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Rubbish Without a Clause

A Journal of Craft and Crap

Peter Padraic O'Sullivan

Peter Padraic O'Sullivan is a competitive liar and championship dissembler, who prevaricates in the off season. He graduated from San Jose State University in 2007 with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and currently teaches college students how to link words together in meaningful ways.

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August 3rd, 2011

My Comic Con article.

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I just had an article about Comic Con published at Revolution Science Fiction. http://www.revolutionsf.com/article.php?id=5249

I worry that people don't get the joke.

Still, I had fun writing it.

June 13th, 2011

Buy American!

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flikr photoCollapse )

May 29th, 2011

Meme like it's 2003

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Post a comment, and I will comment with one or two reasons why I think you're great. In return, you have to post this same meme on your blog and comment for other people.

April 22nd, 2011

April 11th, 2011

The other week I had the privilege of watching the movie Sucker Punch, directed by Zack Snyder, and I use the word privilege specifically. I don't know that this movie was actually made for me.

Sucker Punch is a movie that many have critically drubbed, to the point of labeling it varying degrees of schlock at best, and a video game movie at worst. What critics don't seem to realize about that last charge, of calling it a video game, is that the video gameish aspects of it are in fact a conscious and well wrought choice on the director's part. Sucker Punch is a movie about multiple layers of perception, of imagination, and of fantasy used to mask the very dark and sometimes inconceivable horrors that befall the powerless. This is a movie about the powerless finding power where they can in order to shape their own destinies. This is also a movie about making hard choices and doing what you need to in order to cope. These are nuances lost on a great many critics.

There are two, maybe even three levels of fantasy working at any given time of this movie. I say maybe three, because I'm not completely convinced that the asylum itself, with its own stylized version of a 1930s pulp story of institutionalization doesn't also constitute some fantastic version of an actual reality. The three layers we're privy to in the movie are the institution, which sandwiches or frames the narrative, the brothel/dancehall, and the video gamey action sequences. Each layer of fantasy is one more layer of protection for the main characters of the story, a layer of lies they tell to get themselves through the rather raw and painful reality of their lives. Had the director peeled those layers back completely, one would of have seen exploitation of the powerless at its most absolutely visceral.

So how do these layers work? The institutional layer is the closest to an objective reality. This is merely a funhouse reflection of the world in which these girls find themselves. In this world Baby Doll was almost attacked by her evil step father, and her sister killed before an attack could occur. I wonder if closer viewings might not support a reading of crisis not averted. In this world Rocket was merely thrown into the institution, and her sister followed. Rocket's style and dress, even her haircut and instant crush on Baby Doll suggests she was institutionalized for her unspoken but present sexuality. Again, these things are merely a superficial spackling that vaguely romanticize the institution.

The second layer is the combination brothel/dancehall where the girls are trained in the art of dance, where dance is as thinly veiled a metaphor for sex as one can possibly get without a pole and a feather boa. This layer, more than the first, shows signs of conforming to the girls' perspective of the world. In this version of the world, the orderly is the boss and has all the power, whereas the kind and compassionate doctor of the institution is more Madame/mother figure who finds herself subordinate to the boss, mostly by dint of her gender. As we discover near the end of this movie, the power dynamics between the boss/madame actually belie the real dynamics between the orderly/doctor, when the doctor asserts authority over the orderly that the madame never has. This act, which would have been a usurpation of power in the brothel world, suggests that the power dynamics are, as previously stated, based solely on the girls' read of the situation.

The third layer is the most problematical for critics and the one that makes most sense after an objective review. Again, I call this the video game layer. This is the layer that the girls retreat to when they engage in "the dance." In this layer girls have complete power over their environments. They are superheroes, batted around, beaten and bruised, but for the most part (and until fantasies start to bleed into each other) indestructible. There is a reason video games are a popular form of entertainment: they give power to the otherwise powerless. It doesn't matter how strong you are, quick you are, intelligent you are in real life; video games are the great equalizer capable of turning even the weakest among us into gods among men, or goddess among women in this case. This is a world where the girls all have power over their environments, where their skills, and their talents, and their ability to work together allows them to succeed. Also consider that the villains of these pieces, clockwork Germans, mechanical soldiers, knights and trolls, are all generic fantasy creations, cartoonish in their simplicity. Again the girls turn them into monsters they can reasonably defeat because their only hope of defeating the monsters in the other layers is through surrender.

That's why the fantasy needs to be there. These girls exist in a world where their skills are dismissed and where their talents are graded on their curves. Bob Chipman of The Escapist said that "This is a movie that invites the so-called male gaze, and then spits in its face." These girls exist in a world where exploitation is the norm, so they quite logically retreat to worlds where they can transcend that exploitation.

This whole thing brings me to how these layers interact. Each layer is a buffer of protection against the very harsh realities these girls, Baby Doll specifically, have to face. The video game layer is their attempt to find empowerment to justify their having to debase themselves to get what they need to survive. In the other layers, the only talents that will allow them to succeed are their abilities to dance (brothel world), seduce (institution world), or submit to sexual exploitation (unseen reality). The fact that so many layers of fantasy are required to make these acts even remotely palatable goes a long way toward suggesting just how much these girls must go through to win out in the end. As Scott Mendelson says in his review on the Huffington Post "'"Zach[sic] Snyder just made While he raped me, I closed my eyes and imagined myself somewhere else: The Movie.'" It's an apt epithet for a disturbing movie.

Unfortunately, few get past the sexy girls kicking monster butt. Closer examination drains the titillation out of the movie, when you realize that it's dealing with very real, very vile exploitation. While not a perfect movie -- I would go so far as to call Sucker Punch a beautiful mess -- it is definitely a movie that fills the screen with flash and dazzle, but it's flash and dazzle that begs to be scratched, begs to be dissected, begs to expose the very real and very twisted underbelly, the reality we never see, the reality that is only hinted at, and is only made the more disturbing by its absence.

July 9th, 2010

I've been offered four classes at SJSU! I'm going to be teaching university once again, a full load of classes. This is the job for which I've been patiently waiting, biding my time, picking up little things here and there to make ends meet, and now it's finally a reality.

I suddenly feel lighter.

~Peter

June 12th, 2010

Goal update

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This morning I stepped on the scale and found that I was five pounds away from my mid year goal. If things keep progressing, this time next month I will weigh less than 200 pounds for the first time in sixteen years. My goal for the year is to hit 180. I think, eventually, I'd like to drop down to 165, but I'm not sure how that would look on my broad frame. I'm not getting any narrower. In fact, my weight loss for the last couple years has been more about depth than width.

I've spent almost all of my life heavy. Now that I'm not really, now that not heavy is within sight for the first time in over two decades, I don't know how to feel. I have this sneaking suspicion that it's not going to change much about how I view myself. Because of my girth, I've always made an effort to appear as small as possible, to make as little impact of the physical environment as I possibly can. I try to move in smooth, deliberate motions. I navigate paths of least resistance through crowds. I don't wear horizontal stripes. I don't see these things changing.

Still, if I can accomplish this goal this year, then it will have been a year well spent, despite the things working against me, like the economy and the government funding of education.

~Peter

April 25th, 2010

Texas

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I'm going to Dallas tomorrow, and will be there until the 8th of May. If anyone wants to meet up, let me know. I'll have a car and GPS. I'm hoping to make it down to Austin at least one day this trip.

April 15th, 2010

Goals

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So I set a goal of losing forty pounds this year. That's a lot in a year. It's also the bulk (pun intended) of my unhealthy weight. I've been heavy since I was a kid. I won't say what I peaked at, other than to mention that what I've lost in waist measurement can almost be scaled in feet, plural. I was kind of discouraged at the beginning of the year when I was maintaining and even gained a little, but now that I'm eating much better and exercising regularly, I've started losing again. I've lost about 8 or 9 pounds since January. That's 8 or 9 pounds lost while putting on muscle. If I can keep up this slow loss, I can reach my goal.

The one problem with being so heavy for so long, and finally losing that weight, though, is all the loose everything. I look a lot bigger than I really am because of it. I also have obvious body image issues.

~Peter

April 11th, 2010

San Diego

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This is Day Two of my San Diego trip, and I'm having a blast. Yesterday, I was up at 4AM to finish packing and get to the airport by 6:30 for a 8:15 flight. The trip here can be best described as blessedly uneventful. Indro met me at the baggage claim and we came back to his and Fi's apartment so I could clean up. The apartment is charming, with a decent sized kitchenette, a living area, and a master suite, vanity sink, and bathroom area. The coolest part, though is the extra loft space, where I'm sleeping. It's a spare room/office with an air mattress, but it's still far enough removed from the living area to be nice little workspace.

After I was clean and dressed, we went to Pacific Beach for lunch and I had some of the most delicious cod (fish and chips) I've had in a long time. The batter melted on my tongue and the fries were seasoned just right. Walking along the beach, we checked out prices on some of the beachfront property for sale. Anyone have $2.5 Million they can lend me?

We explored Old Town a bit, had smoothies, came back here to crash, and then had dinner again in PB. This time it was a neat little pizza joint called Hoboken, and we split a pesto and tomato pizza. The night ended with us watching Boondock Saints.

I don't know what today will hold. I'm considering taking a walk/jog right now. I'm also hoping I can get in touch with Diana. I left her a message yesterday and haven't heard back yet. Tonight I'm planning on making tostadas for everyone, and want to invite her over and see her while I'm down here.

~Peter

April 1st, 2010

A Writing Game

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I want to try an experiment here. Anyone can participate. It's a variation on the old creative writing class game of group story. I'll start it off, and anyone can add to it. All I ask is that you please take into account everything that has happened previous to your addition. Add on to the story by simply commenting on the main post. Commentary can be done as replies to each addition.

It was quarter past seven in the rain drenched city, in that lull between the egress of suits commuting home to the suburbs and the ingress of bar hoppers and club boppers and date-night dinner dancers. The office was only half lit by the soft green glow of the exit signs, and small round lights recessed in the ceiling tiles, conservatively spaced between the long rows of tubular fluorescence. Dust motes streamed and eddied in the falloff of light cast by one particular bulb set high above a lonely cubical. The light shone down like a spot in a circus, illuminating simple desk with the standard accoutrements of office life: a workstation with LCD display, a telephone, and trays for incoming and outgoing files. Also on this desk, in the center of the light cast from above, the focus of this three ring circus of normality sat. About a foot cubed, it was wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine. There was no address on it, neither delivery nor return. All that was written on this mysterious package was a word. That word was ...

March 31st, 2010

And here I find peace.

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I've been a mass of anxiety for a while now. I'd say stress does that to me, but for the most part stress only kills my hair follicles. This is something else. I don't know what it is.

Today I found both peace and relaxation. I found my center. It helps that I had lunch with David, Andy, and Shelby. It helps that I went to the gym this morning. It helps that I mostly stayed off line. It helps that I'm doing what I set out to do this week.

I'm good.

~Peter

March 30th, 2010

Progress

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Here's how my week has been going thus far.

Working out: Excellent.

I'm alternating days between the gym and riding my bike and have successfully done both thus far. At the gym I start with the treadmill, mostly speed walking and light jogging for about 20 minutes. I'm hoping to extend that time by double. Then I do a circuit of weights, mostly upper body, arms, chest, shoulders, pulls and pushes, followed by ab work. Bike wise, I'm alternating long and short days. Sunday was a long day, 18 miles. Today was short, 11 miles. I'm looking to double those distances

Meatlessness: Awesome.

Three days with no meat and I'm feeling a bit better. I am eating a little bit of fish, and some beans for protein. Today I made a veggie stir fry for dinner with mushrooms, carrots, green beans, red chiles, cabbage, bean sprouts and tofu.

Computer: Needs improvement.

I keep finding excuses to pop on here. I need to stop. It's making me crazy. All I do is find friends online and whine at them. It's unseemly.

Anxiety: Improving. I need to go out more. I'm thinking of picking a place, and just walking around. I might take BART into the city, or to Berkeley, and just walk. I might drive into San Jose.

All right. I'm taking all of tomorrow off this thing. Until then, this is Peter signing out.

~Peter

March 29th, 2010

Hiatus of sorts

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I've been taking time off on the Internets, only really popping on mornings before and after workouts, and evenings before bed. I've noticed before, but only thought it symptom and not cause or trigger, that when I'm really down, I tend to live on the internet, not being productive at all. This behavior is part of what makes me crazy. I start to crave online interaction with someone, anyone. Don't get me started on Bejeweled Blitz on facebook.

If I start jonesing for the internet, I might set up an incentive program. Hour in the morning, hour at night. If I workout, I get another hour in the middle. For every five pages I write, I get an hour of internet.

But mostly I'm going low tech for a bit. I have some writing to get done and it hasn't been. I've found a leather-bound journal and a pen have been the best cures for writer's block. Looks like I'm taking more time off employment than I bargained for. If I'm going to have to visit Texas in May, it doesn't make much sense for me to try to get work in April. So I'm giving myself April to focus on writing, on working out, on eating better, on smiling, and on not being an anxious douche who drives people away with the crazy.

Yesterday was the first day I actually relaxed in a long time. I thank not being on here for that.

That said, I will occasionally check facebook and email through my phone. If you really need to get in touch with me, call. I don't get enough phone calls in my life.

~Peter

March 26th, 2010

Woohoo! I'm unemployed!

With the quarter now over, and grades now turned in, I find myself lacking work. I'm hoping I get a class or two in the fall with foothill, and despite the dire article in the paper today, I've got my fingers crossed for a class or two or four at SJSU as well. I have money saved up to pay my bills, but I'm looking into temping as a way to get through the summer.

First I'm going to take a few weeks off to rest and write and workout and quit caffeine.

~Peter

March 25th, 2010

Calm

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I am strangely at peace today. Even with the shitload of grading on my bed, I feel more centered than I have for a while. This is good.

~Peter

March 23rd, 2010

I need...

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I've never been very good about communicating my needs to others. Wants I can do. Wants are easier, because if I can't get it, I understand that it really wasn't important. Needs are, by definition, important, so not having them met is much more painful. So I ignore them, or sublimate them into socially acceptable (thus making me socially acceptable) forms. So I thought I'd list out some of the things that I need in my life, if only to clarify them for myself.

I also challenge you to come up with at least ten of your needs and communicate them with the world.

I need...

...you to contact me. I start to feel unbalanced if the desire for communication isn't reciprocal.

...open communication. My imagination is active and will fill in the blanks where blanks exist and may even invent blanks to fill.

...physical contact. Hugs, heads on shoulders, hand holds, kisses, back rubs, neck massages, and the whole spectrum of human tactility are very important to me.

...solitude. I do need time to myself, to write, to think, to dream.

...to be yanked from my solitude for more socializing. People are just as important to me as my solitude. All things in balance. So invite me out more!

...occasional reassurance. Because my brain fills in blanks with irrationalities, I could occasional stand to have a declaration of love, warm feeling, acceptance, admiration, or any number of things, large and small.

...Love. I don't mean romance, although a reciprocal romantic love would be nice when my head is on straighter. I mean just knowing that people care as deeply and truly for me as I do for them.

...reciprocation. This seems to be a theme to a lot of these needs.

...to relax. Yes, Carrie, you're right about that. :P

...to believe that things will work out.

~Peter

March 17th, 2010

Pre Spring Cleaning

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It's amazing what things we let go to pot when we're down. I'm cleaning my room today. It's not thrashed, by any stretch of the imagination, but there are piles of stuff -- boxes, papers, clothes, shoes -- scattered about the room and making the thing look cluttered. I'm by no means the neatest person in the world, but I'm not a complete slob. This was getting to be too much. So with the nice weather and the couple hours to kill before class, I'm killing clutter.

~Peter

March 16th, 2010

Updating and dating up.

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I'm trying to make it a point to update here as often as I can. I've tried starting blogs elsewhere, but no one reads those. Honestly, if I don't write, I get funny in the head. If no one reads what I write, I start questioning myself.

I'm grading today. I'm about a third of the way done, and will probably be two-thirds done by this evening, and do the last third tomorrow morning before class. Grading is a special kind of hell for me, because I still never know how much is enough, and how much is too much. I see all these things that I can mark, but do I completely edit the sentence, or simply point out what's wrong? Do I have to mark every single grammatical error, or can I just mark a representative sample and hope they'll start seeing the pattern? Should I be spending no more than ten minutes on each one of these or should I take half an hour for each one (which is fine in these lean times of few classes, but what happens when I'm teaching six classes at two schools with 140 students)? I've been a teacher for almost five years now, and was grading for several years before that, and still these questions plague me. I never feel like I have done enough, even if I've spent all day grading a batch of essays.

Also, I'd rather be playing video games right now.

Two more classes and then I'm done for the quarter. Wednesday they're doing peer review and I'm going over the final exam. Monday I'm bringing pizza and they're turning in their last essay. Next Friday is their final.

I'm taking an extended Spring Break, from March 27th until April 14th. My one big plan in that time is to fly down to San Diego to visit Indro and Fi. Otherwise, I'm free to do as I please. After I get back from San Diego, I'm going to look for temp work to get me through the spring and summer (and fall and winter if need be). I'm going to make a push on my novel during those weeks. I want the thing done.

~Peter

December 31st, 2009

Looking Ahead

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A lot of people are writing up decades in review. I could. Goodness knows I've been through a lot in the last ten years, and I would hardly say that I'm necessarily the same person as I was in 1999. I'm just not feeling up to organizing it. Let's just say I've loved and lost and grown (and shrunk!) and now I'm looking ahead to the next decade. The Tween-Teen decade will bring about the following:

My career will take off. This is the decade of my publishing and being read. This is a goal for which I will work. This is completely in my control. Write good novels. Sell good novels. It's a simple formula.

I'll find love. Maybe the one I'm meant to be with for the rest of my life, or maybe brief periods of intensity. It will happen when it happens. There are a couple who have easy access to my heart, and it may be with one of them, or it may be someone or someones new.

I'm going to be happy. The 2000s were all about me figuring out how to be happy with myself. I mostly succeeded. I am indeed happy with who I am as a person. Now to live that.

I will travel. This decade will see me traveling more. I have places I want to see (Ireland for one) and people I want to visit (friends across this country, and many in Canada) and things I want to experience (real cajun food for one).

I will turn 40. This is a fact. If my 20s were about discovering who I am, my 30s will be about refining that.

For this first year of the tweens, I have very specific goals:

  • Make the final push to lose that last of my unhealthy weight.
  • Finish my novel.
  • Start my next.
  • Not date for a year.
  • Find steadier employment.
  • Travel to San Diego, Albuquerque, and a third, undecided location.
  • Shift to a more pescetarian diet.
  • Be happier with myself.


Here's to looking forward.

December 19th, 2009

Questions from rightkindofme

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If you want some from me, leave a note in the comments.


1. If you got to design an ice cream flavor that was kind of weird, what would you want?
I would probably do something that was both sweet and savory, like a chocolate chipotle.

2. The grass is always greener. Where would you like to live in the world and why do you imagine it might be better?
I would love to live in Ireland at least for a year, and do nothing but write. This is mostly for the experience, and partly for the tax exemption. Otherwise, I'm actually quite happy in the Bay Area. I've always been more homebody than grass is greener, despite my nomadic lifestyle. It's always with great hesitation, and sometimes great love, that I find myself migrating across cities or states.

3. How many children are your optimal number and why?
I'm a 2.5 children man, myself. I figure the two whole kids and I can play soccer with point five as the ball.

4. What movie have you seen in the past year that stimulated strong emotion in you (good or bad), what was it, and why?
Up. I cried during that opening. It was the sweetest and most understated rendition of what I want in a relationship I have ever seen. Add that as salt to the still open wound from another relationship biting the dust (even if it only lasted a few months) and I just lost it.


5. If you got to run a classroom anyway you wanted without regard for 'school rules' how would that look?
My class would be seminar in structure with a Socratic symposium kind of feel. Couches would be optimal, food and drink a must. It would consist of daily guided discussions on whatever we're working on, with the students being responsible for the material and me gently nudging them when they slide too far off track. Of course, this would also require me getting to set up "auditions" for class, so I know the students are capable of working on their own. If this is a literature class, we would discuss the novels or stories and I'd point out ways to discuss these things in papers. If this were creative writing, then we would intersperse craft discussions with workshops, and maybe even let workshop discussions raise craft issues (something that rarely happened in my own workshops).

December 9th, 2009

A Pome

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There once was a man from Nantucket
Who lived with the lady from Venus.
Now that doesn't rhyme,
But ain't it a crime
That Political Correctness demeans us.

December 3rd, 2009

Teaching vent

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I have to try not to lose it with my students this afternoon. Two essays I found were as close to plagiarism as you can get without me throwing them to the wolves (technically I can still throw them to the wolves, but right now I don't want to deal with the paperwork, and I have more than enough justification to simply fail them on the assignments). One such essay was maybe two pages of badly written (as in so grammatically incorrect that maybe only one sentence in three actually had both subject and predicate) original work and four pages of single spaced, copy and pasted wikipedia entries. The other was an unintelligible collage of "research" with minimalist citation, unquoted quotations, and little analysis. This, after all I've said about plagiarism and about what and how to cite sources, makes my blood boil. What's especially galling is the fact that these two students come infrequently to class, don't pay attention when they do, and seem to believe that I'm wasting their time. We had in class workshops on Tuesday, and they both showed up without enough work to last through the class. They asked if they could leave, since there was nothing for them to do, and I said no. They argued that I was wasting their time. They wasted their own. Of course I got dirty looks the rest of class.

Sometimes students suck ass.

~Peter

November 24th, 2009

Muppet Rhapsody

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November 21st, 2009

Another one bites the dust.

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I had been seeing a Berkeley grad student for the last four months or so. Operative words are had and been. It's hard not to feel like a relationship failure at these moments.

End of Emo.

~Peter

October 13th, 2009

My To Read List

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I currently have a pile of books that is, er, piling up at the moment. These are books that I want to sneak in between student essays and class prep.

  • Give up the Ghost By Megan Crewe.
  • Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett.
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman.
  • And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer.


End of Line.

~Peter

August 3rd, 2009

Oh wow.

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I ran a webzine for almost a year called Bullshit Not Included. It was an attempt by myself, and an online friend from Canada (the ex-evil-assistant to a certain ex-writer currently trying to bring exotic horticulture to Texas ... you can bring horticulture, but you can't make it grow), to publish what we liked in speculative fiction, giving everyone a fair chance to be accepted or rejected no matter their name. Our motto was that the work spoke for itself. Mostly the work puked for itself, but there were some gems that were still too rough to sparkle. This venture was mostly a reaction to my trying to work with an editor on a webzine (he liked my designs for an old forum I ran) and finally getting shafted by the guy (his webzine folded faster than mine).

At best it was a distraction. At worst, it was an exercise in hubris.

But we were a proper webzine. We accepted submissions, and I rejected most (although I believe I did accept a story or two) and we paid in Sacagawea dollars. That was our payment schtick. You got published, you got a shiny new Sacagawea dollar. We even had a listing on Ralan's, with a spot in the dead market's list when we folded.

Then I started grad school and the idea just died. I lost touch with evil assistant and mostly forgot about the whole thing.

Today I did a search for myself on yahoo and found this listing. In my brief stint as an editor, I made someone's first 100 rejections.

It's weird how these things come back to haunt you. Nothing really dies on the internet.

~Peter

July 29th, 2009

News

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excited, happy
I'm going on a date this Saturday. It's technically our second, even though the first was really a sizing up and getting to know you. We're going to see (500) Days of Summer, of which I've heard good things, and then grabbing dinner afterward. Funny enough, she's a Ph.D student at Cal, studying nuclear engineering, who lived in Livermore for the first six months of her life before her family moved to Michigan. It's weird how these things work sometimes.

She and I are taking it one date at a time, so we shall see how it goes.

~Peter

July 24th, 2009

Sometimes I feel like I stopped maturing, emotionally, at about the age of 16, especially when I pine away for the painfully unavailable.

I must be a masochist.

~Peter
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