Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shanghai: Halloween

There was no excuse for my laziness and utter apathy. It was 6:00 Halloween evening and I was collapsed on my couch, unwilling to move after an arduous week at work. Some friends stopped by, put a beer in my hand, and began discussing what my costume should be. All of the usual getups for the unprepared were mentioned: homeless person, punk-rocker, or California Raisin (i.e., tights and a garbage bag stuffed with newspapers). None of these were acceptable. There was a witch's hat available, so I consented to some heavy eyeliner, pulled on a black dress, and jumped into a cab.

The evening's destination was a club hosting a Clash cover band. There are many magazines and websites catering to the expats in Shanghai, and their reporters were out in full force. Before I could order a drink I was accosted by three magazine photographers, all in rapture over my costume. Not long after that came all of the glittery, cute Chinese girls wanting their picture taken with me.

My friends, all in far more imaginative costumes than myself, were bewildered by my popularity. I wondered myself why I was getting all of the attention. Is it that witches are iconic, a Halloween staple? Was I, at that moment, the embodiment of western Halloween tradition? Or was it the irresistible way I tilted my pointy hat and smiled wide for the camera? I hope that the next issue of City Weekend will have the answer.

Download Shanghai dispatch #2 as a PDF

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kyoto: Seven years later, half a world away, closer than ever

Sept. 13th

It is a weird time to be an American citizen abroad right now. The election is big news here. There is coverage of it on the news shows and in the newspapers. I have been reading the coverage of both conventions and the aftermath on the web.

(The Japanese version of the BBC is NHK. They are completely publicly funded. An NHK representative comes around once a year and if you have a TV in your home you pay a fee. No questions. There are no advertisers.)

The world is watching America. I caution anyone who thinks otherwise. The September 11th memorial was covered. There was even a documentary of the events from September 11th to the Iraq war. I was a bit surprised because it was on TV in Japanese with English subtitles. The sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in 1995 came right to mind. The trains and subways are the life lines of every city here. Spurred on by the anniversary of September 11th, I found myself talking to the people around me, and their terror and fear sounded the same as mine had been. I remember every moment of that day, in clear detail. What does it mean that I am comforted by talking and sharing with a person here, just as much as those that lived through it with me?

Read the rest by downloading Kyoto dispatch #2 as a PDF

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lansing: Three poems by Tim Lane

Poem (There Are Times)

Poem Begun in April

Poem Not Entirely Lacking Grace

Download Lansing dispatch #1 as a PDF (PDFs of the individual poems can be downloaded by clicking on the titles listed above.)

Also available by Tim Lane: Pure Pop

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Shanghai: The Mountain

"I will revenge on my father and make a waste to your honor—but give me first the antidote." Rogue warriors in period costumes battle it out as the old Jackie Chan movie flickers in and out on bus's dusty television. At least there are subtitles, I think as I pry my eyes away from the flashing blades to glance around me. The couple on the other side of the aisle has already succumbed to exhaustion, their heads slumped together, their limp bodies swaying with the rhythm of the highway. I turn to the window and watch the countryside passing; farmers in straw hats and ragged Mao-style work pants trudge from field to field or house to house. Corn is hanging to dry on fences. There is still some time before the factories and power plants bloom across the landscape—still some time before we reach Xi'an. I prop my legs up on the seat in front of me and close my eyes, thinking of the mountain.

There is a technique to enjoying Chinese mountain landscape painting. I was taught to begin at the bottom of the canvas, allowing my eyes to trail upward with the mountain's fluid lines until I reach the summit. This is the way to feel the mountain's spirit—to absorb its majesty and calm through the artist's brush. Now it is effortless for me to enjoy paintings like these; I just enter through the mountain's aperture, somewhere near the blank surface of the ground, then I step among the peaks and nooks of the mountainside. I ascend until the mist shrouding the peak converges with the sky and I have achieved something like sublimity. Mount Huashan, one of China’s five sacred mountains, is the subject of countless paintings like these.

A shabby town, grimy with dust, straddles the foot of Mount Huashan. Locals hawk sandwiches with pork and thousand-year-old egg, fragile whistles that make bird calls, cheap climbing gloves, incense, and ice cream. I buy a sandwich, some water, and with some trepidation, I begin the hike through town and up the mountain.

I fare well in my new sneakers, at least compared to the Chinese girls wearing calf-length leather boots with high heels. The stone path ascends gradually at first, then gives way to much steeper passages. This is an amateur climb, but as the amateur up against it I am pushing my limits of endurance. I am focused earnestly on the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, so much so that I often neglect to look from the paving stones to my surroundings.

As I lift my head I am overwhelmed by a paradoxical sight. First I see the mountains, splendid and vast. The sides of the cliffs almost shimmer in the afternoon sunlight, and I feel for just a moment the profound weight of time. Then I look back to the path, to the Chinese tourists bickering, snacking on fruit and hot dogs, to the children playfully shoving one another, and the porters balancing their heavy loads of souvenirs and snacks for the makeshift shops that dot the way. I turn back to the mountain, but as I do I glance at my watch. Only five more hours until I have to catch the bus. I decide to hike up for a couple of more hours, then make my way back down.

I was overjoyed when I discovered that nearly all of the bookstores in Shanghai have a section dedicated to Chinese art books. I spend hours sprawled on the floors of these stores, unrolling scroll prints or flipping through oversized books of landscape paintings. I am enthralled by the spirit of these paintings and lose all sense of time. Occasionally I am jostled by another shopper and I remember all of the errands I need to complete—the dry cleaning that needs to be picked up, the letters that need to be sent—and will it be Chinese or Italian for dinner? I reshelf the books and make my way out of the store, and into the crowded subway station.

Download Shanghai dispatch #1 as a PDF

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kyoto: Getting caught up to now

I remember being nervous as hell in the airport terminal. The time had come to leave and all the hard stuff should have been behind me. The only thing that I had left to do was get on the plane. See, I hate flying and sixteen hours in a 747 maintained by the lowest bidder is not my idea of a good time. Thank the heavens for Zanax, which at least makes it so that every time the plane is bumped I don't freak out like William Shatner in The Twilight Zone. When the plane doors finally closed behind me, all I had left to do was wait. Well, wait and watch whatever god awful in-flight movie I was going to get.

On overseas flights, the airlines usually show three movies. One of them is good. One of them is a family movie. One of them is garbage. This can only be intentional. It's like the airlines asked themselves "how can we make a flight lasting more than half a day feel any longer?" The answer apparently involves making a captive audience watch anything staring Mathew Perry. I recommend coughing up the five bucks for the little bottle of vodka and an orange juice. This should let you sleep at least until something decent is on.

My flight left Detroit at 3:40 PM and landed in Osaka Kensai airport at 7:05 PM the next day. There is a weird feeling that comes with flying that long with the sun always in the window. It's hard to sleep in a plane anyway but add to a constant feeling that time has slowed down or stopped and you can just forget it. You do, however, have plenty of time to think. For fifteen hours I questioned what I was doing. I had only been to Japan once before, and only stayed for a month. Could I make the transition to living there full time?

I had been exposed to the same stereotypes of Japan as everyone else: big eyed cartoon characters, small but efficient cars, sushi, Zen, etc. . . . I know that these things are preconceived notions about a different culture, but they are reinforced so often in American programming that it's hard not to look for them at least a little. In all fairness, the last time I was in Japan I learned that the Japanese have a few stereotypes about Americans.

Japanese stereotypes about Americans
  1. Americans carry guns. (And yes just about everyone in Japan knows Detroit. You get pretty much the same look in Japan as you get in the U.S. when you talk about living in Detroit. That "how often do you dodge gunfire" look.)

  2. An American's entire diet is hamburger, fries, and a Coke.

  3. Americans give two shits about the environment.

Of course, even in Japan, not all stereotypes of Americans are bad. I heard many times that Americans are very generous and bright. After fifteen hours of unrelenting sun, however, I could no longer tell myself that I was afraid of the culture that I was throwing myself into, but that after living, working, eating, and sleeping in that culture, day after day, I would never be able to look at my own in the same way ever again.

Download Kyoto dispatch #1 as a PDF

Monday, September 29, 2008


Revelator is very excited to announce our newest project, the Dispatches series! To supplement our beloved e-chapbooks, Revelator has engaged a number of international correspondents to provide brief snapshots of life in a variety of locales. Tomorrow we will begin with Michael David Press’s Dispatches from Kyoto, Japan, and in the future we hope to add correspondents from Shanghai, China; London, UK; and a rotating group of writers from Lansing, Michigan.

We'll receive new Dispatches from each correspondent every month, and the goal is to have a new post every week.

So meet us back here tomorrow for our first Dispatch from Kyoto!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Dragon Swallowed the Bear

A Dragon Swallowed the Bear: Six Stories by Jeremy Campbell

There is violence here. There are monsters and fire, open veins and desperate loves, edges sharp and blunt, animals that appear and fade like melting snow. Jeremy Campbell's stories are neither fables nor fairy tales, and to describe them is to deal in paradox. They are focused, distinct, but they bleed, and when you finish reading you will find traces of their worlds all around you. Yes, there is violence here, both regrettable and regenerative. There is compassion. Creation. Death. And the sigh of resignation which is the breath of life itself.

Look down. Your belly has been unzipped.

Fiction, 23 pp. Click here to download PDF.

Jeremy Campbell was born in Michigan. He lived there and probably somewhere else, too. He studied English Literature at Michigan State University and a few years after that someone took this photo of him in a parking lot. The ground was wet. The suit Jeremy was wearing looked like it was his, but it wasn't. The suit was really good at pretending.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Where can I get more?

Happy New Year!

We're busy working on our next few chapbooks, but while we're working, you can keep up with Revelator writers through their blogs.