Now More Than Ever

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New blog up. Proud to be a part of Lunch Ticket and Antioch University Los Angeles MFA to be able to explore new ideas and get such great feedback from fellow peers on a topic I might normally attempt solo. I couldn’t have done this piece without them. Also shout out to Lidia Yuknavitch and Micah Bournes.

Now More Than Ever, Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé

Thoughts on The Wire, Writing, and Perspective

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Here is another blog I did for my MFA programs lit journal, Lunch Ticket. Read it at your leisure or on your phone on the bus or on your computer at work while pretending to work. It’s about The Wire, writing, perspective, and how I’m mad I still don’t have a book published.

 

Salud,

Levi

 

Thoughts on The Wire, Writing, and Perspective

On Patience, Grief

This is a blog I’m pretty proud of. More to come. I wrote it for my MFA program’s lit journal Lunch Ticket: On Patience, Grief

Annotation-Behind the Beauitful Forever’s

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Hey Friends, (all three of you who ever look at this site)

If you want, read along with me as I parse my way through MFA program reading multiple books a month. I already have to write these annotations (metadata, comments, review, diagnostics) so may as well share some of my favorites. It’ll be like an online book club.

Most of the time, but not all, it will be a look at craft. How the writer accomplishes what they are doing on the page.

First up: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Behind the Beautiful Forever’s is the first book by Katherine Boo, surprisingly. However, Boo’s work as an investigative journalist for the helped develop her highly detailed work as a writer and she’s written for both the Washington Post and The New Yorker covering themes of social justice. In other articles she’s explored the intellectually disabled, poverty, welfare, and marriage.

You could perhaps call Forever’s “Micro-focused.” This is both the main strength of the book and perhaps it’s main criticism. It touches briefly on the state of India’s economy, caste system, globalization, etc., but for the most part the book is a highly detailed account of a small group of people in a slum across from the Mumbai airport—a family of Muslim garbage pickers, a one-legged woman, a woman “mob” boss of the village with political aspirations (basically a smart woman who runs the village through bribes and money while also working with the local government and law enforcement), her educated daughter, and some tragic young men who do anything they can to make some money. It’s been hailed as the best book on India in twenty-five years.

What is remarkable is Boo’s attention to detail and the countless hours she spent researching and living with a particular group of people. We really go deep into characters lives which is often sorely missing in narrative nonfiction reporting on poverty. As Boo says in an interview with Guernica Magazine Boo:

“When I pick a story, I’m very much aware of the larger issues that it’s illuminating. But one of the things that I, as a writer, feel strongly about is that nobody is representative. That’s just narrative nonsense. People may be part of a larger story or structure or institution, but they’re still people. Making them representative loses sight of that. Which is why a lot of writing about low-income people makes them into saints, perfect in their suffering.”

This is the strength of Boo’s work. The nuance and delicacy and realness she doesn’t shy away from when detailing the lives of the people she’s chosen to follow. They’re complex humans, each with their own sense of morals, character, perspective, aspirations, and so on.

Boo’s book also sheds light on some of the broken and misleading truths with regards to NGO’s and nonprofits. There’s one scene in which the local leader of the village, pays people to come to the unveiling of a new well built by a NGO, so they can put on quite a show to the rich Americans and hopefully get some more money. The money and well were obtained, of course, through bribes and local corruption, as is the norm in India and many other developing countries.

However, while the book is a stunning and complex portrait of people living in poverty, many readers could be frustrated with Boo’s failure to bring in hardly any outside social commentary or, “So what?” factor. It’s a terrific portrayal of Mumbai slums and a look inside the thoughts and lives of people who live in them, but Forever’s leaves a bit of an empty feeling, which is perhaps Boo’s intent.

I Saw Another Rabbit Today

He was plump

brown and beautiful

chewing on a carrot

ears like pillows

from the Marriot

Bio

Sam Samson is a rabbit.

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A Coffee Triptych-Revolv Magazine

Words by Levi Rogers

Photos by Chad Kirkland

This is an article I wrote a little over two years ago for the wonderful Revolv Magazine. It no longer exists (for now) but it was great while it lasted and I owe a big thanks to them for letting me work on an article. Enjoy.

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Chapbook Release! A Brief History of Melancholy

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Hello friends,

And by friends I mean the two people who read this blog. I don’t know why I even keep this around, online presence I guess? Though Twitter is probably better. I’ve decided I’m done “blogging,” but still want a website to some degree to share writings so I guess I’ll continue.

Anyways, I have exciting news. Next Saturday I will be releasing a chapbook. What is a chapbook? Well, it’s a short collection of writings (usually inexpensively produced and refers to poetry). Somewhere between a zine and a full on self-published book. It’s like a mix-tape. Like what Drake was going to put out but somehow became a #1 hits album.

As a writer I wanted to produce something you could hold in your hands and not just read online, scrolling down on your phone. I didn’t want to self-publish an entire book per se but I wanted to get something, anything, out there. So, voila. This should hold over my desire to create for a brief minute while I get an actually publishable book in place.

Thank you for reading. I will be doing an awesome release party next Saturday, May 2nd at The Rose Establishment with further readings by Jason Dickerson and music by The Circulars and Bat Manors.

If you are one of those Kindle people or out of state you can get an early release here:

http://www.amazon.com/Brief-History-Melancholy-Vignettes-Feel-Good-Life/dp/0692420568/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1429916947&sr=8-1&keywords=a+brief+history+of+melancholy

I think that’s all. Here’s a picture of my dog and run we did up City Creek Canyon the other day.

Also below: an excerpt.

Okay love you bye,

Levi

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Excerpt:

8.

Nostalgia had a tendency to ruin his life. He’d get caught up in thinking that this certain time or that certain time in his life was better than it probably, in all reality, was. He’d think about some moment in his childhood—the warm mug of hot chocolate after a day of sledding, the smoke of woodstoves in October from the year’s first cold day. The lips of the first girl he kissed, lips softer than satin. He’d think about these moments of his childhood and he’d think that it was better. Better or simpler in some way.

Or he’d think about college. The girls he dated. The afternoons spent snowboarding with friends when there was nothing to do afterwards but watch snowboard movies and eat pizza. Or he’d think about other eras. How much nicer it would be to be living as a cowboy or an Indian. A pirate or Viking. To live in a world without cars that sped everything up and computers that always tempted you with nude women. There were times when he would think he was not born for the era he lived in. That God messed up somehow and should have placed him in an earlier time. A time where you could shit in the woods and it wasn’t called camping. We’re too selfish now, he thought. Too easily overcome by the petty dissonance of modernity.

But he knew all this nostalgia got him nowhere. It was escapism. After all, he did not have many fond memories of elementary school. Or middle school, or high school, for that matter. He was confused and insecure the entire time. Riddled with pimples in the mirror and boners in math class. There was all the independence in college, which he now looked at with fondness, when in reality it was pure loneliness. He probably prayed late at night for a wife and kids to take him out of his misery. And now he prayed for just the opposite. He even had nostalgia for the future, if there was such a thing. Thinking of how much better things would be in the future. When he was in shape and famous and throwing dollar bills around like he was 2 Chainz. It was the present that sucked. The present had no rearview mirror. No distance. It was right there. No blurry future. No whitewashed past. No narrative structure. It just stared you in the face like a cold January day.

It was sort of like that saying, “The grass is always greener.” Whoever came up with that little phrase was a fucking genius. I wonder, did it happen as it sounds? As in two people (neighbors probably) leaning over each other’s fences and talking to one another. Did one say to the other, “Hey, how’d you get your grass so green? I wish mine was as green as yours!” And did the other say something like, “You’re kidding me! Your grass is way greener than mine!” (and really meaning it, too). Until one of them (the wiser one) said something like, “Welp, I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.” Or, did the saying come about from shepherds? Maybe watering their sheep one day and looking over at the other side of the stream to think, “Hey! The grass over there seems greener.” And so they move their entire herd over across the river only to realize that the grass on this side is, in fact, not greener. And then they look back across to where they came from and think “Never mind, the grass on the side we were on is way greener.” And so on and so forth until someone finally said, “The grass is always greener.”

Who knows. Regardless, trying to find green grass ruined him. He ended up in the looney bin one day, no joke. Always going on about how much better things were in the 1400s. And one day, whilst talking to another patient inside the loony bin, a patient who wished he was normal and on the outside and in the real world, he said to the patient that very thing, “I guess the grass is always greener.” And he laughed so hard he pissed himself.

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It’s Definitely About Something…Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly

To Pimp a Butterfly—Kendrick Lamar

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In the late hours of this last Sunday evening, fading quietly into early Monday morning, Kendrick Lamar’s latest, and highly anticipated album, To Pimp a Butterfly dropped, the early release surprising and throwing off everyone. The album (originally slated to release the next week) was heralded with joy and excitement by Lamar fans everywhere (if not the entire internet) and our normally expected dreary Monday morning turned into something fresh and exciting.

We had already heard two singles—the surprisingly optimistic “i” and the aggressive and angry, “The Blacker the Berry.” What fills in the gaps of the rest of To Pimp a Butterfly is unexpected, fresh, and sometimes strange. The album begins with a smooth horn note from George Clinton and bass from Thundercat, Lamar unleashing his strong and unbeatable verse and voice. The next song is like some sort of spoken-word jazz piece and the rest of the album layers Kendrick’s unbeatable lyricism with jazz/funk inspired undertones. It’s not particularly bass heavy or even “single” heavy. There are less cameos from folks like Drake or Dre (Snoop Dogg makes an appearance though) than on good kid m.A.A.d city and the album is nuanced in the way jazz usually is and occasionally jarring (Lamar’s appearance on Flying Lotus’ track “Never Catch Me” was a good preview for the feel of Butterfly).

It’s very much an album, with a beginning, middle, and end; and it has a repeated theme of depression and black oppression throughout. Butterfly is not a particularly accessible album, if anything the opposite. It’s complicated. Kendrick implicates white oppression and then himself, and does the same with love, faith, race, and so on. It’s definitely about something, which is more than you could say about most hip-hop today, even gargantuans like Kanye and Drake. Whatever it’s reception; it’s a marked step forward for rap and an impressive follow-up to his last.

Best Films of 2014 (I Was Going to Post this Before the Academy Awards but Somehow Forgot and Am Now Left With Posting This Late)

Best Movies of 2014

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2014 was a great year, for movies at least. Globally, not so much.

Boyhood

If you’re not an avid indie-cinema nerd then Richard Linklater is one of those directors who sneak up on you. Chances are you’ve seen one of his movies and not even known it (Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, Before Sunrise, A Scanner Darkly). But once you get a taste for his casual, yet profound style of filmmaking your movie viewing experience will be forever changed. Many of his films take place within a 24-hour time period giving a large dose of realism to an industry that’s often focused on the spectacular and extraordinary. Linklaters gained prominence this year especially as his magnum opus of a film, Boyhood, is slated to amass a slew of awards. The most talked about feature of Boyhood has been its filming history (Linklater began filming Boyhood 12 years ago and used the same cast and crew every year for a couple weeks of the year) but even if he didn’t shoot the film in such a manner it would be a tremendous story. It’s profoundly American (in both the good and bad), a true portrait of change, maturity, and the significant, yet terribly normal, course life takes. Ethan Hawke (who I now think should work only with Richard Linklater as he’s phenomenal in his movies but completely hit or miss in everything else) and Patricia Arquette give great performances and Ellar Coltrane as the real-time morphing boy is superb.

Selma

David Oyelowe gives perhaps the performance of the year, if not his entire career. His mannerisms, voice, and moral-burden-carrying face move Selma in lush portraits of humanity, dignity, and perseverance. Director Ava Duvernay does a great job focusing the vast array of M.L.K’s career into the events around Selma rather than attempting a vast biopic. The movie is tight, focused, and inspiring (a word I’d normally never use to describe a film as it’s so vastly overused, and bromidic, but in this case fits).

Snowpiercer

Captain America star Chris Evans stars in the new film by Joon-ho Bong (director of The Host). All of humanity has been wiped out by an artic freeze as the result of a counterattack against global warming, and the last few remaining survivors are on board a bullet train that races around the globe. For those in the back of the train the situation is dire, they’re fed black protein blocks of goo and cramped in dirty dirty living quarters. A revolution is brewing though and Curtis (Evans) must lead the other proletariat against the ruling powers and try to make it to the front of the train. As the film unfolds layer upon layer of the train and its society are unlocked in both beautiful and haunting fashion. It’s brilliant commentary on society, though at first glance you may miss it.

Calvary

Brilliantly written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (who also did the The Guard with Gleeson) Calvary is the bleakest of black comedies, one that will leave you both changed and disturbed. It’s a dark, brooding piece on forgiveness, injustice, and sin—both ecclesiastical and personal. Tis not for the faint of heart.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Just a fun movie. Best Marvel film yet. This rag tag group of characters give depth and meaning to an otherwise other-worldly universe.

Grand Budapest Hotel

This is perhaps Wes Anderson’s best film to date. It has all the Anderson quirkiness we’ve come to expect—elaborate set pieces, quirky characters, and deadpan humor but seems to have more layers than his other films, even down to the aspect ratios the movie is shot in. And Ralph Fiennes is incredible.

Gone Girl

In the hands of any other director this movie could have taken some wrong turns. However with the expert direction of the master of dark cinema (David Fincher, Fight Club, Seven, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) this movie stuck to the text of the original novel by Gillian Flynn and somehow does better.

Locke

Locke stars Tom Hardy, as the only man on camera for the entire film. In fact the entire film takes place in one location: a car, at night. What does Tom Hardy do in this car? He talks. Not to himself but to other people through his cars built-in-hands-free-phone. He’s on a mission. But what is his mission? Where does he have to go so urgently? What has happened that is more important than his job, his wife, and his family? These are the questions that may run through your mind while watching Locke, and while it may seem like a cruel joke, the film is actually a testament to the minimalism of film making and acting. The film is taut and gripping, never boring. Hardy raptly holds our attention and delivers a performance very few others could. To say any more about the film would be to spoil it, but suffice it to say the film is a deeply human portrayal of mistakes, regret, and what it takes to set things straight.

Inherent Vice

By far the most entertaining movie of the year, and perhaps the best. Many will not say so because it’s well, sort of about nothing, or about somethings, those somethings becoming ever more slippery as the movie progresses. Based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon and expertly (as always) directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The director of There Will be Blood and Magnolia presents us with the last hippie of California, Doc (Joaquin Phoenix), a private eye who investigates the disappearance of his girlfriend and runs into (among other things), a possible drug smuggling ring, a gang of Nazi bikers, runaway youth, a possible undercover agent, a straight-laced cop moonlighting as a T.V. actor cop, all while remaining deliriously and hilariously high.

Birdman: Just the best. 

Meh: The Imitation Game

A great movie based on a heartbreaking and fascinating story. However, the movie tries way too hard to be everything award audiences want: a bit of wit, crying, an inspirational saying repeated throughout. It’s not quite as brilliant as it thinks it is.

Honorable Mentions:

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Interstellar

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The Hobbit: Battle of The Five Armies (I thought I’d hate this movie or at least be as severely disappointed with it as the last two Hobbits, but I was pleasantly surprised. It has all the epicness of Lord of the Rings with only a little bit of melodrama of the previous Hobbits. Also, it finally returns to the main allegory of why we’re all here, to the theme of greed and power and their ability to corrupt.

Movies I have not seen yet most of which I’m pretty sure would supplant the current list, may have to get back to you in a couple weeks.

The Babadook

Force Majeure

Whiplash

Theory of Everything

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