Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Inkhat Falls Off A Horse!

First, I apologize for radio silence. Holidays are exciting.

A few days ago I took a fall off a lovely brown thoroughbred. The actual fall was fairly dramatic. Coming to a gymnastic, the gauntlet of the jump course, when my pony, due not to animosity but a sudden loss of confidence, swerved right. This was not a big deal. I lost my balance and slipped to the side, but, determined not to fall off, I began straining back in the saddle. I had one leg half way back over, the other in the stirrup, and my hands around her neck. I had a good shot. Then I heard a high squeal.

I looked up to a very close look at the rear end of another of the horses in the familiar, tensed position which proceeds a kick. From my position on the side of my horse, I was directly between them. After 15 years of riding, I knew enough to be certain that if the hooves connected with any part of me, I would give. Human bodies simply do not win that fight. Instead, my horse used this convenient rear end to literally scrape me off. Taking the hint, and not wanting to be stuck between the two balls of hooves and muscle, I let go and slid to a stop 3 feet away on my knees, looking up at two bewildered horses.

And then I got up, brushed myself off, hopped back on, and did the jumps correctly. I iced the logical areas, and woke up with a small collection of scrapes and bruises. It wasn’t really a thing.

Except I forgot that not everyone falls off a horse multiple times in their lifetime. For that matter, not everyone loses track of how many times they have fallen off. Some people hoped that I wouldn’t die. I never felt close to death. Grave injury? Casts? Sure, but I was fairly in control, even of my own choice to dismount. I attempted to explain this to Amanda from Nimble Toad, but she seemed dubious. She urged me to write a reflective piece on the fall, but it wasn’t a moment of revelation, mostly of impact and, later, dull pain. It did make me think of a fall I had a few years ago, which was revelatory. I wrote a short mediation on it my sophomore year of college. You can have that, instead.

Just off Michigan State University’s campus is a kinetic statue of silver sheet metal called Balanced Soul. It sits just behind the first line of down town buildings, in an alley I often walked through to get coffee on the way to class. I gave a lot of thought to it, especially on the day I had to limp past while it spun delicately and gracefully above me. I had fallen off my horse. I had, indeed, lost my balance.

A balanced soul. It’s a noble goal, given a million names in a million religions. It is the universal cosmic objective. How odd, that we should all strive for the same thing, only with different words. I remember thinking the same thing the summer before, sweating in the Indian heat, reading about Mahatma Gandhi in his own city, knowing the sea he picked salt out of was only a car ride away. The ceiling dripped silently onto the cement behind me. Above me, a fan, knocked off its center, spun sideways. It made a sorrowful groaning noise.

I stared into his family portrait, at the Great Soul as a child. Somewhere under the carefully cropped hair and meticulously arranged suit was there a secret of the universe, or did he discover it somewhere in the African savanna or the great universities of Europe or the mud huts of his own home? Are we born with our future planted inside us? Do we grow into it like shoes? Is the balance simply our movement through life?

That morning my life seemed rather petty. I had never found myself to be good at any one thing, but mediocre at many things. Never a great artist, a great writer, a great scholar. I had average intelligence, fairly pretty, an okay rider. I recall watching a talk show with my mother. They were speaking about child prodigies, explaining the scientific theory of the working of their brains while the children sat, hands folded, staring at the camera, feet swinging below the seats. My mother, shaking her head at the screen, mumbled about how amazing it was; how much she wished she’d been born like that. It took me months to learn to hold a pen correctly, while my peers scribbled away in their notebooks. In riding, I was always in classes with students younger than me, my peers moving to higher and higher levels above me. I failed my first driving test, something I had sworn I would pass the first time simply because my mother hadn’t. I scored average on ACTs. I gradated high school with a solid B. The horse I bought was medium height and of an uninteresting pedigree. He too was cute, if not actually lovely. We never did spectacular, but no one could say we had failed. I finished off my last riding season before college almost completely in the center of the Michigan Hunter Jumper Association’s rankings.

I decided that if I couldn’t be the best at jumping, neither in speed nor style, I would simply concentrate on being a solid rider. Quiet, strong, difficult to remove from the horse’s back. It meant I would rarely place high, but I was at least versatile. When I joined the polo team in college they soon learned that, while I was neither the most aggressive nor the best at connecting with the ball (if I could at all), I could stay on any horse. I would often be just beside the action, spinning in circles on a wound up horse, but at least not on the ground, and at least near play. I was beginning to find my place in the world.

So it was a bit of a surprise when I fell off. It was on my own horse as well; a horse whose temperament had always been calm and steady, not inclined to break or take off. For three years I made the hour drive back home to ride him, carefully harmonizing school, work, and my sport. He seemed calm at the beginning, completely normal, his neck bent in and his back powering forward. His power was concentrated below my legs. At a turn in the fence whatever complaint he had with the world suddenly exploded. I had about a moment to feel his back tense underneath me, and just enough time to feel bitter against my own brain. I was neither strong or fast enough to stop what was about to happen. Then my left hip and shoulder slammed against the sand.

So, what is the worth of a balanced soul, when destiny can come along and mess everything up? Is the worth of fighting something so much stronger than your human body? Of course. I remember the seven year old Ghandi, the great soul standing behind glass in a museum, as unaware of his destiny as this girl, or the perfectly perched sheets of silver. Where is the perfection of the structure? Certainly not still. The artists created the thing to balance in motion, just as the Great Soul was contained, not in the photograph of the little boy, but in the journey to the ocean, the closure of thin fingers around a ball of salt. Holding it to the sun, balanced in his palm.

That's all for today. I'm heading back out to the stable.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Inkhat Is Occasionally Ridiculous!

This has nothing to do with the final book, but I needed a just-for-fun cooldown drawing. It's important not to go to bed angry. It started with this image. No matter what you think of the show, you have to admit Afro Samurai is dripping with style. Here's my go:

Much fun was had by all.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Inkhat Presents A Preview!

So, it's official. I have decided not to go to Rolex Kentucky this year, and, instead, am attempting to get a book together for SPACE. I dunno if I can make it, but we're gonna give it the old college try. Here's a preview of my work:

I'll keep you posted on progress here, and maybe put up a page or two as they're done.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Inkhat Lists Interesting Ways To Get Arrested!

A fellow graduate student and writer, Corrine Rizzo, was wondering if she wanted to pursue a PHD. No, she thought. Not really. This, naturally, led to interesting ways to get herself arrested. I decided to help.

1) Be Annoying. In my hometown it is actually against the law to be annoying. Yes, we were in the national papers, a sterling example of the extent to which small areas are able to dissect the US constitution without their sleepy, middle class populations stirring. Of course the law does stipulate that it’s a repeated offense, but we all know it’s an excuse to stop those damn hippies from hanging out in the park after dark. As one of those damn hippies, I plan to spend a good deal of my winter break making a nuisance of myself in exciting ways. Actually, I was informed you can't get arrested for this. There is no punishment. Ah well. Let's try something else.

2) Perform petty theft while wearing a ridiculous outfit. Like an animal suit. Or a full Joker costume. Or no outfit. I really can’t elaborate on this suggestion. I think it’s pretty self explanatory.

3)Get a fish drunk. No really. It’s illegal in Ohio. Let’s go fish us up some catfish. We’ll carry them into a bar and set them on a table and talk about their ex-girlfriends and buy them shots. I’m not entirely sure how you tell when a fish is intoxicated. Perhaps they flop more awkwardly. Maybe they start sobbing about their long lost minnow love. For that matter, just how high is a fish’s alcohol tolerance? There is really only one way to find out.

4) Whaling. Let’s grab some pirate hats and a row boat and sail the Hocking River. We’ll drink and sing and battle the ancient Leviathan who have haunted the dreams of humanity since they built boats and wandered back to the sea. We’ll carve harpoons from swivel straws and paperclips. I’m excited.

5) Breaking windows. Hey Corinne, wanna grab some rocks and break some windows? I dunno. Cause it’s awesome.

6) Punch someone on the face. No not me! Go find a jerk. It’s a college campus. They’re a dime a dozen. Go find someone who’s said something terrible to his girlfriend, or a girl who is plotting the destruction of her sorority-mate. Punch them. You may want to practice on a pillow. Don’t run away afterwards. Simply stare at them. Offer no explanation. Give suggestions during the 911 call. Await police arrival. Done and done.

7) Bait Car. Go find a bait car. There are completely legal totally not entrapment tools that the police park on street corners with the keys in the ignition. Hang out in one. Have a beer. For extra effect, read through a copy of the Communist Manifesto. If you don’t own one, steal a copy from your local Borders on the way. When the cops show up, be certain to call them fascists, or capitalistic pigs, or a politically oriented insult of your choice. [May be combined with 2]

I hope this helps, Corinne! Good luck.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Inkhat Meets Another Ghost Dog!

This weekend I drove home, a six hour trip through mostly flat farmlands with intermittent shopping malls looming like bandits over medieval back roads. I was shocked how easy it was for me. Perhaps a sign of growing up, not the Truth of the World growing up, but the type of simply maturity that allows me to leave the highway without the fear that I will never find my way back on. A weird and simple bravery that allows me to step off the path once in awhile. It was rather encouraging.

After hour 4 I realized that I felt no sense of importance in this journey. I had lived on my own for awhile, but had never gone this long without seeing my parents. It should feel important. It felt routine. How strange, I thought, that something so new felt simply like part of my day. It wasn’t until I passed over the Hudson Creek Bridge, half an hour from my parent’s house, the familiar dip after the pylon bouncing my car, that I finally found the expected nostalgia.

It doubled as I turned off the highway, snarling silently at a minivan with a Novi sticker who wobbled uncertainly across the two turning lanes. I had the right to complain. I was a local. I knew how to navigate the awkward intersection. I passed the corner where I wasted late nights and early mornings in the one 24 hour diner, which was now a Starbucks. I passed the ski hill, a tiny dirt hump the city was obnoxiously proud of.

(In the parking lot was a small dirt hill with a few charred stumps sticking out. It turns out, I would learn later, that someone had decided it was a wonderful idea to remake Red Dawn, a decision which I believe immediately qualifies them for extreme psychological help, and possibly incarceration).

I noted, with some amusement, that they had also smoothed the railroad crossing, but had done nothing to the pockmarked corner save erect a yellow sign reading, “Rough Road Ahead.” Lovely.

The wedding I returned for was beautiful, but I felt an almost awkward sense of normalcy as I walked around town, visited friends, even as I wandered over to MSU and walked the campus. Nothing at all. I ran into a professor. She shrugged my sudden appearance off. It was very nice to see me. A state away I had worshiped her and used her confidence in me as guidance through my most stressful days, and she had moved onto other students. Why did it bother me so much that everything had moved on? Did I really want to say a small hole in Michigan where I once was? Yes, dammit. That would have been nice.

That’s selfish, I admonished myself. People move on. They have their lives. You have yours…sort of. You know, that bit of time between writing and grading papers and homework. Yeah, that bit right there. You shouldn’t care what happens to your old stomping ground.

But I do! I do! I want them to need me the way I need them. I think about my professors and friends, my cafes and bookstores. I miss the places like the people. I missed the memory of location like an inside joke; a reference only a few understand. Yes. I wanted that to be reflected in my world. But it wasn’t. I drove back to Ohio.

I went out the night I came home. I couldn’t stand in the empty house alone. I glanced down the dark, brick lined alleys off State Street on my way uptown, and stopped when I noticed something looking back. It was half way up the hill, thick and furry. I could see the reflection off its eyes, though they didn’t glow like a cat. A dog, then. A tail wagged slowly, carefully behind him. Instinctively, I clucked, an encouraging noise for horses. The dog turned and wandered into the bushes in response. His tail wagged lazily behind him. Honest to God. These things happen to me.

Alright then Ghost Dog. Tell your friends I’ve come home.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Inkhat Discusses Poetry as Poetry!

So, as a forward, publishers of poetry are really touchy about seeing the poem anywhere else. They hate simultaneous submissions, and rarely will you see something published more than one place, or a magazine that would even accept previously published things. In order to avoid anyone getting crabby, I don't make a habit of posting poetry online. However, this enormous poem was already published in a tiny tiny online magazine. It's so long, I don't think I'll have a chance to publish it anywhere else, and the editor of said magazine is totally cool with republication. So, now you can see the sort of thing I work on.

Eight Poems for Polo


In the beginning there were horses

and the worlds were devised

by their bodies alone;

a ground so they could gallop,

the sky to silhouette their manes.

Between was only the churning

of the planets around their flanks,

sucked in through flared nostrils

and out.

Of course they knew of the ball,

more solid than them and white,

like teeth, or the sharp crescent of a straining eye,

but they never chased it.

They ran because their friends were running.



women sway on gray horses,

leaning forward like poplars

over a still algae pond,

slim with fluttering hair

and gazing eyes.

In a rich garden with no snakes,

And no birds,

And no trees either.

Only a wide field where their men flit

Like white winged water bugs.

They wait for them to come,


All in white cotton and amber leather.

Later these women strip the long, red polo wraps

From the horse’s legs,

And wrap them into small soft balls;

hand them to their men, drinking,

Changed now, into darker clothes.


Everyone has played polo.

Your ancestors played polo.

If they did not physically swing the bamboo;

hear the crack of the willow root,

they felt, because everyone does

what it is to sit atop force and beauty,

and never absolutely have control.

They hurtled at a target

they could not be certain would remain

or they would be able to hit.

Your children will play polo.

There is nothing you can do to stop this.

Teach them to swing,

even cocksure, wide and wild,

striking the ground into explosion.


In Manipuri there is a polo god

Born in the waves of timeless hooves,

a tiny planetary body

rocketing through space.

There was chaos then

as the fancy grew into war;

a fountain of flesh and hair,

swinging arms and sharp feet,

momentous and dangerously free.

Then one pony turned

and saw in the ball what the people saw,

perhaps what it wanted,

to be perfect, balanced, and brightly colored.


A borrowed groom,

I cannot make the unfamiliar, freckled horse,

quit orbiting me, tireless and proud.

Try as I might to stand still,

I sway with the motion.

When his rider comes,

Our horses meet,

Leaping like startled water birds

From a green pond,

And the mallets bend like cattails

And clatter.

He and his rider are gone again,

and I am holding a new, used horse,

Sopping and panting,

Already turning circles around me

even as I drag her from the tide.


Intellectually perhaps

we understood how ancient the game was,

but it meant so much less than

hanging the steaming blankets,

reds, yellows, blues like a drawn sunset;

dipping frosted hands into buckets,

the ice already crawling across the puddles.

Silence, except for the swish of thin horse tails;

the dust hanging like wind chimes,

Perhaps there is perfection in the end,

In the antique art of cleaning leather,

sponges in slow circles of preservation,




The bit was a surprise,

the saddle, with its wooden spine,

spider webs of leather,

beneath and between their legs

over, around their neck,

their fluttering ears

thick, flat foreheads.

Their tail was braided and taped.

Their legs were wrapped in red cloth,

and buckled rubber sheets.

It all seemed like so much fuss

to do what they were made for,

to fling one hoof before the other,

to carry that strange and careful being

who knew what to do.


In the hollow pavilion

after the crowds and professionals,

even the ice cream vendors,

have gone to their personal comforts

we remain, we grooms and trainers,

we cleaners and carriers.

We run silently round and round the ring

Playing in sandals and ruined boots and barefoot,

falling to our hands and knees,

driving the pounded sand into our skin,

with sticks, a soccer ball,

and speechless joy.

The horses, even, are sleeping.

The ball arches over our heads

and hands and mallets,

disappears over the wall

with a soft echo of conclusion.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Inkhat Discusses Comics as Poetry!

While I consider posting my poetry here, let me ruminate on the concept for a moment. I have heard several professional comic artists compare poetry and sequential art. The relationship is not difficult to see. Both deal with a restriction of space. Both need to express a massive amount of information in a short period of time and very few words. So, if the relationship involves production, does it also extend to product? Why, yes. It does.

Comics, like poetry or music, has a set of clichés and expectations which must be broken down if any progress can be made. In order to do this criticism should be focused more on language; on the choice of every word in every panel. To that end, I have chosen a group of bad examples, just at random, off the internet. It took me about 10 minutes to find a dozen terrible pages. Let’s take a look.

This won't save large enough.

Okay…let’s ignore the larger problem with the theme here. I don’t really care about Superman being…un…re…dead. Let’s look at the language as poetry. “As well as anyone,” seems a fairly useless idea, as does “to make sense of it all.” It’s not necessarily cliché, but it is trite, as is ‘mirroring’ death. ‘Mirroring’ is a fairly overly used concept, especially in dark, psychological concepts. I have a hard time buying someone actually saying this conversationally. There’s a lot of repeated terms as well. Death. Science. I got it. Overall, this whole thing should be more conversational. I can’t imagine these two having this conversation, or anyone not attempting to explain the concept of undeath. This is a hard example since the actual theme of the conversation is so…stupid.

Okay this one suffers from the same thing as a lot of Wonder Woman monologues. It’s dark, but falsely so. It calls on the gothic language without doing anything original or honest with it, so it falls flat. War calling to blood is shallow. I would like to have some actual imagery built up. In poetry we often say we want to ‘see’ what the author is talking about. That may seem like a redundant movement in a comic, but I think it’s needed. The point is not to replace a picture, but to create a sense of synesthesia. Something that gives us the sense of the brutality of the moment. “What have you done?” may have had force the first or 50th time it was used, but now it’s just a filler. Same thing with “Nightmare Future.” Is this really the best you can come up with?

Oh Deadpool, you just keep doing what you do.
Okay, death scenes. No one yells “Nooooo!” It never happens. People try to fix things. They act as if the person is injured. They are panicked and confused. The real sorrow of seeing another human die is from the inability to act; the not knowing. It comes from the fear that the next choice will be the wrong one. When we see really convincing death scenes the actual passing away of the person is not mentioned. It is the loss that shakes us. It is the people who are still alive. They do not yell ‘No.’ By using this cliché; this easy dialogue, the scene is immediately and completely cheapened.

Okay this one is different. In this one it’s the sound of the language that bothers me. The multiple ‘r’ sound one after the other just seems awkward. Try saying it outloud. I don’t think anyone would even say it that way. It simply won’t roll off the tongue.

This is a rather quick overview of the comics as poetry idea. If I happen across a few more I will discuss those as well. I will keep my eyes out for particularly good examples, as well. The basic idea, however, is that more attention needs to be paid to the intricacies of thought, language, and communication. I believe my professor, Mr Ryan Claytor, once expressed an indifference to theme in deference to interpersonal relationships. I have to agree with him. I would like to suggest, however, that these relationships exist in the dialogue and word choice. This is as important as the position of a hand, a word bubble; a frame.

I hear ya, buddy. I hear ya.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Inkhat's List of New/Intensified Habits!

1) Coffee

My enjoyment of coffee has exploded into a complete and infinitely nuanced addiction. I plan my morning around its acquisition. I need at least one cup a day to keep going, and often need two or three. Just as I was writing this Rich wandered into the office with a giant cup of coffee and offered me half. It crossed my mind, momentarily, to decline, but as he held the half full cup of that warm, earthy drink that makes me imagine sipping the color of sun on fall leaves I found myself energetically offering my open hand and gulping it down.

It is my second cup of coffee today, and my second free one. This morning the man in front of me, with graying flyaway hair in a red plaid jacket, stuck his thumb back at me and added my coffee to his tab. I felt stupid and blinked at him silently. Who is so kind so early? Why did it mean so much to me? I choked out a Thank You, and hoped it expressed how I felt.

2) Crushes

I have always been the sort of person who falls in and out of those brief, obsessive love affairs with my assumptions about someone. Usually it is not with people I see on the street. I base very little on appearances alone. I will acknowledge that someone is lovely. I can look at them and think, yes, that person is, in fact, the most beautiful person I have seen walking down a street. But it’s only an impression. It passes in the same way as my thoughts on a particularly bright fall tree.

No, my inappropriate attachments come from brief encounters, short conversations, a hello, the way he inclines his head on the ‘o,’ or his smile at the passing squirrel. Smiles get me more than anything. What follows is a short, lucid affair in my head. I spend time in the place where I saw him. If I encounter him again I act as if nothing at all has changed between us. In public, we pretend we are strangers.

3) Doodling

I like to doodle. Sometimes I post it here.

4) Drinking

I never drank before graduate school. Well, not never. I drank occasionally. I still dislike the taste of alcohol and can only stand it when it is hidden beneath a great deal of sugar and synthetic flavor. I still don’t enjoy drinking, but it seems to make people nervous if someone is at a bar or party and not consuming alcohol. There’s a certain social breach about it. No one is sure why they feel uncomfortable, or if they should, which only adds to the discomfort. For the sake of easing this, and attempting to socialize so as not to lose my mind (and also to temporarily alleviate number the fifth) I have decided that I will simply, for the time being, become dramatically more susceptible to peer pressure than usual.

5) Debilitating Self Doubt

This seems to be a common element of higher education. It happens anytime you stuff a large number of enormously intelligent, talented people in a box. Self confidence and excellent personal images were never traits writers were overburdened with in the first place. Every-other day I find myself looking at the people I am with, or, worse, the PHD candidates that occasionally wander into our ranks, and wonder how the hell I thought I had any business being there. Name dropping being the national sport of our tiny, well read principality, anyone wandering into our midst would be immediately inundated with knowledge. The office constantly buzzes with obscure knowledge, like a perpetual arcane incantation. More often than not, I have no idea who is being mentioned, or if I do, I have the lightest recollection of who they are.

Only in my workshop do I feel a sense of achievement. In writing and interpreting I feel myself grow in every class period. Still a short interaction with a second year or a PHD candidate can immediate reintroduce my humility. Yesterday, while looking at Facebook, I realized with a flash of pride that I have a college degree. I own one. I earned one. I have a perpetual symbol of my accomplishments. I am constantly educated in intellectual euphoria and modesty.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Inkhat Reviews Protomen: Act II, Father of Death!

For those of you who do not know who the Protomen are, well, you should fix that. The Protomen are a small, indie band out of Tennessee inspired by Megaman. Yes, Megaman; the video game. They write highly overdramatic songs based on the character and story around their favorite video game. The CDs tend to be much like operas, or the soundtrack to a musical. Each song can be listened to on its own or as part of the larger whole.

I was completely in love with the first album. I’ll admit it. Itunes reports that I have listened to the CD more than 50 times from my laptop alone. The songs explored the theme of bravery, sacrifice, and revolution. The basic question raised was, could a robot rescue humanity or was it both the destiny and responsibility of humankind to correct their own mistakes? At what point was Megaman no longer responsible for the good of mankind? Was it truly heroic for the robots to fight and die for a freedom they could not take part in? Did a humanity that did not demand freedom deserve it? The music was a strange blend of folky-western, musical, and rock opera. I was in love.

When the second CD came out I was excited, but I had my suspicions. I had been burned before. (I’m looking at you here, Muse). However, more and more reports came in of how fantastic it was; just as good. No! Better! So, finally, I bought it. I have to say, they’re half right, but I was hardly disappointed.

A quick overview of this CD. Instead of taking place after the first collection, Act II Father of Death, takes place long before and tells the story of Megaman’s father, Dr Light. It begins with an Intermission, a lovely instrumental piece. Songs 2 through 6 (“The Good Doctor,” “Father of Death,” “The Hounds,” “The State Vs. Thomas Light,” and “Give Us the Rope”), tell the story of Dr Light’s imprisonment and the eventual fall of the world to darkness. As far as I know, the back-story they constructed for Light is completely their own. At least, I had never heard of it. In this version Light approaches machines and robots as a way to better humanity until he is framed for the murder of his love, Emily. He is tried and shipped off to build robots for Wiley, and Wiley, in turn, uses them to take over the world.

In another turn of brilliance the Protomen create a new character, Joe. I developed a special fondness for Joe immediately. He is a freedom fighter seeking to define that idea for himself. In an entire world of submission, his songs are full of unease at his own questions. He suspects the status quo is off, and cannot entirely understand why or how to change it. The songs become increasing violent until Joe makes an attack on Wiley’s fortress and, well, I won’t give away the end. Yes. It’s a CD with an end. How cool is that?

That said, though the story they had invented was interesting, engaging, and the music is, as always beautiful, I was slightly disappointed. I found the beginning slow and too concerned with narrative. At the end of the song list, after Joe has left, Light once again gives us a long monologue to Emily, who answers with her own. (As an aside, I originally meant to complain about the female vocalist’s slightly whiney voice, but I found it grew on me. Nevermind. Moving on). Overall, I was far more interested in Joe’s vague references to his confusing world or his nameless girl. The abstraction with which Joe approaches his city has a beauty that the concrete terms of the early songs lacks. That said, these same songs made me actively wish my name was Emily, and that Thomas was singing to me. But I digress.

I got tired of Emily and Thomas Light rather quickly. Especially in The State Vs Thomas Light, where the chorus sings “Not guilty,” against Light’s “Guilty!” which is such a transparent and trite affirmation that it makes me flinch physically every time it comes up in the song. And then they repeat it. The flinching continues. They did this to me in their last CD with the people’s line, “We are the dead,” but that at least was a fairly original and interesting sentiment. I can’t really do anything interesting with not/guilty.

As usual, there was a variety of styles explored in the CD, though the main focus was Jazz. The Hounds, perhaps my favorite song on the CD, sounds like something out of a more exciting version of Guys and Dolls, including breaks for chorus to yell to Wiley, who replies with cocky one liners.

I think the main point is that, try as I might to tear apart this CD for its pedantic narrative, or the moments where a chorus line seems cheesy or cliché, I have to love it. It’s fun and exciting and written with a great deal of heart. The Protomen grasped the theme and went over the top with a grace and imagination rarely seen in modern music. You don’t have to play the game to enjoy it. Go buy it. Four stars.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Inkhat Presents Her Rhet-Comp Article Presentation!

I was assigned a summary of Sommer's article "Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers," for my 591 class. Never one to do anything normal, I created a series of short panels to summarize the article and arranged them in a power point. Now I will share them with you, dear readers.
Sommers describes the linear concept of writing. First there are ideas, which are transformed by words and through a rather mysterious, nebulous concept of revision, finally become the essay.

Sommers describes student's emphasis on writing as they speak instead of as a separate form of communication. She differentiates the two in that speech, unlike writing...

cannot be revised.

Sommers had her inexperienced writers write three essays and then revise each twice, for a total of 9 products. (Think about it for a second. It does actually work out to 9. It threw me the first time too).

She then tallied each type of revision they made, breaking them down into categories. She never brings this up again, but apparently it was important at some point.

More interesting is her interviews with the students, in which she noted their revision strategies were shallow, word or sentence level. Often they were weary of admitting it was revision, calling it something else such as 'scratching out and doing over.'

She also found that the inexperienced writers stressed the ease of writing when they were inspired by something.

However, this inspiration could lead them to become too attached to their topic and ignore problems with their paper.

Enter the Experienced Writer. Unlike the Inexperienced Writer, he is not easily influenced or over-enthused by his own writing.

What it really comes down to is outlook.

The inexperienced student has a short term goal which, when accomplished, gives him a feeling of success. For the experienced writer, revision is an endless process.

Sommers attributes this to motivation. While the inexperienced writer is being told to accomplish a short term goal, the experienced writer is attempting to please an immense, nameless "Readership." The trick, therefor, is to develop a language which impresses the importance of revision on a student, even without this larger form of motivation.

So, there you have it. This is where all my time has gone in the past few days. Now it is time to write poetry, which is a good time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Inkhat Assures You She Is Not Dead!

Have you thought I abandoned you, dear readers? No chance. Do you remember someone informing you, perhaps when you were younger, that graduate school is hard? Well, they were not lying. They were not even engaging in colorful hyperbole. No. It turns out that graduate school is both the hardest continuous effort of my life and the most exciting adventure I have ever toppled into. I spend my day teetering between crushing self doubt and euphoric intellectual epiphany.

As a side note, I always want to capitalize Hyperbole. It just seems better that way.

But, dear readers, I must disappoint you again. After a frustrating day of un-writing, (that being the state of staring at the screen with nothing happening), I have been called out to the bar for karaoke. This would be part of the euphoric intellectualism. Or something. More later. Stay tuned!

For the record, before you ask, the answers are Yes and Cowboy Take Me Away by the Dixie Chicks.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Inkhat Presents a Short Meditation on Hugs!

Ohio is getting colder, which is redundant, as most of the continental US is cooling at this time of year. The real point of this is that my cat has taken to sleeping on my bed at night, curled up in whatever bay she can find; behind my knees, against my stomach, in the crook of my arm. I am aware that she is only doing it for warmth, but it has made me realize how starved for physical contact I have become in the last few months.

This is the longest I’ve been away from my parents. It’s strange to think of it that way. I’ve been more or less independent for years, but I have always seen them at least once every few months. We’re a very physically loving family, or at least we have become one in the last few years. I don’t remember us always being so close, but perhaps I was too young to take note. My close friends, too, have always hugged, elbowed, shouldered, poked, high fived to excess. During the last few months, with the exception of one slightly drunken hug and a few high fives, I have rarely come in contact with another human being. I’m not referring to romantic touch here, but the basic human need for contact. How strange it is to lose it. How strange that the absence can be an almost palpable presence in my life.

There have been moments where another grad student will begin a familiar gesture. A hand will extend toward my shoulder or elbow or hand, and then they will pause. The hand will hover for only a moment, and the gesture will be finished as something pithy and falsely lackadaisical. A gesticulation, a pass, a wave. I, not noticing the first attempt at camaraderie; cognizant only of the moment of question, and failure, watch the hand drop to their side, and am aware, painfully, that something wonderfully possible has been lost. An inflation, maybe, but more a demonstration of a suspicion growing into a feeling.

What I am saying, in more depth than necessary, and possibly ad nauseam, is that sometimes I really need a hug.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Inkhat Paints Ninjas in Her Spare Time!

I often think about the relationships around heroes and villains. Who makes dinner? Who pays bills? Who waits at home for them? This was going to be a larger comic, but the world does not need more super heroes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Inkhat Talks About Teaching Again!

I scribbled this post in my notebook during class. Yes, it was the class I have already complained about. Last period we discussed the importance of broad, sweeping education; lectures bound only to the most vast, exploratory concepts. We were to blow the minds and spirits of our students to scintillating smithereens. These lectures should ignore pedestrian concerns like ‘grammar’ or ‘correctness.’ This will break the students free from the fetters of convention and improve their reading ten fold. Today we are learning lecture strategies on sentence structure and grammar. I didn’t get it.

Teaching is becoming easier, and, better yet, fun. I still cannot shake my nerves before I open the door. I spend the first few minutes babbling nervously before I find my rhythm again. Yesterday I led a discussion for almost a straight hour. Near the end a girl who had not spoken since the first day of school suddenly thrust her hand in the air, glaring forward, as if daring anyone else to speak. Naturally, I called on her. She erupted in opinions. She spoke for almost 10 minutes. All of it was intelligent. Much of it was what I wanted to say myself, but was holding back so as to not to stifle discussion. When she was done, she folded her arms. I decided it was a good time for a break. For the rest of the hour she remained quiet again, smiling. Sometimes things just need to be said.

I like this job. I like that I’m being paid to do this. Yesterday, standing in the line at the deli, I realized that I would never have to be on the other side of that counter again. Working at Meijer deli, (washing day old ham out of boxes, scraping burnt chicken wings off the burners), was by far the worst job I have ever had. However, I always kept it before me; a possible though last ditch answer to the perpetual question, “How do I eat today; tomorrow?” However, I realized that I no longer held it before me in my mind like a lifeline. I was infinitely more secure. I understand that this position is temporary, and offers no guarantee for my future, but…well…shut up. I’m in my happy place right now.

I guess what I’m learning from all this is that I’m not done learning. Thank god.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Inkhat Heeds the Writing on the Wall!

And just like that the first week of teaching had come and gone. I felt, at the same time, more and less overwhelmed. Over the phone I would tell my mother that I was surprised only at the sense of the vertiginous. That is to say, I did not expect to feel as if the world around me had suddenly given a great start and jump and forgotten to take me along. I do find it wonderfully encouraging that everyone around me is feeling roughly the same way. Though I know it’s difficult to admit, I felt reinforced by every personal testimony of confusion and exhaustion. I find I wanted to push those who were confident and thrilled in a very deep well. Nicely, you understand.

I also found that was more worried about teaching after I was done. During the class time I could keep things moving and engaging, but afterwards I would analyze every single moment; everything I said which might be taken the wrong way. It was the damn textbooks that did it. All the assignments for our Teaching English course analyzed in pains-taking detail everything that could possibly go wrong. It had elaborate stories of how simple attempts to reach a class could spiral wildly out of proportion, leading to chaos and the eventual downfall of humanity. As I did those readings I would find things I had actually done and panic. It had worked perfectly well when I tried it.

Of course, this is the problem with focusing on Teaching Theory. In the end it’s very much like lecturing on the physics of baseball then unceremoniously throwing a player on the field with a glove and yelling “Good Luck,” while scurrying away. On an intellectual level, he may understand the game better than anyone else in that stadium, but he probably won’t catch that ball.

But I digress. Let’s digress in this direction: Last night I went to Tony’s, or was it the night before? Night before. I remember. Anyway, I went to Tony’s, (a place which seeks, by its very existence, to define 'Hole in the Wall'), and, in the bathroom, was surprised to see the walls as covered with writing as the English building and coffee shops. There seems to be, in the city of Athens, a drive to write anything and everything; to carve it into table tops, to sharpie it on bathroom walls, to pencil in comments and addendum. It is not unusual to find black boards in bathrooms, a last act of defense by the management to save their walls. Certainly, not all of it is poetry, but a writer can’t help but love a town obsessed; driven to put its self into words. Also, the comics are coming along nicely.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Inkhat Does Not Actually Own a Corded Telephone!

This is the last of the Orientation sketches. It also is probably the last one to be posted in-blog. I will start making a backlog for a new for-realz webcomic. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Inkhat Considers the Topography of Memory!

Yesterday I took a trip to Columbus with my roommate Dania, and another graduate student, Ryan. I’m not sure why I decided that this was important, but I was sure I needed a day off. I was fascinated by Columbus, in a way that my two companions probably were not. At one point I stopped them and pointed to an ornate building. The red stone work curled like flowers and parchment around the top and over the corners, but did not extend all the way around the building.

“Look at that!” I said. “It’s so, when they build another large building next door it will look like the design goes all the way around.”

They nodded politely, insisting that, no really, that was very interesting. I smiled appreciatively. I’m weird. I get it. But I think that it was important, that building. We were, in a matter of days, about to attempt the same sort of chameleon act. We would have to stand in front of the class and put on our best, professional face, saying, “Pay no attention to the lack of depth; the cheat of time and experience. Pay no attention to the fact that we are new and untested. We have been made in the old style, and have skyscrapers at our backs.”

We attended the Greek Festival, which was unfortunately small, but lovely. There were overpriced tourist items, and a vast variety of food, and awkward kindergarteners forced to dance around in a circle in tiny, colorful costumes. Occasionally a parent swept in to scoop up

one in tears. The problem, I told the other two, was that Greek dancing was not made for performance. It was made for celebration. Dania theorized that this is why they danced in a circle, but it was never closed. In this way, people could always join. A few moments passed in silence. The children shuffled off the stage and were replaced by adults, more colorfully dressed, jumping spinning. It was interesting that, unlike American dancing, the movements were not necessarily on a beat, but seemed to be contained within them. For instance, sometimes in a chord there would be three movements, sometimes two, sometimes only one. Being used to movements directly coordinating with a sound, I found this beautiful.

“I’m glad we did this.” Dania said, “It’s important to build a geographical memory of a place.” I thought about this sentence the rest of the day. It was a wonderful thought. I imagined standing on the street years in the future, remembering me imagining me.

Wandering through the stalls, I came to a printmaker who worked in an iconic style used extensively in the church where I grew up. The images were familiar, and I wasn’t sure I could buy a print along that vein, though I loved the style. “Fine,” I said to myself, “Look through her

work, and if she has something different and affordable, buy that one.” So I started looking, and chatting with the artist and her husband, who, predictably, were lovely people. Finally I looked down at the print I had picked up. It was three women, placed among gears. Smoke stacks rose in the past. They looked strong, somber, and brave, staring off into the sky, just beyond the edge of the paper. They reminded me, forcefully, of Diego Rivera’s work in the DIA, another cathedral of my youth. It reminded me of Flint; the battles they had fought and I had left behind. I remembered standing in my mother’s studio, looking over the heads of the stone lions to the etched line of the Flint River. We had moved her paintings up and down stairs all day. It reminded me of home.

“That,” she interrupted my thoughts, “was my first one. I’ve always liked it. You can have it for 20. The corner’s bent.”

I nodded. I’d take it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Inkhat Doodles During Orientation!

This one was for Yesterday, but I fell asleep before I got it up. They really are enormous.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Inkhat Makes Some Things!

Today, to blow off a little tension, I did some art in my old acrylic on construction paper. I missed it. Anyway, the first one is for my friend Ryan at Tomorrow maybe I'll actually write something about stuff.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Inkhat Finally Gets it Over With And Reviews District 9!

There are spoilers. If you don’t want to read me rant, skip this one, dear readers.

A lot of things happened this week. Many of them were good. Most of them involved people I was very happy to see. A small portion involved watching Avatar and The Great Mouse Detective with my new grad school friends, because that is very adult and sophisticated. Honestly, I find myself going back to the animated movies I loved when I was younger often. It’s interesting to see how much I missed when I was younger. I wonder that I ever understood what was happening; that there were actually nuances at work. This makes me very very excited.

You have to understand a little bit about how a English Major’s mind works, or at least, how it functions if operating properly and switched on. I cannot stop analyzing language, stories, symbolism, etc. The fact that I minored (a class and a half away from double majored) in art history means that I am literally doing this constantly. All. The. Goddam. Time. That Bob Evan’s sigh? That Champion Car Wash commercial? That encouraging billboard? I am already tearing it apart. If you’re lucky, I’ll keep my mouth shut. I can turn it off sometimes, if I talk myself through it. For instance, I turned it off for GI Joe, and had a great deal of fun with it. Don’t tell me it didn’t follow the ‘feel’ of GI Joe. Go watch the old movies again. There’s an example of something not as nuanced as I thought back then.

I did not turn it off for District 9, not knowing what to expect. I walked out of the theater thinking, more or less, “Well, that was a terrible movie. I would rather like my money back. Well, it’ll bomb out in a few days.”

But it didn’t. No! Worse than that, people flocked to it. Not the first time a large group of people saw a terrible movie. I was over it, but then I read the reviews. Apparently people found it moving, inspirational, a treatise on humanity. “What?” I said to myself. “In that mess of a movie? And on top of that, did anyone miss the racism? The massive, terrible racist overtones? No, not overtones so much as an enormous neon sign that said, ‘STERYOTYPE AHOY’.” Oh no. actually, they caught those, and defended them. Apparently the director, being from Africa, is exempt from racism. More than that, it’s creative. Apparently.

It bothered me. A little. I’ve ranted about it to anyone who will listen…or who won’t listen but will nod as if they are. I’ve lost sleep. I’ve lay awake at night and thought, “Why? Why does it bother me so much?” So, after that enormous introduction, here is why. No seriously, you don’t have to read this if you don’t want to.

I was going to pick apart plot holes and shallow characters, but let’s let that be. That is simply what makes this movie a bad movie, and not what makes it actively insulting. No, let’s talk just about that. Let’s talk about the Nigerians. Now, the fact that they are the Nigerians is important. They are not the “So and So Gang,” or a group of Nigerians, or anything like that. No. They are The Nigerians. If a movie used The Americans, we would assume that would be a group representing, in some small part, America. So, let’s look at how these Nigerians are portrayed. They are violent, involved in interspecies prostitution, and, my personal favorite, cannibalistic. Oh no, it’s okay. There’s a reason. It’s Voodoo. So, not only has the director insulted a culture, but also a religion.

Fun fact, Voodoo, actually comes from a word meaning, basically, ‘things which do things’. It involves the release of energy from a powerful object by putting a nail or piece of metal into it. It’s usually used to seal promises, very much like swearing on a bible. It actually originates from slaves in the Caribbean via the Congo. That is not, in fact, Nigeria. Oh also, it doesn’t involve cannibalism. Plus 10 points for style but minus several billion for sloppy writing, am I right?

Is it racist to assume that one of group of people believe and practice the same thing as another simply because they live in the same area and may look alike Yes. I think that’s the definition. Right there.

But culture is hard. It is difficult to fabricate complex characters in a system they inherited through birth, especially, in the case of a sci fi, when you have to invent one. This movie proves this. In the same way that the newest Star Wars movies co-opted a great deal of African Art to fill in the background, this movie used stereotypes in the place of plot and characters. The villains were white and Euro-American. The female lead was white, blonde, and in distress. Johannesburg was basically a blank slate, where people were devoid of all personality or expression save anger. The aliens were completely cultureless. They are aggressive, stupid, and violent, save Christopher.

I was aware, vaguely, that I was supposed to see Christopher as the undoing of this stereotype. However, I found it difficult as he was the only character shown in that way. Even in the last scene, when Wikkas is rescued, the aliens are savage and frightening. Even when Christopher speaks of them, they are ‘his people,’ a group of nameless stand ins for the downtrodden of the world. I understand, also, that we were supposed to be aware of a bias because of the documentary style. However, the style was dropped so often, that excuse is no longer valid.

This was presented as a movie about the escalation of violence resulting from cultural tension, and there was no culture. There was only violence. Violence as reason, plot point, and solution. It was also a film about humanity; about equal treatment and understanding. Yet the director saw fit to slander and insult vast swatches of the real world.

The sin of this movie is not that it was vapid, or silly, or full of explosions. The offense is in the lie of it. It presented itself as something intelligent and introspective; a real commentary on humanity. And it was, but probably not in the way everyone believes. It showed exactly what humanity will swallow, enthusiastically, so long as it follows our own view of the world.

This movies asks you to think, gives you an hour of swill, and allows you to leave the movie thinking you have. Yet, it’s still full of all the flash and emptiness of any Hollywood blockbuster. You were tricked. You were bamboozled. I know you were aware of it too. Most people have told me those scenes make them feel uncomfortable. There’s a reason, people! Don’t ignore that feeling! You like the thinking feeling! Now keep doing it!