has come and with it, winter's promise of a constant hoody-and-sandals temperature.


This is Fred Cantú. He's a news anchor here in Austin, and I once saw him get jolted by electricity on live TV. It was pretty funny. I don't know why he has manifested as a floating head on this person's car, but I thought it necessary to take about six pictures of it while the driver watched me disapprovingly from his sideview mirror. If you don't want people photographing your car, don't float pictures of Fred Cantú's head on your rear window.

Friday, September 18, 2009

This is why I'm not published yet.

I was working in the lab late one when my eyes beheld an eerie sight, for my monster from its slab began to rise, and suddenly, to my surprise...he did the mash! True story, except I was sitting cross-legged in bed, and there wasn’t really a monster. It was a dirty pair of underwear on my bedroom floor. They didn’t dance either. They just laid there and watched me muzzle my face into a bag of tortilla chips while the History Channel educated me on the Second Punic War.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Honest Scrap

Since blogs have become a kind of superior social network for me, it seems only appropriate that I complete an intrusive list for an award bestowed upon me by Chrissy at I Should Have Been a Stripper. I normally maneuver around this sort of thing, but I realized that if I created a swell list of bullshit with worthwhile answers, it’d be a nice little writing exercise on my favorite subject: me.

Here’re the rules.
1. “The Honest Scrap” award is not one to hold all to your self but it must be shared!
2. The recipient has to tell 10 true things about themselves in their blog that no one else knows.
3. The recipient has to pass along this prestigious award to 10 more bloggers.
4. Those 10 bloggers all have to be notified they have been given this award.
5. Those 10 bloggers should link back to the blog that awarded them.

I don’t eat for pleasure. Eating, like sleeping, is an irritable chore that my body has committed to without my permission. As a result, I have a remarkable capacity for consuming the same bland food over and over and over again. Ice cream, of course, is a different matter. The only reason I eat ice cream is because I can’t liquefy Rocky Road and inject it directly into my neck.

Old people tend to enjoy the same crap that I do, and I have been the only person under 65 in line at Luby’s Cafeteria on many, many...many occasions.

If I were to call myself well-versed in something, it’d be that I roundly suck at Spanish, French, the violin, and the guitar, but I’ve studied enough of all four to not get rid of my books or instruments.

People who aren’t interested in everything are boring assholes without substance. I’m sorry if that’s you, but it’s time you heard it with honest constructiveness.

I love music but rarely watch local bands here in Austin, “the live music capital of the world,” because I have an unhealthy jealousy for other people’s ambition and success. I also don’t like people.

My girlfriend is an unbelievable ray of sunshine on my life, and I’m overwhelmingly thankful to have met her.

I have tattoos on my right forearm, left shoulder, and right latissimus dorsi. They enhance my sexy by three, and I’ve analyzed several different responses to them: 1) the woman who couldn’t care less about them but pretends to be fascinated in order to strike up a conversation and eventually remove her clothing for me; 2) the cold and detached woman who’s genuinely curious about them but doesn’t want to appear as though she’s pretending to be fascinated in order to strike up a conversation and eventually remove her clothing for me; 3) the woman who only brings them up in order to safely expose the butterfly, flower, or heart on the semi-private places of her body. The revelation is an instant turn-on that I resent for its frustrating results. Men don’t ask about my tattoos unless they enjoy the spooning company of other men.

I have no tolerance for intolerance (my favorite paradox) and only suffer fools because my college degree is worth as much stapled to my ass as it is printed on my resume, and I can’t find a good full-time job. But, I do suffer.

I would have been a much better European than American.

Here are some bloggers whom I read and am passing this torch to:
F8hasit
Chindiana Trails
Dreamchaser1998
Carma Sez
Panda Mime
Sara Says Awesome
Vent
Something On Your Face
Good Twin/Bad Twin –already posted something like this but gave me a Kreativ Blogger award, so kudos to her.

I switched everything to 9 because I’m a wild man.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Literary Devolution

So, I’ve submitted a short story to a prominent, East-Coast publication and hope to have another one polished up and ready for submission by Monday. Each story is sexist and certainly chauvinistic, a theme and tone I can’t seem to remove myself from, but I am what I am so whatever. They are regressions by all cultural purposes, but I’ve nurtured them from my dime-sized teat since they were mere semiotes of my cojones (Semiote is a term I invented in my mad linguistic laboratory, directly relating to semiotics. If you don’t understand what that means, it’s okay (but I’m judging you)), and I’m bringing back the chest-pounding literature of yesteryear with a barbarous swing of my club. Do you see how in one, albeit divided, breath, I admitted then demonstrated declination with savagery? It can’t be helped. And why should it? I’m a man for god’s sake. Why shouldn’t I celebrate my thick-skulled brutality? It’s the only thing I’m truly good at. 
None of this means much to you, of course, unless you’re one of the few people who have read both stories, but fear not, for I am relentlessly trying to be a published writer.
I haven’t heard back from The New Yorker, but it’s only been a couple weeks. Their submission guidelines warned me that I could wait up to six months for a response, but my defense mechanisms require I stand detached and distant from hope as there are many, many writers who write...buttloads better’n me. The Sun will have the next honor of receiving my prose. It’s less well known than The New Yorker, but it values personal essays, and though mine is only a few simple pages of my jiggling ding-dong, I find it very agreeable.
Wish me luck.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wicked Retro Posts

For all you screaming fans out there (Sharon) who make me regret slowing on the ol' bloggeroo, here're a few past jewels, apples of my blogger's eye. Most of them should be far back enough that the handful of you who actually read this probably haven't seen them. Note the absence of comments. They're mostly short, and I spent some time making all the links look pretty for you, so I'll take personal offense if you don't read and reread and reread them at all hours of the day and night.

I'm soooo sensitive:

My comedy will disrobe you:


This picture is me at 18 and 2 and it has nothing to do with this posting.


Friday, August 14, 2009

When Degenerates Meet Degenerates.

Earlier today, I was sitting at Barnes & Noble, celebrating my three-day abstinence from coffee with a coffee, the purchase of a new book Chariots of the Gods, and a settling in to seriously adjust one of my short stories for submission when irony presented itself. You see, when I write in public, I enjoy looking at people not talking to them. But it’s people that I enjoy. I rip snippets of conversation and tuck them away for later artistic use; I ogle beautiful women and pretend that I’m a super intellect who types really fast; I relish being present for awkward first dates; I thrive in the gushing accommodation I hear in public job interviews: “Judy? Hi, I’m Over-Dressed-And-Nervous-And-Not-Going-To-Get-The-Job. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” “Hello, Over-Dressed-And-Nervous-And-Not-Going-To-Get-The-Job. I’m sorry I’m so late! Traffic was backed up all the way to the office, and I had to make an emergency stop at a Diamond Shamrock before I shit my pantsuit.” “Oh, it’s no trouble, Judy. It’s only been 45 minutes. May I buy you a coffee?” “Yes.” I judge, but I’m never engaged. I’ve been told I have an unapproachable exterior. It’s the eyebrows I think. But, morons and degenerates don’t seem to mind, and they lovingly gravitate toward me as though I’m Mother-fuckin’ Theresa. I can spot ‘em a mile away too. It’s awful. Anyway, a mentally unsound degenerate approached me today.

The café at B&N was spilling with people, but when I arrived, there were two tables pushed together along a long bench seat lining the wall. I cleaned one off, and pushed the other a respectful distance from mine, so someone else could use it. I had just snugged in a pair of earbuds to drown the deafening chatter when a mismatched sociological study materialized across the café, spied the empty table and then my holiness. He squeezed beside me and immediately started commenting on how he was surprised my computer wasn’t a Mac as all people from the University of Texas have MacBooks (I have no and have never had any affiliation or signifiers to indicate an affiliation to UT (Unless you count an ex-girlfriend who actually shat burnt orange feces, the school’s most recognizable gang color)). He asked me to watch his stuff and stood again to collect the cheesecake and coffee he had ordered. His ass bumped my table upon his return, spilling my coffee and pissing me off. In his defense, he said “Sorry, sorry, sorry” right away, and I actually felt a little guilty for assigning him to social incompetence solely based on his appearance. He was a little younger than me, pale and lanky, disheveled and dandruff sprinkled hair and facial hair, coke-bottle glasses with smudged and dirty lenses, and a fisherman’s jacket. A fisherman’s jacket, folks. Was I wrong to immediately wish he would not sit next to me? He settled into his region of our bench and picked up his fork. “What are you doing?” he asked, peering at my computer screen.” I heard him fine, but I popped my earbuds out to emphasize the inconvenience and told him I was trying to log onto a network. “You can’t do it?” he asked. “Still trying,” I told him as I screwed the sound-dampening devices back into my ears. He gawked at my laptop a moment longer and started gobbling his delicious-looking cheesecake. A minute later, his plate was empty, and my peripheral vision detected his attention again. I ignored him but stiffened when his hand hesitantly reached out, and I felt his long thumbnail press my elbow. “Can you watch my stuff?” he asked over the calming sound of Iron & Wine’s “The Trapeze Swinger.” I uncorked my ears, and he repeated his request. His cheesecake had liquefied in his mouth and frothy strands of pink and white saliva connected his upper and lower lips like stalagmites that made it. “I won’t be here very long,” I told him, unwilling to be responsible for whatever gamer magazines he had within his store bag. “Well I know that,” he said with a laugh that stressed his wet cheesecake into gossamer strands. “Just watch my stuff.” I deflated a little but committed. He collected his fork and plate, returned it to the ordering counter, five feet away, and sat down again. When two tables by an electrical outlet cleared simultaneously, I gathered my stuff and relocated in order to recharge my computer battery. We were adjacent to each other now, and I could still see him out of the corner of my eye, staring. “Oh come on,” he called across the café. “You know you like this seat. You just moved.” His insight was as startling as the distance his voice had carried, so I pretended not to hear him. He waited for acknowledgment then grabbed his gamer mags and mumbled to the table directly behind me. 

Is that not the nature of harassment? The man made me move to another table then followed. I didn’t need to charge my computer. And why me? Outwardly, I’m not a friendly-looking person. Out of some psychological deficiency, I have a perpetually macho scowl on my face. I speak loudly and with crisp depth. My personal bubble extends farther than the average asshole. I’m crotchety for God’s sake. But the crazies don’t seem to recognize that and insist on touching me or standing too close to me or following me down grocery store aisles.

He left without further incident a few minutes after sitting, and since he is technically what I come to these coffee shops for, I thought I’d embrace the irony and write a blog about him. This is it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Austin, a Pictorial

I’m not insect crazy, folks, but these are my interests. I’ll eventually snap some pictures of 6th Street or whatever, but people just get drunk there, and that’s doable in any city.

This is an antlion. They live in funnel-shaped depressions in loose soil, and when an unsuspecting ant falls in the pit (think Return of the Jedi or Enemy Mine), the antlion feels the vibration from the cascading soil and flings dirt at the bugger until its prey slides to the funnel point where the antlion captures it in its mandibles and drags it under. How’s that for a nightmare? The antlion is the larval form of a dragonfly-type beast, but admittedly, I don’t know the whole process. You, however, are now empowered with the term “antlion” and may google it if your fancy needs such tickling. Click for an up-closeThis is my naturalist assistant and “Little Brother,” Watson. He took our antlion expedition very seriously and even secured several specimens in our empty snowcone cups to be transplanted in his backyard for further observation.This last picture shows the little antlion pits.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

C'est la vie

At what point do I surrender my goals and turn back in the direction I came? When should I look around myself and say, "Damn, I've made a mess of this place"? There are so many forks in so many roads that the wisest of elders couldn't say, "Go that way" with absolute certainty. When I was 20, I crisscrossed North America, and I did so by sticking my thumb in the air. It was free and unpredictable, and I was gone most of the year. When I returned to Texas, I started hatching a plan to do the same in Europe. I never went. My dad sat me down for one of our only father/son chats and told me to think about what I was doing. He said he had taken my "path" and was just now meeting me on it upon his return. I smiled condescendingly and declared, "I'm not you." I'll be god damned if the man wasn't right, but I'll also be damned if he wasn't wrong. He didn't know what he was talking about, and I don't really know what I'm talking about now. What I do know is that I'll never know enough to tell another human being this is the way. Take it. My father knew that too which is why he never explicitly said, "You're going the wrong direction." He only suggested it and then put his hands up in defensive ignorance when I pushed back.
I still haven't been to Europe, but I will one day.  Probably not as a hitchhiker though. That's the exchange, I suppose. I got my GED and went to college instead. Formal schooling was an education not unlike traveling. I found enlightenment there, and by dividing my youth into reckless abandon and rigid discipline, I experienced the best of all possible worlds in the prime of my young life. You may roll your eyes and and say, "You're only 29.5, handsome Carlos," but the implications of your rolling peepers would be wrong. A thirty-year-old man can't sleep on the roadside or in a hostel full of beautiful twenty-year-olds. At thirty, he's no longer a wild youth with stars in his eyes. He's a drifter, and no one wants to pick up, share a room with, or make sweet love to a drifter. At thirty, he can take freshmen classes in college, but the blazing class discussions, led by children discovering how loud their voices can carry, are uninteresting because he's made peace with so many of their injustices and is ready to evolve. I learned a lot from my year of traveling and four of college, but I've twisted and turned down so many directions that not one person can offer guidance that wouldn't require my returning to that initial fork where I met my old man a decade ago.
I don't think my father ever truly found his way who has? But he's all the wiser for his bullshit mistakes, as am I, as are you, and at the end of our lives, I hope we, who bumble for sense in this senseless place, can each reflect not on how many times we had to return the way we came, but on all the things we gained in realizing this isn't the best direction.
I'll be blogging less. I'm trying to focus on my various larger projects, but I'll end this one with a favorite poem by Theodore Roethke. I won't qualify it with anything more than what I've already written, so enjoy it for whatever you find in it's reading.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pulitzers, Comics, and Westerns

I'm reading two books right now: American Pastoral by Phillip Roth and Zot! the Complete Black and White Collection by Scott McCloud. One's a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the other's a 575 page comic book. I've read two books at a time before. I've read four books at a time before, but never have I been torn between books so equally. When I'm reading American Pastoral I'm thinking about Zot! and when I'm reading Zot!, you guessed it, I'm thinking about American Pastoral. What's a boy to do? Watch Once Upon a Time in the West. That's what. Last weekend, I went on an impulsive spending spree and bought A Fist Full of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and borrowed Once Upon a Time in the West, all of which are directed by Sergio Leone, father of the spaghetti western and champion of my heart. Only on perception-bending drugs have I ever been so immediately invested into scenes as I am with The Good and Once Upon a Time. And what's happening in these scenes that so fully commits their audience? Nothing. To the untrained eye, that is. To my gorgeous green set, timing, music, music, music, and shots collaborate to express, loudly and clearly, the tension between a trio of gunslingers who are simply looking at each other. For fourth whole minutes! I timed it. But I can't remember a more exciting four minutes of film.

***Spoiler Alert: Claudia Cardinale never gets naked in Once Upon a Time, but she's so distractingly hot that you'll still tent-pole your Saturday jammies and never resent Leone for not making nudity a casting requirement. I love her.***

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I shouldn't read two books at once. If one doesn't dominate my attention, they both cancel each other out and I switch media. Also, watch The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West if you haven't already seen them. I politely insist.

Your best friend,
Carlos "Clint 'The Good' Eastwood" Alderete

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Obama and Buttromping in one sweet blog

Before I attack, I'd first like to say that Obama is pretty much a swell guy. I voted for him and forced my aloof girlfriend to vote for him too. My friend (whom I won't name so he won't have a fifteenth "tag" on my blog. Burn, Roger...D'OH!) and I went to his inauguration.* We weren't in fancy evening gowns or long white gloves, although Roger's "White Diamonds" perfume and pendulum earrings were enchanting. We borrowed a car and drove day and night to get there. We stayed in a stranger's home (thank you, craiglist. Hi, Geeta!), and we really only had money for gasoline. That was excessive, I'd say, but that being said, am I just as crazy as this person? Click for a close up.
I hope not. This is someone trying to show their support but fucking it up.** It's bandwagon mentality gone awry. It's Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman's smug fanaticism. It's Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh making love in a Georgia roadside motel.***
I don't know why morons irritate me so. The person driving this car is obviously in relative agreement with my political beliefs, but I'd rather not have him on my side. To be fair, I did speed to 75mph, cautiously changed "shooting modes" on my camera, and greedily snapped several pictures with the intention of making fun of the owner on this blog, for you. But that was for you, and if you have an Obama vehicle alteration, tattoo, haircut, or if you now say "look" each time you're about to make a long-winded point, you're an asshole, but you're reading my blog, so you're my asshole, and I love you dearly.



*Click here if you care to read the inauguration postings or see how unfortunate Roger's face is.


**I apologize for the word configuration but "but fucking" is not butt fucking, so grow up.


***Butt fucking.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Austin, a Pictorial

Folks, I had a rough weekend. Not the fun kind of rough weekend either. It was emotional and draining, and I spent it utterly alone so that I wouldn't have to fake a smile for anyone. That being said, I chose a picture that best fits my current disposition. The mockingbird is Texas' state bird, and I've wanted to snap a photo of a living one for quite some time; however, since they're as elusive as a goddamned Yeti, I can't ever get my camera out fast enough. So here's a putrid juvenile. Click for a close up.
Oh yeah, and they're called mockingbirds because they imitate sounds of insects and other birds.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Public Speaking and Boobies. I am what I am.

Ah, silence. The tutoring center at ACC is undergoing renovation, and the course subjects have been divided into two rooms until completion: English and math. In my room, all is without disruption. The soft air conditioning, once a static peripheral, made aware only by frozen fingertips and tightly folded arms, now rages in the quiet like a never ending exhalation. The office phone shatters my silence, and I answer it, speak, and hang up again. I try to write more but the sound has splintered my concentration, and I hear its alarm echo in my mind, long after the air conditioning has reclaimed the stillness. I should be reading, and two books sit before me: Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece Blood Meridian Or the Evening Redness in the West and Pass Key to the LSAT. But I don't want to.
It's the beginning of the second half of summer, and the clock ticks closer and closer to my having to visit and speak to classrooms full of students about the tutoring center. I hate it. Public speaking, that is. Every semester, I visit 1, 2, 3, 4...10 classes, tremble for about two minutes and scurry out in flutter of papers. I don't want to be there; the students don't give two shits for my being there; and, the professor jealously regards me as an interrupting student-stealer, which I am. On the plus side, I enjoy the upward, cow-eyed stare of so many freshmen beauties and hope that I'll have the pleasure of sitting side-by-side with each of them, overwhelmed by their perfume, overwhelmed by their young bodies.
Pig! you may cry out. But, I am what I am, a man, I am. Am I? I am. I am just a man, a synonym for pig, so I guess you'd be right. I make no apologies.
It's still quiet in my half of the now divided center. A math tutor enters, and I perk with the opportunity for human interaction. She puts both hands over a chair and wheels it out of my room. Students have bottlenecked into the math side of the center's collective brain, and there aren't any more places to sit. The door opens from down the hall, and a momentary bubble of chaotic conversation swells and dies with its closing. I sigh like an uninvited geek and breathe hotly on my freezing fingertips. The inhospitable cold reminds me that flesh tingles and stiffens, and now would be a grand time to tutor a scantily clad Barbie. Pig! But they must know I'm here, and for that, I must insert myself at the front of their classes and look like a big pussy first.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Austin, a Pictorial

If you want dinosaur bones, piss off. You won’t find ‘em here (much), but Austin’s pretty geologically interesting if you ask me. The limestone that the city sits on is porous enough to create caves and aquifers, but it’s there because the whole area was underwater for a long time and not diverse enough to have sustained anything more than these crappy snails and oysters, at least at the fossil-record stratum that I poke around at. I still enjoy looking though. I’ve been fossil hunting since I was a wee bastard. Click on the pics for a pretty awesome close-up.


Please note my shitty car.





Thursday, July 9, 2009

The End Is Nigh

I haven't written anything negative for a while, so I thought I'd try and ruin everyone's day with some facts. I don't have a lot of students to tutor in the summer, so I spent today studying for the LSAT and finally grappling with the enormity of the universe. If you've ever attempted the LSAT, you'll understand why it drives a creative mind to existentialism. Anyway, knowing just a little about the earth and universe should be enough to disrupt or derail your hopes and dreams, and as stated in #10 of my 2008 discoveries, I enjoy the virtue of being a pure motherfucker. I recently found out about the ruins of a civilization in present-day Bolivia that date back 17,000 years ago. At a time when humanity was still finger painting mastodons in European caves (and not even supposed to be in North or South America), these people were using a phenomenally advanced technology to quarry and cut 100 ton blocks of stone into interlocking structures...with tools that couldn't have been stone or copper. These are facts, people, and they contradict what we think we know about our own history. It'd be like finding a gel pen at Stratford-upon-Avon or a defibrillator at Golgotha. The technology at Puma Punka wasn't developed overnight either, so what was the history of the history of those people? My point is that in 17,000 years, everything a successful civilization had complied upon to master was absolutely and irrevocably lost. The earth is roughly 4.6 billion years old. Whole continents have submerged, collided, or split apart in its time. Ancient and unknown oceans have dried up. Mountain ranges, higher than the Himalayas, have weathered to nubs and have risen and weathered again. 4.6 billion years is such an unfathomable amount of time and the life expectancy of Earth, being just as difficult to comprehend, makes me soberly realize that humankind is only a single and inaudible blip on God's ephemeral radar. He could miss us altogether if he got up to take a piss or blink for that matter.
Expand this sobriety to the universe, 13.5 billion years old. I'll unscientifically average all the galaxies in this observable place to 200 billion (I've seen more and less). Now, if each galaxy holds a very conservative 100 billion solar systems, then I've just profoundly shit my pants with the insignificance of my existence...and yours. We'll all be dead soon, and nothing and no one you know will be around to testify for the things we've done, but even if we manage to extend our lives indefinitely (which we will one day (that's for another blog)), this tiny speck of earth will eventually rotate directly into the center of our solar system, the sun; the tiny speck of sun will rotate the solar system directly into the center of the galaxy, a black hole; and the tiny speck of black hole will likely rotate our galaxy into an inhospitable and radioactive region of space, killing what ever was resilient enough to survive its concentric doom, before conceivably rotating into its tethered base, whatever the hell that may be. And there's absolutely nothing humankind can dream of or create to stop this massive inevitability. Bottom line? Nothing matters. Goddamned LSAT. Happy Friday. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

We All Have Our Talents

I’ve always considered myself a decent artist. When I was a kid, I could draw pictures of family members, superheroes, or just about anything I stared at long enough, and I’d flex my artistic ability by making Christmas portraits for grandmas or pet drawings for teachers. All was well until I hit puberty and decided to use my talent for degenerate purposes. 

You see, I was in love with a supermodel named Kathy. Only, Ms. Ireland did not love me back. I know this because to my knowledge, she never posed nude for anything but my imaginative day dreams, despite all the stars I wished upon. Solution? Draw her likeness, sans bikini. So I did. It was lovely and quite realistic with the exception of the massive 70s bush I thought all women packed in their bloomers. Upon completion, I called a meeting of neighborhood boys, and like birds in arrow formation, rode our bikes to the corner video store to mass produce my masterpiece via copy machine. One of the boys’ older brothers was a clerk there, and after feeding several dimes into the copier, I ceremoniously presented the older boy with a warm duplicate. But instead of approving of my gift, he tensed and regarded the reproduction nervously, and through tight lips, he mumbled, “Yule effed thor engine alumass.” I leaned closer and turned my head to hear him. “You left the original, dumbass!” I turned desperately to the machine, not ten feet away, and already a woman was closing its hood and holding Kathy’s portrait before her raised eyebrows. She looked at me and delicately extended the paper as though it were a real piece of art, and she didn’t want it creased. “Here you go,” she said kindly. “I don’t need one.” For the first time in my life, my entire body heated with the most tragic of self-inflicted humiliation, and when I reach out, my chubby and hairless arms were painted red. The woman’s tiny daughter peeped around from behind her mother’s huge purse as I shamefully claimed the filthy illustration. My throat involuntarily gulped to relieve its dry condition, and I thanked her with a timid and prepubescent grunt.

I wasn’t in trouble, of course. She wasn’t my mother, but she was an adult, and she was a she. I had clumsily revealed a dark and deeply rooted male motivation to a female outsider. She saw my secrets on that paper as clearly as if she’d seen me step out of a shower, naked and shriveled. Had a man found the picture, I’d like to think he’d have patted me knowingly on the shoulder and said, “Son, be more careful next time.” Instead, I got a woman who was visibly disoriented, alarmed, and sobered in one expression. It was a significant moment in my young life, and I never drew a naked celebrity again.*

 

*Unless you count the Disney porn flip-book of ’94, in which Goofy smears peanut butter on his perineum, sets up an 8mm, and whistles for Pluto.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Austin, a Pictorial

Behold! The cicada. While these little monsters are not unique to Austin, they hold a special place in my heart, for every summer, their deafening buzz reminds me that Texas' heat is a hell fit for biblical plague. I remember in the summer of '87, there were so many of them that casual outdoor conversation was impossible, and all fun was taken out of nightly cops-beat-down-the-robbers games as our toy guns were drowned out by the insects.
This empty husk is what cicadas look like about the first decade of their lives. They emerge from your front lawn, crap out, or molt, when the devil requires pestilence, then apparently turn into pure sound because they're not seen very often (hence no picture, but imagine a mutant horsefly, hulked out by gamma radiation).

These fore claws are as sharp as they appear, and since the slits on their backs are a natural fit for boys' fingers, they are nature's weapon against irritating sisters. That and pica beans. I'll describe those one day too.
video

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Be Nice to Dogs. They Have Powers.

I'm not so superstitous that I fret over karma for all the wicked things I've done, but I've got one here that I can only explain as a benign bolt of Zeus lighting.

I've been watching my sister's dog, Capone, for nearly two weeks while she's off meeting celebrities on a blitzkrieg honeymoon across Europe. This is him:

Isn't he adorable? He's sweet and well behaved, and he celebrates my return from work every day as if I were the second coming of Jesus or Michael Jackson (too soon?). I appreciate his gushing affection because I like dogs, but the only thing dogs tend to like about me is the chewability of my delicious skin. Anyway, Capone's an indoor dog. He never craps in the house and he only barks when he want to come back inside after powdering his nose in the backyard. Even then, the bark is a single, notifying "Ready!" and he'll even allow you a few minutes to open the door before shouting, "Ready!" again.
The other night, I invited Capone to sleep on Gilda's side of the bed while she's in Mexico, and he gladly curled up next to me and stayed until morning. I thought we were advancing our relationship to the next level, but the following night, he chose to sleep in his favorite closet instead of with me. I took his absence as a sign of rejection and eventually convinced myself that I really didn't want a mangy beast soiling the sheets with its filth anyway. All through the night, I heard what sounded like someone shouting, "Ready!" from somewhere outside the walls of my sister's home, and though it was a familiar voice, I assured myself it was someone I didn't know. In the morning, I bumbled around the dark living room until I found a lamp. The turn of the switch brought illumination, realization, and Capone's single outside bark (whose meaning had changed from "Ready!" to "What the @#$%?!"). He ignored my apologies when I let him back in the house and immediately trotted to his "Best Dog in the World" water bowl and lapped it clean. I believe it was in the 80s that night.
The next day, I arrived home, emptied the contents of my pockets, stripped off my shirt, kicked off my shoes, and sighed contently for the end of another long day. Capone and I wrestled for a few minutes before I carried a garbage bag outside and locked myself out of the house. I stood staring at the front door like a shirtless moron in disbelief. How dare Capone and the house conspire revenge! In the backyard, I eased into a patio chair and rested my chin on my fist to reflect on the condition of my condition. Capone appeared at the back door and perched like a tail-wagging sphinx from inside the house, turning his head questioningly each time I slapped mosquitos from my sweaty face. Holy, holy hallelujah for the phone call I was expecting from Gilda. I had grabbed my cell phone before I'd left the house and used its remaining minutes of life to hear my other sister's sneering laughter. She came with a spare key, and I cooled down with a large glass of water.

Karma? I'd say so, sir.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Austin, a Pictorial

I know this Austin pictorial stuff was supposed to get me out of the house, but it's 108 degrees outside. Besides, I was in a minor car accident today and am using it as an excuse to stay home and feel sorry for myself.
This is what I do when it's a living hell in Texas: drink local beer and swim. This here's Austin Amber. It's brewed in South Austin, and while it's a mighty fine tasting beer, it also captures the fascist in me with images of the the Austin area. Anybody recognize the scene in the letter "N"? That's right, folks, bats. The last photograph was captured by Gilda and is purely for entertainment value.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

in depth movie review

So, I know I'm about 25 years late, but I'd never seen Purple Rain until a coworker lent it to me last Friday. I think I missed the boat on that one, folks, and I'm absolutely positive I'm going to lose the support of a few of you, but I can't help but declare that the movie was a poorly acted, half-assedly written, self-indulgent piece of purple shit. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, I'll briefly summarize: it's about a shallow boy and girl who struggle in their material need and become a little less shallow by the end. Roll credits.

I did appreciate Morris and Jerome's comic relief, and Apollonia's boobies were a delightful pause and zoom-in surprise. I crossed my fingers when it appeared as though she'd disrobe and praised Allah when she emerged from the lake topless and pouty. She's now on my list of 80s goddesses to google, Vanity being my #1.*

I also appreciated Prince's performances a great deal. The man is an entertainer even if he is an unconvincing actor and pretentious urethra hole.


*Update: I searched Vanity first, because she was such a knock out it upsets me, and found that she turned into a crack head and met Jesus when she ODed. She's now a maniac, who spreads the word of God. I think I could be religious for her if she's still remotely 1984 hot. I never searched Apollonia. It's probably better not to know.
Related Posts with Thumbnails