Open Thread for April 11, 2009

Exciting discussion among humans.

Do you think we forgot about you? We didn’t forget about you. For here is your open thread.

15 Comments on “Open Thread for April 11, 2009”

  1. Darin #

    My creative juices were not flowing this week. I got a vasectomy, seriously. There’s really nothing related to creative juices and vasectomy, but that’s the only segue I could come up with.

    I’ll come (no pun intended) back to that in a bit. I’ve read a variety of writer’s ideas/suggestions for writer’s block. Most say something along the lines of 1) drink coffee 2) write during your productive time 3) write something, anything, it doesn’t matter, just keep writing.

    Well, Kudos to the guys here at OTI. They keep writing and writing. Not that blogger trackback repost drivel, but truly thought out articles. I personally think the Think Tank has been on fire. Nothing of interest here for me this week, kids on spring break and all that crap. And no back to getting my balls cut open…

    By the way, with today’s technology, a vasectomy is nothing more than some stitches in your (my) ballsack. No lifting over 25 pounds, keep it clean, and no sex. Yes, you can piss, no it does not hurt – honestly. No, you are not stuck on the couch with a bag of ice for a week.

    Happy Friday…err Saturday open thread ;)


  2. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Darin: Writer’s block is a pain in the ass, no doubt about it. I’ve read a bunch of websites about it, and they’re all like, “A dentist doesn’t get ‘dentist’s block’; a chef doesn’t get ‘chef’s block. Just sit down and write, dumbass!”

    Not helpful. Here’s what works for me… sort of.

    If I’m already working on something but my writing just isn’t coming out right: I push through it and write anyway. I can fix it later.

    If I’m working on something but I don’t know what direction the plot should go in: I take a long walk, sit in the park without thinking too hard, or go to sleep. For whatever reason, if I tell my brain the problem but don’t obsess over it, eventually it’ll shoot out a decent answer within a day or so. In other words, sometimes you need to take a break.

    If I can’t come up with a good idea: My biggest problem. I read a lot and watch a lot of movies. I talk to friends about issues that are interesting to me. Sometimes it works.

    Maybe you can write about your vasectomy? Best of luck.


  3. Equinspire #

    Have you tried Write or Die for writer’s block?

    It’s an application with 3 settings:

    Gentle – if you stop writing a pop-up reminds you to keep writing
    Normal – if you stop writing it plays an unpleasant sound until you start writing again
    Kamikaze – if you stop writing it starts to delete what you’ve already written…

    Nice, eh?


  4. fenzel #

    All writers should read The War of Art.

    The basic thrust of that book is that writer’s block or any other artistic block is the result of the love you have for what it is you’re doing and the fear you have that you will succeed, and that it will change you and shake up your life – that any writer’s block is first and foremost fear of personal change, and that the more you love something, the worse the block will be.

    The solution in the book is to “Go Pro,” to commit yourself to doing the work regardless of what else happens and make it a part of your routine. The book talks a lot more about what this means. It’s by the guy who wrote “Hitch” I think. So take that for what it is.


    My theater professor Deb Margolin had some great things to say about writer’s block. She said that writer’s block is always “liver’s block” – not the organ, but “one who lives.” That if you find yourself unable to write, you’re probably blocked in your life as well. It doesn’t really matter how you get through that block, but it’s important to find it, recognize it, figure out what it means to you, and move forward from there as an artist.

    Deb always told me that writing, acting, and many other artistic disciplines are all the same basic activity, which is tied to making a statement about who we are and how we live. The creative process can be pretty central and essential – it follows that treating writer’s block as a sort of charlie horse that is an anomaly or rebellion against the rest of your body and mind is the wrong way to go about it.

    Figure out the extend of the block, then get past it.


    Personally, I think there’s a lot of wisdom in both these approaches (which are very similar), but I also connect writing with the creative impulse as distinct from something like the Freudian death drive (Thanatos) – but a bit less dramatic; the impulse to sit around and just let time fade by and waste itself.

    I often find that writer’s block can mean specifically when I have problems with ideas of life and death, or with ideas of life and death that are connected with sexuality, or when I feel depressed or self-destructive (I don’t mean on a huge scale here – I mean anything from a week where I don’t want to go to the gym or a couple of weeks where I feel sad and drink more than I otherwise might) – that writing helps me get out of these places, sure, but more importantly – that being in places like this can bring on writer’s block, because I feel less of an impetus to be creative.

    The more you improve your life and do things like take care of yourself and exercise and have a fun sex life, I find the less you tend to get writer’s block. And the more you let things to get all jammed up, the harder it is to write.

    And also, it’s good to have a deadline :-)

    Wow, that was a lot, but hey, I guess this is an open thread!


  5. fenzel #

    @Darin –

    But yeah, I’m totally not surprised that you have writer’s block around the time you had a vasectomy. It’s clearly on your mind, and as much as, practically speaking, it’s probably not that big of a deal, personally, in your mind where you live, it _is_ a big deal.

    People will no doubt argue with me on this because it sounds a bit medieval and because of certain political agendas, but I do think that anxiety about one’s personal fertility can totally carry over into anxiety about one’s artistic fertility, and that it is a tough thing as a dude to feel really secure when there is anything abnormal or harrowing happening in the vicinity of your nether region.

    If it is bothering you (and it sounds like this is), forcing yourself to write your way out of it will probably be a big part of how you get through it.

    Good luck!


  6. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    So David Denby, a critic for The New Yorker, has published a tiny little book complaining about “snark.” It is almost irresistible to mock him, especially since he makes a bunch of very lazy, factual errors. Check out Wonkette:
    “We’re honestly very, very baffled, not just by his interpretations, but by the crucial, objective and lazy factual errors Denby makes; ones that don’t just nullify his tedious, didactic argument but actually indict him of the very same amateurism and reckless hate-mongering he imagines is both our ethos and the biggest threat to Western civilization in world history. ”

    For a great review of the book that completely destroys Denby, see here:
    It seems like he only thinks things are snarky when he disagrees with them. Snark towards Bush is totally justified. Snark towards Obama is completely uncalled-for.

    So Denby embarassed himself, his team, and his mother with this one. But does his argument have merit? Eh. I’d almost like to defend the man, because I like arguing difficult positions, if only as a devil’s advocate. Sure, the internet can be a pretty caustic, mean-spirited place. But if snark is just sarcastic humor, like The Daily Show or The Onion, then long live snark. David Denby is basically attacking my way of life. I’d write a post about it, but it would be too easy – like going hunting in a petting zoo.

    So I’ll just say: Cultural Criticism FAIL. K thnx bai.


  7. Gab #

    Well, since I’m not a frequent creative writer, I don’t know if my episodes of writer’s block were the same. But when I needed to write papers and such, my methods were similar to yours, Shana: if I knew what I needed to say, I’d force something out and go back to it later; and if I didn’t, I’d do something to distract myself. Unfortunately, in the latter case, I generally would do more couch-potato things, like play _Resident Evil_ or watch a movie- none of that hippie walking in the park stuff, muahaha. But seriously, I would try to distract myself from it a bit and come back to it with a fresh/clean slate. It usually worked, or at least well enough for me to get decent grades in college. And now that I don’t *have* to write on a regular basis and only do it when I know what I’m aiming at (sort of- take no stock in my circumlocution, here), I guess I haven’t really experienced writer’s block in a good while.

    Belinkie, I’d love to see a post dedicated to the wonder of snark, written in a snarky way that would piss people that didn’t get it off. My opinion: snark is a form of satire, but with a bit more of a bite and something closer to a personal jibe to it. If you know what you’re getting into when you read/see/hear it, you should be fine, so long as you aren’t a whiny prat.

    On one of the other open threads, Joaquin Phoenix’s crazy interview on late night T.V. was discussed, and it even went into the next podcast. Billy Bob Thornton pulled his own stunt in an interview this week- did anyone see/hear that? I couldn’t help but think he was doing it because of Phoenix, as if Phoenix getting away with whatever he pulled gave him a free pass. But while I still, to this day, am not sure about the former, I do really think Thornton was being a jerk on purpose. He sounded like the rude/mean characters he keeps playing lately, like Mr. Woodcock. My question, then: Why?

    Oh, and I have a question for the staff and anyone else that has been to a comic book convention before: is it typical for vendors to inflate prices at conventions? I went to ECCC last weekend, and by golly, regular comics I could get at a regular comic store or book store were frequently marked up like crazy. And the cheapest shirt? $15. Most were at least $20, if not more. I *did* see some really antique, first-edition comics worth over $1000, but that’s so not the same thing. I guess I had been expecting stuff to be a bit less pricey because of the concentrated nerdiness. And really, I felt like the whole thing was more about consumerism and marketing than comics themselves. I could rant a bit more about other stuff, but meh… The most fascinating/novelty item I got was free: bacon flavored chapstick.


  8. Gab #

    Oh, I forgot to say this (as if I haven’t said enough): Am I the only one with the feeling that it’s kind of ironic, or at the very least somewhat hypocritical, for a _New Yorker_ writer to say snark is bad because it’s, among other things, condescending?


  9. Mlawski #

    @All of the above: Listen to Fenzel. Better sex definitely = better writing.

    (Not that I have sex, Grandma, if you’re reading this.)


  10. John P. #

    Belinkie – considering I liked Denby’s snark better than any other film critic’s for years, that’s … a bizarre book for him to write.


  11. Matthew Wrather #

    Personally, I like Anthony Lane a lot better, my favorite line, apropos of “Tomb Raider”, being:

    She swoops to conquer.


  12. Darin #

    @fenzel – I like the idea of that book. I have some projects that have been gaining internal momentum (like flatulence) and the book you refer looks good. Plus, the leftover birthday Amazon money has been sitting there for almost a year now.

    Also, getting it on seems like a fun, cheap way to get the creative juices going again.

    @gab (pt.1)- I did not see or hear the Billy Bob Thorton Letterman interaction, but apparently it was not the same as Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin was whacked out and David was trying to relate to him as the audience does, but he wasn’t responding. Apparently Billy had asked to be introduced on the merits of his band and not on the merits of his acting. Letterman introduced him as the Bob we know, ‘Academy Award Winner’ and other stuff.

    This pissed BBT off such complaining to DL that this isn’t what they agreed on. Then, he shut down and began to give one word responses. I can understand his upset if they agreed behind stage and Letterman goes off script. His band cancelled the Canadian tour, apparently

    “Billy Bob Thornton’s band has canceled the rest of its Canadian tour after the actor compared the country’s fans to mashed potatoes with no gravy in a testy interview that caused a sensation online”

    Go figure.

    @gab (pt. 2) Regarding Comic book convention prices – I have been to ComicCon once and I don’t have any other reference. But, yes, I got the impression that the prices were inflated. The tables I was looking at though, the main artist was typically sitting right there, you could get it autographed or talk to them all day. Also, convetion goers were typically the fanatics that would pay the price anyways, kind of a self-selection to higher prices – plus the fanatics were competing in a closed environment.


  13. Gab #

    @Darin: Yeah, Thornton was doing a radio interview that was also recorded with a camera, watch it here:

    I understand he was rather pissed, and get why- he wanted to be introduced as a musician, etc. What the guy interviewing him said was very true, though, that in fact a lot of people would probably be listening NOT because of his music career but his acting; and for it NOT to come up at all is a ridiculous expectation that Thornton should have realized was impossible to fulfill. Also, I do think Thornton felt he’d get into less of a pickle because of Phoenix’s performance before, but maybe I’m just being paranoid/a conspiracy theorist. No matter what, though, he was just being a jerk and went across the line, as far as I’m concerned. And while it looks like he has indeed apologized, I don’t find it sincere, especially since he flat-out lied in the “apology”: he said the audiences in Canadian concerts are like mashed potatoes without gravy in the interview, then went back and said he meant the interviewer- but the interviewer wasn’t being discussed at all when he made the first comment. I don’t buy it. I know I probably sound like a prude, and I realize I sometimes am. But I personally am rather disgusted with his behavior; still, I don’t fault anyone that isn’t, either, and I *can* see how it’s sort of funny. But I think what makes this funny in one of his movies is not applicable to the real world: a movie is, well, a movie. In real life, you shouldn’t treat people like that, and that’s why while we laugh when watching his characters treat others like crap, inside we know the character is a jerk and we thus (hopefully) would never emulate that behavior.

    And as for pricing at conventions, I just heard from a friend today, coincidentally, that the price for a _Supernatural_ convention this August is astronomically high, $500 for the all-access pass, $350 for a lesser one. I think that’s a great example of charging exorbitant prices because they know the fans will cough it up. That just… I dunno, it irks me. If ethics were considered, what’s “right,” one would think they’d try to make it as accessible as possible. Totally taking advantage of their loyal fans.


  14. Gab #

    Okay, and I was just sent this by a friend.

    And so I looked and found this one:

    Thoughts? I know this site gets $$$ through Amazon, but really? I’ve read some of those books that have been taken from the search engines, and they’re great works, important. Hell, if it weren’t for _Bastard Out of Carolina_, there probably wouldn’t be a single text about socio-economic class in one of the “important” classes (one about how those not in power deal with and react to those with it) my college offers. And FOUCAULT?! Come ON, now!

    As much as I love supporting this site, I can’t support Amazon when they’re going to do stuff like book-banning. So I think it’s obvious what I’m going to do (or, rather, NOT do), at least until they change their ways.


  15. Trevor #

    A bit late to the party (writer’s block, perhaps?), but I just want to take a totally uninformed shot at snarkiness apropos the current administration vs. the former administration (and the vice president from the previous one whose name will never cross my lips for fear that he’d appear in my mirror, shotgun aimed at my head). It’s the old “dish it better than you can take it” argument with me, in regards to Bush and Obama. I think Bush’s actions were inherently comical and deserving of derision if only because his actual policies brought more of a tear to one’s eye. Obama has been in office a scant three months, and apart from his slightly killjoy-esque nature there’s not a lot that can be mocked about him (though I will go on record and say that SNL’s take on him is pretty good. Perhaps SNL might be embarking on another “glory days” run after so much mediocrity). The snark about Bush, if I may suggest, arose because the man proved to be comedy gold for liberal pundits. Whereas the snark against Obama is more mean-spirited if you come from the side of the aisle that voted for him, and thus more offensive. I know I got some cold shoulders from my Republican-supporting kinfolks whenever I took Bush’s name in vain, so turnabout is fairplay. On election night, I thought that Fox News and Ann Coulter and all those rightwing a-holes would be irrelevant. Boy, did I call that wrong.

    Also, Marilyn Chambers passed away during the weekend. I’ve never seen her A-list work in the early seventies, just the borderline-stupid soft-core she did that airs on Cinemax (and which often doesn’t frequent Miss Chambers herself except as narrator). Her legacy might be questionable in the age of moral conservatism that we seem sadly to be still living in, but her passing is worth noting nonetheless.


Add a Comment