Month: February 2014

An Interview with Film Composer Brandon Visel

Brandon

 

Brandon Visel is a film composer; here is a link to his website:

http://www.brandonvisel.com/

Q: What made you interested in becoming a composer?

A:  I have been playing piano from the age of 4 and composing for almost as long. So ever since I can remember people would tell me that my music sounded like it should be in a movie. I guess I naturally write in that direction, but I have always loved film and storytelling so I really started to pay attention to the affect and style of film music. I think there is a big difference between contemporary composers and film composers because at the end of the day it is about the film not my music. I’m only there to “service the film” and complete the vision of the director the best way I can.

Q: What do you hope to gain from attending Sundance?

A:  I have come to realize that everyone is in the “business” in L.A., or so they say. So going to Sundance or any other Festival really separates the people who say are in the business and who are actually in the business. Mainly it’s just about meeting the right people to be able to write music for a living. As they say, “it’s all about who you know”. Above and beyond that, Sundance is a really inspiring place just because you’re surrounded by creative people and the buzz of the business.

 

Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your work?

A:  I actually don’t have another day job, I’m privileged to officially say that I’m a full time composer but it took a long time for me to be able to believe and say that.
Q: What kind of training have you had?
A:  I was classically trained by a private music teacher through the “Guild Program” from the age of 8-18. And then in 2007 I decided to attend the UCLA Film Scoring Program which was great for me because it focused specifically on writing music for film, so for those who already have an education in music the program really helps you hone in those skills.

 

Q: What is the most challenging piece of music you have ever had to compose?

A:  I have been really fortunate to work with people and on projects that typically go really smoothly. I would say the hardest part is understanding what the director is trying to accomplish musically and tonally. Music is probably one of the hardest things to communicate but when it that synergy is there it changes the entire process for the better. Probably my most difficult piece of music was a shortened version Dance of the Sugar Plum Ferry from the Nutcracker Suite for a motion comic project. Trying to recreate something from one of the greatest pieces of classical music in history was definitely a massive challenge.

Q: What do you like about the film industry?

A:  I guess I would say that the film industry represents a difficult balance of art and business. I love film music because I love story telling so looking at the industry as a whole, it is all of those elements coming together that make a truly good film or story. I think that the importance of music in film is significantly underestimated by many, but it is truly a vital part of guiding the emotional intent of the director.

Q: What would you change about it?

A:  I would probably change the amount of politics. I say that because it will always be there, but I think that in an industry of art and imagination should be as open as possible but that’s not always the case. There is also very little rhyme or reason to how to find the people you need to know. There’s no clear path to find the filmmakers or producers or whoever it is that will give you work, and that becomes very difficult to manage especially for an artist.

Q: What movie had the best film score ever?

A:  For me the best film score is Memoirs of a Geisha by John Williams. I have always loved the details and passion that went into every aspect of that film, but as it turns out it is the only film that John Williams has ever asked to work on. I think you can absolutely hear that passion and focus throughout the film.

Q: What film would you like to rescore?

A:  That’s a really interesting question. I can’t think of a film I’ve ever thought I would rescore. I think maybe because there are so many intimate elements that go into developing a score for a film. So the music became whatever it is because of that collaborative effort and there were probably reasons for it. I hope that doesn’t sound like a cheap way out.

Q: Who are some of your influences?

A:  This may sound insincere to those in the business because just about everyone knows and loves him, but I have alway appreciated and strive to reach the kind of thematic music writing of John Williams. I think that increasingly film music is losing its musicality and thematic tone. But I think that at the end of the day it’s vital to write good music not just sound in the background. I really love Harry-Gregson Williams writing as well, but interestingly feel that I unintentionally sound the most like James Newton Howard. I’m not sure anyone else would agree with that, but I feel like when I listen to his scores he makes musical decisions that I would make.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

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An Interview With Comedian Gene Getman

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Gene Getman is a New York based stand-up comedian who has lived everywhere from a mental hospital to Texas; here is a link to his website:

 

http://www.genegetman.com

 

Q:  What made you want to be a stand-up comedian?

A: People ask this question often and it’s a lot like being asked “How are you?” The degree of honesty with which you answer depends a lot on the circumstances. To a stranger on the street, going off about your insecurities and upbringing would be insane, but in the setting of a therapist’s office, getting into your issues with megalomania and seeing your dad’s balls as a kid seems a bit more appropriate.

To be perfectly honest, I’m really not sure why I began doing stand-up comedy and I’ve given it plenty of thought in the time since having started. It’s easy to say that I just watched some stand-up as a kid and thought “hey, I could do that!” But that would be about as sincere as answering the “How are you?” question by saying “I’m ok”.

I think alot of the appeal came from watching guys like Doug Stanhope, Joe Rogan, and Louis CK perform these high-concept, paradigm-changing bits. Many of their jokes were not only funny but highly insightful. They changed my perspective on the word in a way that’s humbling and enlightening. The ideas they shared through their act were not just profound but highly entertaining and there’s something to be said for taking a potent thought and delivering it in a way that’s captivating and exciting.

Anytime I hear a really good new joke, it makes my world feel just a little bit bigger and thats an incredible feeling! Maybe I just wanted to have that kind of impact on someone else. Or rather, I wanted to be credited with being the one to make that kind of impact on someone else. But that still doesnt answer the question of why I decided that I needed to be the guy to do that. Respect? Adulation? My dad’s balls? Or perhaps I saw it as a means to not having to work a job I hated 8+ hours a day and even the slightest chance of achieving that possibility was worth a fool’s errand. But what in me seeks those things to begin with? Im not really sure. I think it’s easier to just say that I just watched some comics and thought “hey, I could do that!”.

 

Q:  What is the difference between someone who is considered funny by everyone who knows them and somebody who can actually do stand up?

A: Empathy. And it’s the difference between people who eventually improve as comics and those who dont. What people who are funny to their friends don’t realize is what it’s like to be an audience member at a stand-up comedy show. Imagine having a complete stranger walk up to you on the street and not only require your attention but expect you to get on board with their opinions and ideas to such an extent that you explode in laughter! Why in the world would you give this stranger the time of day much less be sold to their way of thinking?

The only justification for validating a given set of ideas lies with the credibility we place in the individual delivering them and despite our best intuition, this credibility isn’t so much associated with the content of the statement than the context of who delivers it. Who says the thing being said is often far more important than what is being said at face-value. It’s why comedy clubs build their comics up with mountains of credits before they go on stage. “This next comic has been on every late night show ever!! He performed at George Carlin’s funeral!!! He’s so funny you’ll take up smoking crack just to calm yourself down!!!!! GIVE IT UP FOR….” Give what up, by the way? – Your sense of disbelief.

People who are funny to their friends already have the context and sense of disbelief built-in through years of familiarity. It’s not so much what they say that brings about the humor as is what they say in terms who they are.

Also, being funny on stage means being funny the whole time you’re on stage. People underestimate what that entails. It’s relatively easy to come up with a witty line in a conversation and be funny for 3 seconds but after that moment is over, the funny guy at the watercooler has the luxury of continuing on with the rest of his conversation being mostly inane! Getting a laugh on stage buys you 15 seconds, if that, of non-funny dialogue and you still have to be engaging or you’ll lose the crowd for the next joke.

A comic on stage constantly has to be on top of how they are being received by the audience. Professional comics are experts at this. They understand the underlying context and emotion behind every given second of their act. Conversely, we all see those people who keep coming back but “just don’t get it”. They think they’re killing but the audience is cringing (god, I hope that’s not me!). Knowing the difference takes empathy. And it’s the real learning curve behind becoming a great comic.

 

Q:  Who are some of your comedic influences?

A: Growing up, I watched alot of Comedy Central stand-up and got to see alot of the comics who are now considered quintessential, as they were coming up. They all found their way into my sphere of influence. Dave Attell with his endless left-turns and absurd midget jokes, Greg Giraldo with this poignant social commentary, Bill Burr with his everyman take on relationships and jovial sexism, Doug Stanhope in his biting cynicism and unsurpassed honesty, Joe Rogan with his grandiose existential chunks on what it means to be a human being, Patrice O’Neal with his fearless, matter-of-fact stage presence that seemed virtually untouchable, and of course Louis CK who’s somehow managed to put all of those things together! I hear one or another of their voices behind every joke I write, sometimes even louder than my own. But I’m beginning to learn where to look for my voice under the weight of these guys, to whom I can only ever hope to hold a candle.

Q:  What subjects do you think have been done to death?

A: Having done stand-up for just over 2 years and having been exposed to more open mic comedy than any human being should have to see in a lifetime, I’ve definitely noticed several of same topics coming up over and over. It’s weird. And Im not talking about plagiarism. People, especially new comics starting out, somehow gravitate towards the same constructs and ideas.

Here are a few I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Michael J. Fox doing anything that requires a steady hand (sewing, shaving, brain surgery)
  • Any play on rape being inherently non-consensual. Here’s an example using a really bad joke I used to do: “I asked my girlfriend if she was into rape fantasies. She said “no” and I said “perfect”.
  • Harry Potter
  • Miley Cyrus/Justin Bieber
  • Gay People. Ex: “I have nothing against gay people, I just think it’s gross..” or “I wish I were gay because I wouldn’t have to deal with women..”
  • Angry socio-political rants in the form: “We’re so spoiled in America! Don’t you know that people in [3rd world country] don’t even have [thing Americans have]
  • “So I was taking a shit the other day..”

..and of course..

  • Masturbation. If stand-up comedy is taken to be a sample of what people value and care about, the human race must be masturbating themselves to dehydration on an hourly basis.


That’s not to say that I’m judging. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I made every hacky mistake and probably invented a few of my own. I always said that on a scale of 0 to 100, 0 being the level of skill you typically see the first time a person steps on stage and 100 being that of a comedy master (Richard Pryor, George Carlin) I started in the negative. I sucked, ALOT! And I still have a long way to go just to catch up with the people who have actual talent. Luckily, Calvin Coolidge had a few things to say in my favor:

 

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Though you gotta wonder what kind of idiot takes his comedy advice from Calvin Coolidge.

Q:  Are New York audiences really harsher than other audiences?

A: I’ve only been doing standup in New York a short time so I haven’t really had a chance to get a feel for every aspect of the city so everything I’m about to say will probably be wrong, but from what I can tell I would not say that New York crowds are more harsh, only that they are more diverse. You definitely have to work harder for a New York audience but that’s because the audience you get is mostly a roll of the dice.

In other parts of the country, the crowds tend to be a lot more consistent simply because the local population is. New York City crowds tend to vary wildly. Even within a single show, you’ll can expect to see some young and old couples, people from Australia, tourists from Cleveland on vacation, a Canadian, drunk guys from The Bronx who came in off the street, a Bachelorette Party, and a guy in a Pokemon costume (that happened).

The other reason: New York audiences tend to be a bit more cultured. Club crowds especially consist of people who are typically more well-travelled, higher-educated, and have in general been exposed to more experience throughout their lives whether they grew up in the city or by definition, having travelled here. It definitely takes a bit more to raise their eyebrows than the typical audience in the middle of the country. Or maybe it’s because most of them don’t speak English.

Q:  What kind of day job do you have and what is funny about it?

A:  The funniest thing about my day job is that it doesn’t exist. But its a good thing. Jobs are as much of a trap as they are a means of supporting yourself. Sure, you’ll have financial security but what portion of your time will be left over to enjoy it? Time is our one true asset and the premise of working a job you hate as a means of survival literally resolves to exchanging your life and consciousness for assets. It’s an absurd proposition. Of course while money may not bring happiness, the lack of it will surely bring misery and Im certainly not advocating some sort of idealistic bohemian existence crashing on couches between visits to Burning Man. Yet, it’s very difficult to make a living solely on stand-up. Fortunately the skills you learn along the way translate very well to other walks of life. I try to keep my means of income at close to stand-up as possible which means picking up gigs in videography and film editing, web design, graphic design, and taking freelance writing gigs when I can. Pretty much anything creative, I try to turn into a source of income, if possible. I also try to pick up acting/extras gigs when I can manage to wake up before 2pm to go on an audition. Most recently, I’m working on getting my documents in to be licensed as a cab driver which I can do late at night after I’ve exhausted my stagetime opportunities. If all else fails, I can always use my engineering degree and master’s in applied math to teach or pick up freelance tutoring gigs (which actually pay better).

Q:  What’s funnier Texas or New York?

A: New York is definitely funnier. There’s just alot more going on. This city is insanity! No human was ever meant to live this way. The potential for comedy is probably the one redeeming quality New York City has. You’re not gonna get much to go off by sitting in a cow pasture in Bernardo, Texas. The sheer density of people and ideas in New York City leaves no room for anything but comedy. Certainly not parking spaces or affordable housing.

Q:  How did you end up in a mental hospital?

A: When I first read this question I thought “Oh yeah, it was from the time I took acid and ended up raging through the Subway until someone called the cops and they took me to the psych ward”, but I was released the next day which means that the time I spent an entire month in a mental hospital was a completely separate incident!

I was around 15 or 16 and on probation for some stuff I probably shouldn’t mention in writing (it involved more acid). For some reason, they had a social worker coming to my house because I guess they couldn’t imagine that a kid as fucked up as myself could be raised by anyone other than satan-worshiping rapists (For the record, my parents are very nice people. They’ve never raped anyone). From what I can recall, I was being pretty dismissive of the social worker and started playing guitar loudly to freak her out. I guess it worked because the next thing I remember, I was in some building (probably the Social Services Office) where they somehow convinced my parents that I needed to “Go away for a bit.” My parents, being Russian immigrants were easily intimidated and away I went!

It all seems very surreal and fucked up when I think about it as an adult. I mean what right or reason did they have for locking me up? Sure, I was out of control as a teenager; I had stopped going to school, staying out late drinking and doing drugs (though I only ever smoked pot and occasionally used other psychedelics), but what kid isn’t acting out at 16? Aside from the aforementioned non-violent offense, I was never a threat to anyone. It doesn’t warrant my complete removal from society! I basically went to jail for a month for not subscribing to what is deemed to be the standard path in life. Pardon me for not allowing my time to be wasted sitting in a classroom in one of the worlds worst education systems. And I taught middle school for a year. If those kids could only understand the degree of carelessness, inefficiency, and disregard the administrators have for their time, they would drop out faster than you can say “G.E.D”. But that’s neither here nor there. Go fuck yourself, social services! (To borrow a quote from an episode of Maury).

 

Q:  What was the most surprising thing you saw there?

A: Well in my highly medicated state – What disease was I being medicated for, again? Oh, that’s right, individuality – I can’t say that there was much of anything that particularly caught my eye. It was pretty much exactly what you would picture being in a mental institution to be like, less the cute socially awkward girl with an eating disorder and the large but gentle black guy who lost his 2 year old son getting sno-cones at a pool party. You wake up, get force-fed breakfast you would feel bad serving to a trash compactor, then have most of your day wasted as you’re herded around like lobotomized cattle from activity to therapy session until the day mercifully ends in you being locked back into your cage but you can’t even rub one out because whatever cocktail of will-suppressing pharma-crack they have you on keeps your dick more limp than a paraplegic on muscle relaxants. Fuck anyone who’s ever received a paycheck with the name of that place in the top-left corner. I hope they died yesterday.

Q:  Tell me a journalism joke.

A: I would but my editor didn’t think it was funny.


Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

 

An Interview With “My Sex Life With Lola” Blogger H.H.

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H.H. runs the blog, “My Sex Life with Lola”, which details his relationship with his nymphomaniac girlfriend; here is a link to the blog:

http://mysexlifewithlola.com

 

Q: What inspired you to start your blog?

A: I get this question a lot.  It started out about a year after I began dating Lo and I realized that the red hot fire of new romance was not cooling as it usually does in a long-term relationship.  By that I mean, she was eager for sex ALL THE TIME.  In a young romance, especially with a young woman (far younger than I), that is to be expected with the first bloom of love.  But, when her sexual appetite never abated, I began to wonder.  I started doing Google searches for older men in relationships with younger women, men dating “nymphomaniacs,” and so forth.  I was very surprised by the lack of information I could find out there, so I decided to start writing about my own experience and publishing it on WordPress to see if I got any responses from people similarly situated. 

The other inspiration was that, from early on in our relationship (when we started out as a long-distance couple), Lo would beg me for “bedtime stories” – steamy sex stories that she could masturbate to on the other end of the phone or g-chat.  She particularly liked stories that involved her.  When I started writing about our sexploits and publishing them on the blog, she got really turned on and it was fun texting her when she was at work saying, “New post!”  She would excuse herself from whatever it was she was doing and go and read the blog on her phone in private.  It was fun for both of us in that way. 

At first I used pics that I found on the internet to accompany the stories, but Lo soon insisted that the only pics I use were to be of her.  That’s how her modeling and exhibitionist side came out.  Her photos have proved to be very popular.  I began to wonder, to what extent is our web-traffic just guys out there ogling her naked pics, or are they actually reading the stories, so I put up a poll for readers and I found that about half of our “viewers” were there to see Lo and the other half was there to both read and see pics.  The best comment I had – one that really changed the way I thought about the blog – was when one fan said that she reads it because she “likes a good story.”  In other words, it wasn’t the pics or the sex, necessarily, but the storytelling.  That changed my entire approach to what I was doing.  Instead of telling sexy stories that happened to include Lo and me, I focused more on telling a story that happened to include sex.      

 

Q: Why do you think it has been such a success?

 

A: Well, there are a lot of reasons for its success.  One is that I shamelessly promote it in all sorts of places – I request other, fellow bloggers to repost or spread the word, I include “mysexlifewithlola.com” on all the pics now, etc.  But I think the biggest draw is Lo; she’s sexy, she has these very witty May West-esque one-liners, and she does all sorts of crazy stunts that make for good reading.  The second biggest draw is that I really enjoy writing about her and I think that translates for the readers into a good read.  We get a lot of female readers who write to us and tell us that they read it every night before bed or that they couldn’t live without it. 

I’m sure that it would be more successful if we hadn’t encountered so much censorship over the years.  WordPress shut us down and we had to find a new host home.  That meant that we weren’t on the net for about a month and that’s when the fans started writing in telling us how they missed our stories.  Facebook deleted our account and won’t let us link any Facebook pages to our e-mail.  PayPal froze our account when we were supposed to collect ad revenue due to the “pornographic nature of our content.”  So many obstacles that I never imagined we’d encounter have worked toward muzzling our stories – stories of love, sex, and human nature.   

 

Q: The Mayo Clinic defines nymphomania as “an obsession with sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviors that affects your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life.” Do you think people are reading your blog to help better understand the condition or for their own enjoyment?

 

A: That’s a great question.  In many of the blog posts I include reflections on a number of things relevant to our lives: feminism, relationships, and, with regard to my condition, depression or bi-polar disorder.  I also remark a lot about “nymphomania” and I hope that whatever the particular topic, the readers both enjoy reading about it and come to a better understanding through it.  Or, if not a better understanding, then, at least they see it through our experience and can reflect upon it for themselves. 

With regard to nymphomania as a disorder, right now there is a lot of heated debate about the term and, indeed, historically, it is a very politically charged term with an ugly misogynist pedigree.  Carol Groneman did an excellent survey of the uses and misuses of the term in her book, Nymphomania: A History that came out in 2000.  Interestingly, the latest DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) does not include Nymphomania or even Sex Addiction or Hypersexual Disorder.  So, clinically, one can argue that there is no such thing.  Yet, in the collective consciousness, one could say that sex addiction and nymphomania were never more prevalent.  With the latest films such as Don Jon, Nymphomaniac, Diary of a Nymphomaniac, Black Snake Moan, and the show “Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew,” among others, you’d think that sex addiction and nymphomania specifically were ubiquitous in our society.  And I think that a lot of people feel that way or at least wonder about these issues given the ease of access and pervasiveness of images made possible by the internet.  

 

Q:    What is the most challenging thing about having a relationship with someone with this condition?

 

A: I think that the challenge is in both directions.  My libido is not even in the same ballpark as Lo’s.  Back in October I did a fun little research game where I tried to keep score of each and every one of Lo’s orgasms (self-evoked or with others) as well as my own, and to document them all on the blog, rather than just give the highlights like I usually do.  It was called “October is Orgasm Month,” and by Halloween, I found that Lo had in excess of 70 orgasms for the month (that’s a little more than two a day) compared to my 17.  So, keeping her satisfied and fulfilling her cravings is always a challenge.  It’s made more challenging by the fact that I’m a morning person (feeling best between eight and ten in the morning) and Lo is definitely NOT.  She is a night person, feeling most randy between nine and midnight.  At night, I am beat and I usually want to go right to sleep.  This makes it difficult for both of us. 

 In addition to that, whereas Lo gets off on actually getting off, I tend to be obsessive-compulsive about writing about her and this can lead to inordinate amounts of time spent by me staring off in the middle distance thinking about Lo, when she is actually sitting right next to me, naked, trying to get me to “play” with her.  That can be very frustrating for both of us. 

 

Q:  Why do you think people feel compelled to tell others about their sexual experiences?

 

 A: It’s hard to say, really, since there are so many people out there who are sharing their personal lives publically.  Everything from “Experience Project,” to the various confessional web pages allows people to anonymously air what they would keep to themselves otherwise.  I think that from a broad historical perspective, we are still an adolescent culture.  The Victorian Age was very repressive and Freud blew the lid off of that and so now, rather than a mature comfort with all things human, including sexuality (like the ancient Hindus had achieved), we are just at that age, as a culture, where it seems like expressing obscenities is the apex of maturity.  It’s not, but it is an important developmental stage on the way to maturity. 

 A: On the other hand, Lo and I are friends with a lot of fellow sex-bloggers who really are just blogging about their lives – their experiences dating, being married, dating people who are married to other people, etc. – and they find that writing about it and getting comments from readers is an important part of their self-reflection.  The so-called “sex blogs” that I enjoy reading the most are the ones like that where the author is mature enough to reflect upon his or her life and it just happens to include sex because life includes sex if you happen to be sexually inclined. 

 

Q: Is Lola getting any professional help for her condition?

 

A:  Ha!  That’s a touchy subject – no pun intended.  In my opinion, Lo doesn’t have “a condition,” if by “condition” you mean nymphomania.  I use the terms nymphomania, nympho, chronic masturbation, sex addiction, and the like in a way, that if you read carefully, removes a lot of the stigma and “disorder” usually associated with those phrases.  In one of my favorite posts, “The Love Elite,” I debunk the notion of a “disorder” altogether. 

On the other hand, yes, Lo is in therapy, but not because she’s a sex maniac, but because, well, we all could use therapy.  I’ve even written about how Lo rarely mentions her sexual side to her therapist, but that’s another story. 

 Lastly, Lo has made healthy sex and sexuality her professional path and she is a therapist for others in a variety of clinical settings. 

 

Q: What kind of things have you done to promote your blog?

 

A: Most recently, Lo and I have created a Tumblr – loladown.tumblr.com – where we can easily upload pics without the hassle one finds on WordPress and other writing-intensive blogs.  This has attracted a lot of attention.  But the blog is more of a platform for working through stories that eventually get published as books and E-books.  We just published our first called: Match, Cinder& Spark: Volume I: Nymphomania and the Single Girl.  It contains 29 stories from the blog as well as a beautifully written introduction from Lo. 

 

Q: What is the most realistic film you have ever seen about the subject of sex addiction?

 

A: I wouldn’t say that it’s exactly on the topic of sex addiction, but Lo and I are both big fans of Secretary with Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader.  It’s a love story.  It depicts the gradual transformation of Lee Holloway from a person with a very maladaptive coping practice (cutting) to a loving, caring relationship that happens to include a very healthy game of sadomasochism.  It’s very sexy and psychologically complex, though potentially problematic.  Another favorite of ours is a play that deserves a lot of attention for the beautiful writing and, when we saw it, powerful and exquisite direction and acting.  It’s called In the Next Room (Or the Vibrator Play) by Sarah Ruhl.  It is an erotic, funny, dramatic, story of a doctor around the turn of the century (Nineteenth to Twentieth).  He had been performing hysterical paroxysms manually for his female patients, but now, with the advent or electricity, he uses this wonderful new invention (a vibrator)!  His sexually repressed wife becomes curious and the unfolding of the tale is fabulous.  We saw it twice!  I guess you could say we’re more interested in stories of sexual health and liberation than of sex addictions.  

 

Q: What kind of work do you and Lola do and how does it affect your relationship?

 

A: Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that she is a counselor by profession and I am, well, besides being a writer (which doesn’t pay any bills), I’m more of an E. Edward Grey type. 

 

Q:   What do people misunderstand about sexual addiction?

 

A: Without claiming any expertise in the matter, I would say that the biggest misunderstanding is that sexual addiction is often a symptom of some much deeper and broader issue and it’s a coping strategy.  It could be best understood as an attempt to manage something that is going on in a person’s life.  When any indulgence that we engage in goes past the point of moderation and we find ourselves struggling to manage it – be it gambling, substances, sex, etc., – that’s the point at which we start to question whether it is something that enhances our lives or detracts.  Every individual is different and this is not a moral issue.    

 

 

 Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

An Interview With Mexican Hit Girl Author S.C. Smith

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S.C. Smith is the author of the novel Mexican Hit Girl; here is a link to his website:

 

 

http://www.scsmithbooks.com/#!home/mainPage

 

 

 

Q: What is Mexican Hit Girl about?

 

A: Mexican Hit Girl is a political-thriller novel about former Special Operations soldier, Mason Church, and a teenage girl, Valentina Vargas. She is orphaned when her family is murdered by a drug cartel. Mason Church, after returning home to civilian life, is recruited by the CIA to eliminate Mexico’s biggest drug kingpin. In Mexico, he realizes that his mission has been compromised by a mole within the National Clandestine Service (CIA) in Washington, DC. His mission becomes more complicated when he saves Valentina’s life from the cartel. The two form an unlikely, and volatile friendship, and eventually a pact to kill the drug kingpin.

 

Q: What inspired you to write it?

 

A: Two years ago I was reading the NY Times and there was a photograph of a teenage girl in handcuffs. She worked for a Mexican cartel that paid her twelve hundred dollars a month to kill people. The second part of inspiration for the book came from many of our soldiers returning home and dealing with PTSD. It’s very important that we empathize and help these men and women, whether it be through a book of fiction, or giving back to them through charities. I have my opinion about war, but I respect our soldiers.

 

Q: What makes Valentina a compelling heroine?

 

A: She seeks revenge against the cartel for the death of her family, and the likelihood of her succeeding is slim.

 

Q: Who plays her in the movie?

 

A: A young, naive, but emotionally strong Latina actress. It’s a tough part. Selena Gomez? Maybe there’s more to her acting than Disney.

 

Q: What makes Mason Church worth reading about?

 

A: Mason’s backstory of his family, the emotional scars as a former combat soldier, and his search for love. He’s a really complicated person.

 

Q: Who plays him in the movie?

 

A: An actor who is physical fit for the action, and mentally tormented for the other stuff. Hopefully the readers will tell me.

 

Q: What is the most misunderstood thing about the Mexican drug wars?

 

A: The drug wars thrive because of demand coming from the U.S., and to some degree Canada. Do we legalize marijuana? It’s happening right now. But what about cocaine and heroin? Not a good idea in my opinion, because I’ve seen firsthand the harder narcotics destroy and take lives close to me. The cartels are run by savvy businessmen, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry, no different than Wall Street.

 

Q: Who are some of your writing influences?

 

A: I tend to like alcoholic writers, and the dead ones.

 

Q: What trends in literature annoy you?

 

A: Trends in anything don’t annoy me. If we didn’t have trends everything would be the same, and our conversations would be boring.

 

Q: What kind of research did you do for you book?

 

A: The book was heavily researched: the geography of Mexico, political history between DC and Mexico, psychology of the cartels, gadgets used by the CIA, gratuitous sex acts, and weapons.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

An Interview With Eliza Gale’s Elizashead Flash Fiction Contest Winner Barrett Johnson

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Barrett Johnson is the winner of The Second Annual Eliza Gale’s Elizashead Flash Fiction Contest. Here is a link to his story:

http://elizashead.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/the-winner-of-the-second-annual-eliza-gales-elizashead-flash-fiction-contest/

 

 

Q: Why do you write?

 

A: I write because the greatest people in my life have been storytellers:  family members and friends who can hold an entire room, make them laugh when they mean to, make them silent when they want to.  I write because language can still surprise me when the right person wields it.  I write because in the middle of the night, there are so many things to say and no one is awake to hear them.

Q: What inspired you to write this particular story?

 

A:  Detroit.  I believe Detroit is on the bottom end of what is a 4th quarter comeback, a situation much like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have been in before now.  There are writers who have made their entire lives on being in the right place at the right time, being in a place in which things are happening, and every writer working should recognize that Detroit is that place.  The theme of my story is not singularly Detroit, but in the last several months Detroit has become part of the conversation and has brought forth good work in me as well as writers programs such as Write-A-House (http://writeahouse.org/).  It provides a framework in which good stories can be told, and inspiration is simply that: a framework in which good stories may be told.  Otherwise – I find myself inevitably engaging with ‘moments of insanity’ in which we bear witness to perfectly boring people becoming briefly mad.  To me, this is not only reality, it is hilarious, and those who do not find humor in insanity are insane.

Q: What appealed to you about this contest?

 

A:  Writing is meaningless unless it is read.  You may keep your personal projects, your therapeutic diary entries, it is all well and good, but you cannot possibly claim anything is writing unless it is read.  Contests such as these are wonderful if only because at the very least, your stories are read by those who care about writing, and so I jump upon them eagerly.

Q: What will you do with your prize money?

 

A:  Invest, most likely.  100 dollars is a fortune for word-peasants, I’m now set for life.

Q: What kind of job do you have and how does it make you bitter enough to be a writer?

 

A:  I work part time in retail (the bitterness) and part time as a script doctor (the delusion).  Retail every day assures me I am not meant for anything long term except for writing, and being a script doctor assures me that Hollywood is in need of better writers.  There are no great works hidden away in basements – the great works are waiting to be written by you.  Yes, you.  Help us, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  You’re our only hope.

Q: Who are some of your influences and why?

 

A:  Everything to me winds down to Samuel Beckett and William Shakespeare.  Call me old-fashioned, but there it is.  What those two writers alone accomplished for storytelling and language will never be overstated, and very seldom be approached.  Having a bar set so high leads to much frustration, more frustration, even MORE frustration, and finally an inkling of growth.  Walk that path long enough and you MAY want to kill yourself – but you will die a better writer than you were when you started.  (see also: Elizabeth Bishop, W.H. Auden, Gertrude Stein, Aaron Sorkin, Gilbert & Sullivan, James Thurber, etc.)

Q: Where else can we see your work?

 

A:  The anthologies and literary magazines I’ve had poetry published in are likely a bit difficult to get hold of, and likely my work in them is not worth reading anyway.  Production has started on a webseries project entitled “The Libratarians”, co-written by the amazing Luwita Hana Randhawa, which is shaping up to be a fantastic (hopefully funny) project.  Finally, I put out an EP last year that features several absolutely incredible Portland folk musicians, and the entire album can be heard at http://barrettjohnson.bandcamp.com/ 

Q: I get the feeling you are very well educated, is this true?

A:  I was fortunate to attend college overseas for four years at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, earning my BA(Hons) in Film and English Literature.  However (as is the case with all creative pursuits), while expanding your knowledge base and becoming well educated is incredibly worthwhile, the ONLY way to become a better writer is to write.  You must create, receive feedback, become disheartened, persevere anyway, fail even more miserably, drink, cry underwater in the tub, write, write, write, and inevitably die.  Oh god, that didn’t sound very upbeat.  If you grow your hair out and pout, there will potentially be sex.

Q: Was your story inspired by a real life event?

 

A:  No real life event that I can think of.  I am firmly of the position that simply writing a story that is autobiographical is not only cheating, it’s a little bit shallow.  Your mind is overflowing with a vivid imagination, hopes, fears, dreams, failures, experiences, catalogs of work come before, all chaotically colliding together and waiting for the chance to be channeled through your pen and onto a page.  Writing a story ‘just because it happened’ is about 10% of what you are capable of, and nothing makes me happier than people living up to the work they should be putting out.

Q: If you could take a road trip with John Steinbeck or Jake Kerouac, who would you pick and why? 

 

A: Jack Kerouac, hands down, and here’s why: my most intimate memories are of living in a broken down flat in Wellington, of backpacking miserable and cold through Milford Sound, sleeping in the backseat of a rental car through Mississippi, being sick-drunk with a girlfriend in a dorm bathroom, setting up band equipment for trad jazz sets in Sacramento.  My best times in retrospect are the worst times in the present, and that’s Kerouac all over.  Living the life of ‘On the Road’ would be shit.  Just 100% awful.  They’re homeless most of the time, fighting all of the time, and nearly constantly bumming off family or friends for money.  But I guarantee you, one year later, no memory is more cherished than the time you spent unhappy but close to someone.  Better that life.  Better that life, indeed.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Eliza Gale’s Elizashead Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up Dana Lee

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Dana Lee is the runner up in The Second Annual Eliza Gale’s Elizashead Flash Fiction Contest; here is a link to her story:

http://elizashead.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/the-runner-up-in-the-second-annual-eliza-gales-elizashead-flash-fiction-contest/

Q:  What made you want to be a writer?

 

A: I have had a passion for writing ever since I learned the skill.  I was the 8-year-old who would dress up in silly clothes and put on a show for my entire family just to make them laugh. I was a 4-year-old who would walk up to a homeless man just because I wanted to see if he was having a good day. I’ve always been a very extroverted person and I needed somewhere to put my energy. I mean what kid didn’t want to be a singer or an actress. As I got older, reality set in and I always found myself writing. At the age of 14 I already had it in my mind that I was going to graduate from Columbia College. It wasn’t until high school when I wrote for the school newspaper that I realized I wasn’t going to graduate from Columbia with an acting degree……………….plus I despise math. 

 



Q:  What inspired you to write your story?

 

A: It was my first year at Columbia College Chicago and I had signed up for a Fiction Writing Class as an elective. Our first assignment was to write about a dream that we’ve had or if we couldn’t remember one, we had to make it up. I had no idea what I was going to write about. I played with sentences and phrases on the train ride home, enough to where I had a topic. I’ll never forget the fact that I sat down in front of my computer and squeezed this out within an hour. I was shocked. I’m a perfectionist who edits my words to no avail……it usually takes me hours to write an article, let alone a story…..and these ones kept pouring out with ease. I felt so comfortable and satisfied with my story that I couldn’t wait to share it with everyone. It was my first A+ on anything at that school and the story holds a special place in my heart for that reason

 

 

 



Q:  What other kind of things do you write?

 

A: Lately, at night when I can’t sleep, I’ll get the urge to jump out of bed and write down my thoughts because I find that I won’t dwell on them for the rest of the night if I do. My motto has always been that “people judge you, but paper won’t.” So with those words alone my journal has always been filled with poetry, (typical teenage lovey dovey stuff) rhymes, song lyrics that I make up, and thoughts that I’ve always felt were sacred to me. 

 



Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it make you want to do something creative?

 

A: For the past 4 years I have been working as a teller at TCF Bank in Chicago, Illinois. It’s more the type of job that enhances my organizational skills rather than my creative skills but compared to all of the previous jobs I’ve had, it’s my favorite. I recently graduated in May of 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a concentration in magazine writing. Since then I’ve applied for 14 jobs and like your typical college graduate…..no luck. I will say that I feel most creative when I get to embrace activities that I satisfy my soul. Things like reading a magazine, getting a macchiato from Starbucks or simply painting my nails on a Saturday night…………I have a passion for food. In fact I love writing about it almost as much as I love eating it. I’m inspired to write about restaurants when I visit new ones for the first time. My dream is to be a co-host on the WGN Channel 9 Series “Chicago’s Best.” 

 

 



Q:  Who are some of your influences and why?

 

A: knew they My parents and my grandparents are influences for always asking me if I wrote anything new, or had written something that they could read. It means a lot to me when someone cares enough to see my portfolio, or ask to read something I wrote period. However my biggest influences are my two brothers Jason and Sean. Both of them are mentally and physically challenged and they have always inspired me to do my best in life. They can’t walk or talk so my goal has always been to do the things that they may never be able to experience. I am always eager to include them in my plans. After 21 years of being undiagnosed, their neurologist called us with the ecstatic news of a diagnosis. In fact my brothers are the only two cases in America with a genetic disorder of this particular case. I always were unique and they inspire me to be just as unique. One of these days I hope to write a book about them. 

 



Q: Why this contest?

 

I found the listing for the contest one evening while searching for writing jobs on my Craigslist App. At first I was hesitant about entering, so I saved it in my favorites. After dwelling on the thought for a few days I remembered how satisfied I felt after writing this story, (which for a writer is not an easy feeling to come by) so I gathered up the courage to enter and I’m very grateful that I did. 🙂

 



Q: Why have the Beatles stood the test of time?

 

A: Beatles songs are timeless and not just because this generations parents grew up listening to their tunes and introduced Beatles songs to their kids, but because the Beatles were the first of their kind and took the music industry by storm because they introduced a whole new style of rock and roll that caught the attention of teenagers around the world. 

 

Q: What makes for a really good short short story?

 

A: You must be descriptive, straight to the point, and be sure not to ramble. It takes a lot of editing. It’s also true what every high school english teacher preaches….every story MUST have a beginning, middle and end, no matter how short or how long. 

  

Q:  What do you hope to express though your writing?

 

A: When writing fiction I hope to express imagination. I want to take my reader on a journey that they can relate to, but normally wouldn’t for-see on their own. When I write articles, my journalism is not just about conducting interviews and writing the story, to me, it is about communication and molding a person into a piece that justifies their words and emotions honestly. In poetry, I hope to relay my belief that I stated earlier………people may judge you, but the paper you’re writing on won’t. In the end you should compose something that you are proud of and don’t be afraid to share your work with someone else. 

 

 



Q:  If you could sing a duet with one of the Beatles who would it be and why?

 

A: John Lennon, no questions asked. He was an optimistic soul whose life was cut short due to a delusional mind and I believe the world would be a more open-minded place if legends like him were still alive to spread some wisdom. Honestly I don’t even know if we would get to the vocals because I’d be so curious to pick his brain about where, when and what inspired him to write. His lyrics are so enticing, and graceful that I would want to share my story with him and listen to his feedback so I could make improvements as a writer.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)