Shoot from the Hip, Aim for the Heart

There’s nothing scary about writing.

Only there is. And I’ve been suffering under it’s weight for some time. My own stupid, stubborn, self-inflicted weight. It’s not the writing. It’s the failure. Or the idea of failure. That you’re gonna sit down, maybe bang out a few hundred words and they just stare back at you, haunting and ugly and bad. Bad. Just… the worst words.

I really hated my creative writing courses during my undergrad. They never filled me with confidence or inspiration. My classmates didn’t seem like my peers. Either too young or too sloppy or too anything. I always stood out as cutting in my commentary. Never cruel, but confident and constructive. I always tried to think Big Picture and dissect each piece to its fundamental elements while comparing and illuminating each.

I think the last day, when all the graduates went out drinking with the head of the creative writing department, it summarized my outward relationships perfectly. One of my classmates sloshing his beer remarked aloud, “Whenever Graham talks about your story, everything he says– it’s always so right. But like. Do you have to say it?”

I’m not a dick. I’m not. I have deep compassion and sensitivity towards everyone. I’d say, over the years, I’ve learned to listen more than to talk. And I remember what people say, especially when they tell me things about their lives. Apparently, this is uncommon. Seems normal to me. I’ve taught myself under much difficulty the invaluable skill of Shutting The Fuck Up. If that’s not an achievement, I don’t know what is.

I’ve been gone. I’ve been away for a while. I’ve been chained to my past, reliving my mistakes and humiliations. I’ve been paralyzed by a present I hated. And I could not see my future. Life looked bleak and predatory, and existentially the dehumanization of capitalism left me defeated and hopeless.

But then I went to Gen Con for the first time.

Good god, why did no one tell me. I know it was supposed to be fun and nerdy. But no one described the nirvana. No one ever told me I would be overwhelmed by endorphins at every turn and feel so completely alive again. I couldn’t possibly write about it all here in this post. But I listened to seminars, I marveled at board games, I played roleplaying games, I made amazing friends,  I played in a goddamn megagame, I met Jason MORNINGstar. Even walked 40 miles.

But people saw me there. When I was there, people noticed. I was shiny. It was purpose, it was meaning. It was a future. And it felt amazing.

So don’t be scared. Do it to it. Shoot from the hip, aim for the heart. Keep writing. Everyday. Write what you WANT TO WRITE. Fuel your passion. Feed that creativity. You feel it. You trust it. You know it.

Ready? Let’s go.




“So what do you do?”

What do we all want? Purpose, right? Meaning. I feel I got freedom when I did not deserve it. Get a job so you can have an income. For many people, money is the purpose. Or what you can do with it– things, status. Maybe travel. People are lawyers or real estate agents or go career military. They go to graduate school and get engineering degrees and doctors. I see a lot of people become teachers by default. It seems a difficult life– little pay, long hours, high stress, no respect.

People, adults, seem to become things. They are metamorphosed into their careers. A student becomes journalist, an actor, an anything. I’ve watched the odd social transition from college parties to “adult” parties.

College parties are defined by booze, largely– exhibits of excess and hedonism. You have loud music and shouting, most people you don’t know, drinking games, the members there are looking for release and testing limits.

“Adult” parties, at the most basic level, people actually bring food. It’s quieter, more social. There’s people uncomfortably making smalltalk. There’s alcohol, certainly, but it’s not the kind of consumption steeped in ritual and maximizing the shear amounts one can take before breaking. In adult parties, people get drunk more subtly, and if they do reach a level of sloppy, it’s something whispered and giggled about later and not in the open.

It’s at these adult parties where I am now asked this odd new question:

“So what do you do?”

I know what it means. And I know why the question exists. It reminds me a bit of Taylor Mali’s slam poem, “What Teachers Make.” I still mostly find slam poetry annoying since they seem to be delivered with identical candace. But I like the reevaluating of words and the meaning of making, and well as it being a rousing anthem for teachers, like a three minute “Dead Poet Society.”

What do I do?

Well, you mean what is my career. How do I make money. What have I been transformed into. What am I?

“Oh, I’m a…at… .”

“Oh, alright. Cool.”

I suppose it’s not an offensive question. It is not strange to me because I don’t know how to answer? What job do I have that defines me as a person and my place in society? What title have I achieved?

“I used to be a theater reviewer.”
“I studied Creative Writing and Astrophysics.”
“I’ve been tutoring and working on the big education project.”
“I act. I’ve directed before. I have an eye and instinct for visuals.”
“I’m musical. I have timing and rhythm and a good ear. I sing alright. But I don’t play any instruments.”
“I love boardgames. I’m excellent at teaching and communicating.”
“My tabletop roleplaying games are the best there are.”
“I’m a writer. But I haven’t really been paid to do it yet. So it doesn’t count. But I’m really, really good with story and character.”
“Do? Nothing, really. I’m depressed most days and struggle existentially with what to really do with my future. I feel I lack purpose.”


I think mostly I’ve learned I don’t like the system. I don’t like capitalism and I don’t like rat races. I don’t like being in a little box and I don’t like being told what to do. But I need to eat and I need to pay rent. I’ll get a purpose. And then maybe take it from there.

Black-Tie-Themed-Dinner-Party (1)

Just Start It

You ever wanna just write and you don’t write? You sit and stare at a computer screen, or let tab after tab multiply at the head of your browser. I really think the “Open in a new tab” option is the worst and best, and then worst again, thing that’s ever happened to internet browsing and procrastination everywhere.

Thank good shit for deadlines.

I loved Hunter S as a kid when I first discovered this literary, counterculture rebel. The 1990’s were a hard and confusing for me a kid, hating popular culture in every form. Bad sitcoms, terrible movies, and boy bands. Fucking god, what was with boy bands.

But when I found Hunter at an age when I was too young to really understand him, his ferocious staccato word choice had such teeth and venom. His ideas about truth in fiction and 1st person narrative spat in the face of everything I understood. And I stood up and screamed for more.

As a man, too, he seemed a figure alone. He hated rules and deadlines and most constraints. But I think for me, the constant pressure of a hard two hours to get 700 of the best words I had made them that much better. You couldn’t agonize or self-edit internally. You’d drown in your own spittle first. And not school deadlines. Turning some buzzingly lettered essay before 11:59pm was never satisfying. Maybe in retrospect, you would peek back at the wordy monster vomited up by desperate synapses when you got to see whatever arbitrary grade it received. Maybe then you could take a little random pride in how it “wasn’t too bad, all things considered.”

No, it was the pressure of professional writing and its tantalizing publication that got me there. I feel my overall experience was a bit hampered by largely writing theater criticism or reviews or whatever the most appropriate terms are. Sure, I got to write the odd column or be more creative in certain pieces. Mostly I feel like I got Albuquerque theater people to dislike me real good, with maybe a few who I liked what I was doing.

But sometimes you get stuck, right? Creatively bankrupt is a bit harsh, but I feel a pretty common experience is sitting and staring at a blank paper or canvas or screen. I had to teach myself not to do that. And I did this by learning to start, even if I didn’t know where I’d finish or where the next step would be. That, my friends, is what editing is for. Once you have the pieces, you can pass them around, really making the connections you want. And knowing that you’re at the top of hill, staring down in fear at the precipitous slope below, is where the battle can only begin. Knowing you really can start running and that gravity won’t make you crash immediately on your face is as freeing as anything else. You CAN make it. You have it in you. Once you get the pace thought by thought, you start coasting– comfortably, even. Inertia is the most powerful creative force you can possibly have.

But if you don’t start, you’ll be at the tippy, static top, staring at a blinking cursor.


Needing Therapy

Hi. So how’s it going?

I don’t know. I’m sad? I feel ugly. Small. Scared. Yeah, definitely scared.

Scared of what?

I don’t know. Is it failure? That seems kinda normal. Or something, given better context, I could stand above from and see the outside of it. Where the fog clears and I understand the real dimensions of it.


Yeah. Seems kinda stupid, right?

I’m not so certain.

Why not?

It is normal to struggle. To hate and clash and wail against our confines of life. It’s just being alive. I remember something about coming into life crying as you’re born just because of the violence pain of being alive. Life is pain. Life is suffering.

Yes. One of those darker philosophies. The ugly, internal looking ones.

And out. Life. The world.

Yeah, I suppose. I never quite figured out how the existentialism-nihilism dichotomy was supposed to work for me. Existentialism is about hope. Life being hope. That’s nice. But then you inevitably fail and then feel worse. Being alive and doing nothing, feeling guilty about it all the while. Nihilism is supposed to free you of that burden. The meaning just isn’t there. The universe is chaotic and ugly, but then can also be beautiful. If you have the hope to make it yourself.

And then you swing back to existentialism.

Right. Yeah. I don’t know, I just have too many questions I don’t have answers to.

That doesn’t sound that bad. That’s okay, too, right.

Yeah, it should be. Life IS big and ugly and weird and chaotic and just NOT. NORMAL. You know? I don’t know what I’ve learned about ANYthing. I’m at the end of something, not the beginning. That’s what it seems. Just because I don’t know what to do next. What to step to. I can’t even pour myself into a stupid job. Make money. But I have to, I should. I need. Soon, definitely. I can’t just jerk off and get fat and waste money and MY time. I just haven’t made plans. Cause I’m scared.

Because you’re scared.

I feel fat. Ugly.

You keep saying “ugly.”

Yeah. It’s weird. It’s not REALLY in a physical sense. I had my own battle with self image ages ago, mostly as a teenager. Came out the other side okay. It’s mostly about A. finding a mate, and then B. being just LIKED by people. Your peers and such. Us and our weird little social islands that we are, desperately needing those other islands to see us as good.

But now you’re ugly.

Agh, it’s a self confidence thing. Yeah, I feel fat and weird. But I COULD be fatter. That part’s funny. I think it’s more a symbol of feeling out of control. My body isn’t in my control. My life feels that way too.

So then take control. Henry Rollins’ thoughts on exercise.

Right. But then I get scared again. I collapse inward.

Can you breakthrough somehow? I mean. You know rationally that it’s what you have to do.

Yeah. I think that’s the thing. The rational versus the. Emotional? The gut feeling that I hate and that seems to hate me. Telling me to take it easy and not try and not take risks.

It doesn’t sound like you.

No! No, it doesn’t does it. It’s that cloud thing again, outside of it, I can look at it and say, “Well, that’s just ridiculous.” But I keep getting sucked in. Sucked under.

So, exercise? And make things. And have specific goals. And make money.

Yeah. Yeah, that’s all good. Externalize my problems, so they don’t get sucked into a black, silent nothing and pull me in with it.

Well, that’s what we’re doing here, right? Externalizing?

I hope so. No. Yes. Yes, that’s what we’re doing. I’m sorry, I’m getting weird and doubting again.

You don’t have to apologize.

Right. Yes, I know. Take a deep breath. Relax.

Relax. It’ll be okay.

It’ll be okay.



Make it Happen

Well here I am again.

Am I scared? I think I’m scared of failure. Self-sabotaging any way I can. Ignoring how fucking good I am at this.

Comics. Writing comics. What should I/could I do?

Could I? Anything. That’s the bottom line. I’ve tried to do genre breakdowns again and again. Countless times over the years. Hoping to get inspired.

Seem impossible to “get inspired” just by staring at a computer screen. Sitting with a notebook and pen in hand.

What ideas do I have so far.


  • Basilika

Dark, gothic city. Kinda medieval. I could be happy there, telling stories. Lots of alchemy, cause that opens up the world building. Kinda steampunk, not really, but gears are cool. Cooler than Victorian fashion, anyway. Just the inhumanity or soulessness of machinery. Potentially lovely metaphor.

I got a secret society of thieves and assassins. “The Black Sect”. Seems like generic, but that’s the sort of thing that’s fun. Sneaking, killing, stealing. Being smart and being quiet. All very enticing.

Then the official government has some manner of religious organization to it. I’m thinking the church just runs things, plain and simple. Monolithic theocracy and fascist bureaucracy certainly seem like peas and carrots to me.

It is too much like The City? Hammerites and all. It’ll probably be fine.

“Focus on making the media you wish existed, but doesn’t.” I can do that.

“Frank” Janky

“Frank” is sort of two movies.

One is lively, silly and snaps along splendidly. The second shakes its finger at the audience for having too much fun, slowing into a clumsy lecture about mental illness being nothing to laugh at.

The fact that the movie attempts a serious message isn’t what hurts it–it would have been fine if the script didn’t inexplicably start to completely suck.

There is so much to like about “Frank.” That’s why it’s so unfortunate that it largely left a bad taste in my mouth.

We begin with Jon, played by Domhnall Gleeson, an Irish everyman struggling between his white-collar hell and his inability to write music. One day, his Ordinary World is shattered by a Call To Adventure in the form of an idiosyncratic band fronted by Frank, who never removes a giant head with a cartoon face painted on it (the utterly unrecognizable Michael Fassbender).

Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a brooding, psychotic foil, telling you everything you need to know when she snarls, “Don’t touch my Fucking theremin!”

The band’s delightfully unhinged manager is played by Scoot McNairy. Watch for this actor– he’s going to be huge one day.

The performances are all untouchable, so there’s no problem there. In fact, it is the character-driven first half where the film completely shines. The scenes are quick, funny, certainly dark, but enjoyable as it zips along– you are along for the ride. You’re spending time with the band, getting to know them and their delicious enigmas from the perspective of an outsider trying to be cool — a perspective anyone can identify with.

The great pivot of the film occurs at the halfway mark with the death of a major character. While this is the film’s first jab at emotional drama, it is largely a wasted opportunity.

When the band finally and predictably hits the road with its Captain Beefheart weirdness to change the world, the film’s pacing grinds to a halt and any character development utterly vanishes from the rest of the film. Their characters are set in stone now, and they make no more significant changes. Suddenly, the film is all about plot, driving forward events instead of people interacting with other people and learning things.

Two of the band’s total five members are completely wasted, essentially acting as background-dressing, clad with a single lazy joke that “foreign people sure are stoic dicks, ammiright?”

While they where just as boring in the first half, it is only more noticeable when the lady drummer suddenly decides to have a cutting monologue out of nowhere when all the major characters have become distractedly stagnant.

It’s hard to enjoy the film’s latter setting of “Austin,” being clearly Albuquerque, with easily recognizable appearances and performances by Lauren Poole, Alex Knight, Abraham Jallad and Timothy Kupjack.

While pacing and the missing human elements are the most glaring mistakes, the major failing of the second half’s tonal shift is inconsistency. The film suddenly tries to preach that “mental illness is super serious and cannot be taken lightly,” and then flops back and forth in attempts at dark slapstick, all of which falter.

The film is suddenly no longer interested in poignant character moments, and instead simply drives the plot forward. So as a result, people begin acting out of character.

So I’m going to fix the movie for you.

Skip this if you want to see it, which, in all honest you should. There’s a lot to enjoy:

Frank’s sudden catatonia is utter gibberish. But let’s take it at face value. When the band is gone, and it’s finally just Jon and Frank. This is a wasted scene. This should be the moment of Jon’s cathartic revelation, of his apology for his mistakes. When Frank exits, it’s not because of Jon’s sudden petulant insistence that he remove the mask, it’s his inability to handle the reality. 

Next, Frank doesn’t make it back to Kansas. That’s stupid. No, Jon finds the musical genius shivering in a pool of his own filth, again, bringing their relationship into focus. Jon discovers Frank’s Kansas home on his own, and, guilty-ridden and determined, takes Frank back himself.

We should get a better sense of Frank’s parents than we do in the film proper– as it stands, they’re just mouth pieces for awkward exposition, and definitely not actual people with wants/goals/motivations.etc. You know. People stuff.

There should be more emphasis on the line “it’s not the mental illness that makes Frank a genius. If anything, it held him back.” This should be the film’s thesis statement. But right now, it’s really not. 

Secondarily, Jon struggles to find “his voice”, and mistakenly believes it’s because he’s not exotically eccentric or hasn’t suffered enough.

Currently, it doesn’t make sense that Frank’s parents would just let Jon take him back to Austin in his current state. And it makes them look even less like actual people, rather than exposition machines (Do they even ever move? Maybe they’re just adhered to their chairs).

When Jon takes Frank back to the band, the moment has to be about Jon realizing that Frank needs his music to be truly well and happy.

And when Jon walks off after reuniting the band, currently, this moment means nothing. He’s learned nothing.

Instead, imagine him realizing he doesn’t need horror and mental illness to make music. Connecting it back to the opening scene, with Jon looking about his day, scrapping for lyrics. Instead, as Jon walks off into the distance in the final moments of the film, he starts to sing in his head, “I once knew a man…. naaaamed Frank….” as he realizes he has lived, and has gained the experiences he’s been looking for all along; a final shot of his private smile as he walks into the rest of his life.

Roll credits. 


Aug 29 to Sep 4
Friday to Thursday, 8:30 pm only!
The Guild Cinema
3405 Central Avenue NE Albuquerque, NM
$8 General Admission $5 Seniors 60+ / Kids 12 & Under / Students With Valid I.D
For more information call (505) 255-1848