All posts for May 2018

Spotless Mirrors, And All That

The editing and rewriting process for any of my books always exposes me to the same dilemmas.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/31 08:00

The editing and rewriting process for any of my books always exposes me to the same dilemmas, although each time 'round I experience them in a different form. Not so much procedurally, but emotionally. One of these dilemmas is best described by way of an old Zen parable, which I will relay by way of John Cage's paraphrasing of it:

In the poetry contest in China by which the Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism was chosen, there were two poems. One said: “The mind is like a mirror. It collects dust. The problem is to remove the dust.” The other and winning poem was actually a reply to the first. It said, “Where is the mirror and where is the dust?”

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Tags: Zen  editing  writing 

Owning Your Boredom

A redux of the old question: what's so bad about being bored?

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/30 08:00

The other day I opened up Tumblr — it was someone else's idea, honest — and was immediately confronted with a flyout button asking me to sign up for an account. It read "YOU'LL NEVER BE BORED AGAIN."

My first thought was, "Oh, yeah?" My second thought was, "What's wrong with being bored?"

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Tags: Zen  boredom 


"The other, of course, involves orcs."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/29 18:00

Here is about a perfect a pairing as you could imagine: Zack Snyder is attempting to helm a movie adaptation of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. They deserve each other. The rest of us, though, deserve better.

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Tags: Zack Snyder  philosophy 


On the difference between thinking and worrying, and on worrying as a virtue signal.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/28 08:00

Another nice thing that emerged from the Dean Sluyter interview I mentioned the other day was how meditation can be a road to undoing anxiety by confronting its function. There's this idea we have in the West that, as Sluyter put it, "if you're not worrying, you're not being responsible" — that we need to make a show of our worries to convince other, and ourselves, that we Take This Seriously.

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Tags: morality 

Enlightenment NOW!!!

The desire for something quick is not itself wrong.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/27 17:00

A while back I bumped into a little book called The Zen Commandments by a fellow named Dean Sluyter. Sluyter (rhymes with "brighter") is a Buddhist teacher and a very good one, with lessons tailored mainly to reach people who don't see themselves as "spiritual" but nonetheless are willing to listen to any good advice about how to quell the buzzing in their heads.

Sluyter conducted an interview recently (can't find the link right now, sorry) where he talked about how there's this criticism, a totally valid one, of modern Western Buddhist practice, in that much of it ends up becoming Zen Lite. That said, he feels there's a lot to be said for johnny-on-the-spot style exercises, the stuff you can do in thirty seconds while waiting for the light to change.

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Tags: Buddhism  Dean Sluyter  Zen  spiritual teachers  spirituality 

A Better Beta

On giving, getting, and using good feedback on your work.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/21 08:00

Now that I'm done reading Steven Savage's upcoming novel A Bridge To The Quiet Planet and giving him feedback, I'm back to work on Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunnedbased on the feedback he gave me — and to some degree, the things I picked up from reading his book as well.

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Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned  advice  editing  writing 

Moral Men And Immoral Societies

"The very ordinariness of human life seemed a kind of original sin, the sin of not being extraordinary enough to recognize and resist evil."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/17 08:00

The other week I was reading A Stranger In My Own Country, the diary German author Hans Fallada kept while in prison during the last years of WWII. The mere act of keeping the diary put Fallada in great personal danger; reading it made one feel like you might well have been ambushed along with him if the turnkey walked into the cell at the wrong moment.

One thing Fallada makes clear in his own anecdotal way was how Naziism did not just impose evil on people, but that it took what evil was already there, waiting and unquestioned within them, and gave it an entirely new way to flourish in the world. The petty little tyrants who ran the backwater village where Fallada and his wife lived for a time were made into even greater tyrants when they were given brown shirts to wear — and they pulled on those shirts and buttoned them with gusto, since such costumes gave those martinets a socially sanctioned excuse to do all the cruel things they were already inclined to do.

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Tags: Hans Fallada  morality  philosophy  sociology 

The Unfinishing Touches

On imperfection in creative work.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/16 17:00

Here's a few choice bits from my friend Steve's piece "Finishing Flawed Fiction And Processing Piecemeal Prescriptions" (if that isn't enough alliteration for you, Steve's full name is Steven Savage, haha):

... [the process of writing ] could have been faster if I hadn’t spent time editing as I went, chapter by chapter until the halfway point.  In short, I actually aimed for quality too early. ...

When I write fiction in the future, I think I need to accept that my initial effort is basically going to be like a piece of alpha software.  Good planning and thought can make it a very good alpha, but my focus should be to get it done so I have enough to work from.  Many things in fiction writing only become apparent once you have the whole picture. ...

I can accept that fiction starts imperfect because of all its factors and charge ahead, admitting it won’t be perfect.  It’s just that when the imperfect version is done, the perfect version follows more easily.

Steve and I actually debated this particular approach in the early stages of his writing the book. I was of the opinion that editing as you go was a bad idea, because it would interrupt that initial flow of things that needs to operate without censorship to be really effective. He wanted to give it a shot, and since I'm not his daddy (I don't even play it on TV), off he went. Now he realizes that was a bad idea.

I'm not citing all this to lord it over him, but rather to reflect on it as it happened in my own work as well.

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Tags: Steven Savage Dialogues  creativity  writers  writing 

Advertisement(s) For Myself

On confronting my uneasy feelings about self-promotion.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/10 08:00

My friend Steven Savage is in the middle of a series of posts on his blog that are a run-up to the unveiling of his new novel A Bridge To The Quiet Planet. (#1, #2.) The idea is to provide an introduction to the world, its setting, the forces that shaped it, and the characters in it. I've not done anything that involved myself — not even for books that probably could have benefited from it, like Flight Of The Vajra — and I think now I know why.

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Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned  Steven Savage Dialogues  promotion  writing 

Press Pause

The next week and change I won't be around much.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/07 17:00

The next week and change I won't be around much. Various real-life duties call. I might get in some blogging here and there but all, uh, three of you reading this, don't hold your breath.

Tags: excuse our dust  real life 

What We Do In The Shadows

On ramping up from an audience that can be counted on one hand.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/06 13:00

Brad Warner noted a while back that he gets very little discussion from his fellow Buddhists (Zen and otherwise) in the West. Not because he's annoyed at having been snubbed, but because he actually finds that something of a relief. It means he gets to be that much more himself, and not subsumed, however subtly, into what amounts to a groupthink or hive mind about his chosen field.

I empathize completely with this point of view, because I've got an audience of maybe a dozen readers tops, and the temptation I feel vis-a-vis that audience is to see it very much the way Brad does: It doesn't matter if you only have ten people, it matters that they're the right ten.

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Tags: audiences  promotion 

I Owe You Some News

A short briefing on happenings at Chez Genji as of May 2018.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/02 20:00

A short briefing on happenings at Chez Genji:

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Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned  real life 

Movie Reviews: Liquid Sky

The original new-wave (maybe also no-wave?) film, with its blaze of low-budget images, mixes cheesy science fiction, grimy bohemian drug tragedy, psychedelic experimentalism, and no-budget arthouse drama

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018/05/01 08:00
Buy at Amazon

When people talk about "outsider art," they could mean art that's about, by, for, or with the participation of outsiders. Slava Tsukerman's Liquid Sky is outsider art across that board: it was directed by a Russian emigre, co-written by and starring downtown New Yorkers who did a fair amount of starving for their art, and depicts (if in a stylized way) the new- to no-wave scene of the early 1980s in that city.

Don't even try to fit a label to the end result. Cheesy science fiction, grimy bohemian drug tragedy, psychedelic experimentalism, and no-budget arthouse drama all stew together freely here. It's eye-filling, irritating, and mesmerizing in about equal measure; it drags you around by the shirt collar for two hours and then kicks you out of the apartment. I'm still not sure if I like it or not, but it's one of my favorite films all the same. Paradox intended.

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Tags: 1980s  Anne Carlisle  Liquid Sky  Slava Tsukerman  indies  movies  new wave  punk  reviews 

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