Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010 Retrospective

I was going to do a big roundup looking back at the year 2010 a couple weeks ago and then I got distracted by something shiny. That's a great way to start the new year, isn't it, by procrastinating?

So what did happen last year?

Well, 2010 began with me writing for Louisville Mojo, a relationship which soon ended when they cleaned house and got rid of all the paid writing staff, including my boss. That I was constantly complaining about being given crime assignments to write about was apparently a factor, especially after I threw down an ultimatum that I wanted off the crime beat. (Me, I think reporting on crime is a lazy way to report the news, and it serves no purpose except to dumb down the public. But I'll rant more about that at a later date.)

Anyway, there was a slight return to Mojo after I negotiated my way back in there to write strictly about nightlife, but that quickly went South all over again when they now insisted I start writing in a generic "evergreen" extreme keyword-spam SEO style. Fuck that. And the final punchline came just last week, when I noticed that they've deleted all the articles I wrote for them. So, they paid me thousands of dollars to make blog posts - posts that still continued to send traffic to their site by my aggressively linking back from my own sites - just to delete them? Well, whatever, Mojo, and thanks for all the cash.

The main thing I learned from the whole experience is something I actually already knew but foolishly didn't follow through on: that I cannot waste my time doing something that I don't have total control over. For better or for worse, it's gotta be my way or the highway.

I did some book-signing events and personal appearances, including a Weird Kentucky signing at Costco, of all places. I was initially dubious about the idea of sitting there in a megagrocery amongst housewives pushing shopping carts filled with antifreeze-sized jugs of barbecue sauce, but it went off amazingly well and I met some wonderful people.

Weird Cemeteries, my current book project and follow-up to Weird Kentucky for Sterling/Weird US, has been stalled for some time even though the idea has already been greenlit long ago. 2010 marked the year I gave up on that and began pursuing my next book deal elsewhere. Here in the early days of 2011, it seems to be bearing fruit: I have several new deals in the works that I'm sure I'll be blabbing about ad nauseum very soon.

I also started a writing blog that serves to gently hype my bits that appear in magazines, and to give occasional sneak peeks at what I'm working on. One of those works in progress is a play called Son of Grimaldi, which will mark the return of my theatre company, Catclaw, to active duty. We've been resting on our laurels for the last year, ever since the highly successful puppet-theatre extravaganza Birth of Merlin in NYC last winter. (Of course, if you can get anyone to show up to a puppet show held during the Xmas season in one of the worst parts of NYC in a freezing warehouse, I call that highly successful.)

I won the Derby again this year, which actually speaks very little of any handicapping prowess on my part, but of sheer cosmic luck. I won a sizable Derby Pot at our party and showed my gratitude by making genuine-recipe Juleps for everyone.

My biggest regret of 2010 is that I failed on my goal to obtain a pedal surrey and to challenge the car-dominant status quo with it by driving it in traffic. Maybe this year will be the year of my surrey gang.

2010 was the year I became obsessed with Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, which I estimate to have watched at least 300 times since summer (many more, if you count having it run on an endless loop while I sleep, which I have often done!) You can check my musings about the film here and here. My main interest in the film, aside from general adoration of Kubrick, is how much it has in common with William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch and the Cronenberg film made about how it came to be written. As a writer, the notion that we are compelled to write the things we do by external forces (and not all of them are good) is one that continues to resonate with me.

The JSH Combo still steadfastly refuses to coalesce again, but hey, they've got a blog anyway. Although I've done some woodshedding, rehearsing and even recording with several local musicians, the time just hasn't been right to unleash this latest incarnation of my rockabilly-exotica-lounge combo. However, I did renew my niche as a purveyor of noise, by churning out large quantities of pretentious minimalist avant-garde snippets of synth-noodling, ambient noise, and found sounds. I even set up a new YouTube account and dumped many of them on an unwilling and unwitting web.

2010 was, honestly, a year of sitting back and enjoying what meager successes life has trickled upon me, rather than overt action. I spent a lot of time puttering around with my organic garden, my wine cellar and holding little cigar-tasting get-togethers, and learned the joys of being a wi-fi gypsy with a new Acer netbook and finding a new writing muse in the spicy ambience of Mexican restaurants. I spent a little too much time gazing at the sunset while sipping Dundee, Maredsous and Schlenkerla and watching old Spectreman videos when I shoulda been carpe-ing the diem a bit more. Then again, why not eat, drink and be merry when tomorrow we may get hit by an asteroid?

- - JSH

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