Thursday, February 25, 2010

Letters to the Editor: February 2010

We are happy to receive your letters at Tire Swing Press. They are thoughtful, helpful and often delusional. Some demand a response. The following are such letters.

grammarpolice1 said:

Just browsing your blog. Has it occurred to you that you are posting pieces with many grammatical and editorial blunders? If you want to take writing and your blog seriously, which it looks like you do based on your presentation, then I urge you to consider taking a more professional stance if you are to call yourself a "press." It is an insult to the professional writing community at large to pretend to be a press and not take the care and expertise to post clean and polished writing. Call it "Tired Swing," if you choose to be this lazy. There is no excuse for misspelling anything in this technological age.

Something to consider. Editing is not optional in the pro writing world, it's mandatory. That's of course if you want to make a legitimate name and reputation for your press.

Sincerely yours,

General George Grammar

TSP said:

We would like to know a little bit more about you?

grammarpolice1 said:

I am your basic locution sleuth. A morphologist if you will. I cruise and orbit regions of words and simply point out issues with language and grammar. Not specifically in the case of Tire Swing, though. It turns out that the bedraggled prose I stumbled upon was merely a link to another blog--my bad--I offer an apology. With my sincerest expression of regret--I will also state my case: With the growing decimation of magazines, journals, newspapers and hand held publications, a new generation of writers has emerged on the cyber scene.

Once upon a time, rigorous editing processes were conducted before works went to publication. I have found that with the advent of blogging, this is no longer the case. And so my mission is to uphold the integrity of language and artistic composition.

I hope this helps.

Very Truly Yours,

General George Grammar

TSP said:

We forgive you?


Drgkovacsfl said:

Writers Wanted- Improper dash! Tire Swing Press Date: Reply to: see below 1. "See"! 2. Dangling preposition! "Below" what/where/whom? "Tire Swing Press is looking..." The inanimate entity that is a "press" cannot be "looking"! for submissions and possible staff. Visit our blog, see if you're a fit. 3, 4, 5. "Visit our blog; see whether you fit." Provide an advance, and you might have a chance!

TSP said:

What a tool.

Drgkovacsfl said:

!It is nice of you indeed to assess yourself so humbly and correctly! Do not respond; you could not do so literately anyway!

TSP said:

"Cut out all those exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke." F. Scott Fitzgerald

Drgkovacsfl said:

There is no such thing as an "exclamation point" because, of course, there is no such thing as a "question point"! Do you get the "point" [sic]?! "Exclamation mark"!!! You sustain your mark of illiteracy!!! DO NOT RESPOND!!!!!

TSP said:

This is an automated reply. As a computer I was able to calculate your location and profession. The result is positive. We at Tire Swing Press ask you to re-consider writing for us. Your behavior demonstrates an insane perspective. That's what we want at TSP. Please think about it. Your contribution could only be beneficial. This could work for you and the entire world will embrace it.


churchisstate said:

To the minds which behold such elitist opinions and those readers who appreciate your dribble, I say death to progress, for it has not lead us but dragged us. This country was founded on the principles of Jesus, but after reading Tire Swing Press, especially Wask, I have not but one true hope your brains function as do other living, breathing, caring, loving souls. Instead this experience, shorter than most mornings, has left me in a state of sincere, wholehearted sorrow for children being born today and children being born tomorrow. I hope you are forgiven. I hope you are saved. I hope you never so much as come near my town or my family. And further more, please do not publish this email.

TSP said:

We agree wholeheartedly– thought you might like that word– Wask is no good. We're working on that. In the meantime, please let us know what else you think about anything from anywhere.


ShaliBhat said:

Visited your blog. Liked it very much. I also see you are looking for submissions. The biggest illusion in the world is the concept "FREE." Nothing in this world comes free. So what is the benefit I derive out of writing for your website? Please do reply.

TSP said:

You will benefit nothing at all. In fact, writing for Tire Swing Press could lead to terrible nightmares, itchy skin and gray hairs. If I had the choice I would never ever write for Tire Swing Press. But I don't have the choice, so I do, as do the others locked in this windowless basement wearing away the skin on their fingertips.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Joshua Marc Levy: Return to Ink Drawing

Josh works at Sony full time as an Art Director and Illustrator. His current clients include AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, Modest Mouse, Joe Satriani and Buddy Guy. He also creates large ink drawings and randomly shoots photography. Levy lives in New York City and can be reached at You can view his work at

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Brian Wask: Meet the Author: New York

I want to reveal a secret I've kept until now. It was a Tuesday. Makes no difference. I got a call from my cousin early in the morning, before the sun. He explained he was driving home from a bar and had taken pictures of a car and tree twisted up like a pretzel. Looks like nobody lived. That’s not my bag I told him. Have fun. I was awake so I slipped out of bed, made some coffee, sat at the computer and listened to the radiator boil. Checked some emails. Read a couple rejections. They were generic, which is standard these days. Thanks for considering So-n-So Agency, good luck in the future. A day earlier I returned from an independent book fair with at least fifty of my own books, none of which I was able to sell or give away. But not for the lack of trying. Turns out there was a large fee just to participate and a small fee to register, which sounded like the same thing though I could handle neither. I had to buy the books and pay for gas, counting on the profits to get home. Sometimes you have to take things you can’t pay for. That’s a different story. A judge will hear my side of it soon.

After coffee I dressed and packed my books in a canvas messenger bag. I removed a mahogany stained board from the bookshelf. Stacked Cain, Hammett and Chandler on the floor by the piano. Juggled what to call my cardboard sign­– Barnes and Mobile or Random Cart. The sun was just coming up when I left the building. My super was bundled up under a scarf, hosing at puke on the front door. The hookers were tired, looking for that last Benjamin. I went to the hardware store on the avenue but it was closed, opened at seven in forty-five minutes. Had my pick of seats at the diner next door, ate bacon and eggs, drank more coffee. Someone left behind a New York Post. Still hungry. A little nervous. Swallowed a grilled cheese with mash potatoes and gravy. More coffee. A columnist in the Post argued with himself about the correlation between illegal drugs and welfare. There was a similar correlation between golf and extramarital sex. That’s also a different story. When the hardware store opened I used a credit card to buy a small shopping cart. The urban kind an old lady might use for groceries.

I set up on the corner of 4th street and Washington Square Park, counting on foot traffic, including students and academics, as well an eclectic mix of junkies, hobos and tourists. I removed all my items from the cart and placed them on the sidewalk, trying to avoid gum and urine and a colony of aunts devouring an apple core. A man with an enthusiast’s camera stopped and waited to see what would result from the pieces I was assembling. The cart served as a platform for the mahogany shelf, which served as a table or display for my books. I unfolded the sign, revealing the title of my exhibit. “Barnes and Mobile, how clever,” the man with the camera said. “I bet you’ll get a lot of attention like that. Much success.” I hoped this stranger’s prediction was accurate. He disappeared into the park soon after taking a photo of me, brick wall as backdrop.

In the next hour only one man in a long coat stopped to look over my books. He had a spider tattooed on the web of his thumb and the many piercings in his ears had long closed up, leaving a deformity of pinched skin. He barely acknowledged me before opening a book. “I found a mistake,” he said. I acted surprised. I had also served as the editor. “Right here.” He pointed to a sentence, one I recognized, where I spelled ‘form’ instead of ‘from’. He closed the book and said, “You wrote this? You can’t have mistakes man. I’m a book seller down the street. I sell Hemingway and Burroughs and shit like that. No mistakes there. You can’t make mistakes. Why would someone read your books when they got mistakes instead of Hemingway books that got no mistakes?” I had no clear answer, besides, he was interfering with any chance I might have to make a buck. He shrugged off a request for his departure and kicked over my display, warning this turf was taken and he’s the only one gonna sell books around here.

Defeated, I collected my goods like a magician exposed and found a different spot on the opposite edge of the park. This corner was designated for chess players and others hoping to catch a nap on a chess table. I erected my display, repeating the same motions. Made sure it was sturdy– no one was kicking nothing this time. Within minutes familiar eyes behind Windsor glasses passed, stopped, then returned in rewind. “Brian,” he suggested. I recognized him of course. He was the most advanced member of a writer’s workshop I belonged to almost ten years previous, until he’d been accepted into Iowa’s creative writing graduate program. Everyone expected great things from him, though beneath their admiration there was terrible envy. I was indifferent. It seemed graduate schools treated writing as a craft while I hoped to be more of an entertainer. And here we are. “What are you doing?” he asked. I explained I was selling my own books and things were going well and why not after all New York is great and blah blah blah aint life swell. He said something about Holden Caulfield and Henry James, told me he was teaching short story writing at NYU, editing anthologies, and I should stop in sometime, meet his students, explain to them the Ups and Downs. I acknowledged I was unfamiliar with the Ups but the Downs I had covered. He congratulated me on my ambition and went his way, a wise old shoulder bag bouncing against his corduroy hip.

Afternoon clouds bullied the sun into a dark corner forcing the temperature to drop. A saxophone player joined me at one point and jazzed his version of Bird’s Autumn, eventually attracting his own revelers who soon noticed my books nearby. It was at this point, despite the sax’s sad croon and the day’s cold gray, several passersby began to show an interest in Barnes and Mobile. I explained my situation to curious nods. About the same time the sax began muffling the bops of Bird’s Solar, two uniformed police appeared, one finishing a hotdog the other a slice of pizza. “Can’t be here,” the one with the hotdog told me. “Not allowed.” I asked why not but the saxophone new the deal, packed up his gig, gone. “Against the law,” the pizza cop said. “Sorry. Gotta pick it up and go now.” I let out a sigh of discontent. “Hey,” the hotdog cop said, “Don’t catch a tude with us, get ya-self a permit.” I asked how I could go about that and he went on about Borough Hall and applications and waiting for the mail. They watched me dissemble the display and gather my things, ignoring a fight on the corner between two taxis, agreed that was Traffic’s problem. “You write these books?” The pizza cop asked. I admitted I was responsible for anything written within the 400 pages. The mistakes too. “How much you selling them for?” I told him ten bucks. He thought that was a lot. I forced the books into my messenger bag. People passing seemed more interested now that police were present. That gave me an idea I’d use in the future. But that’s a different story. I gave the cops a book each, thanked them, pushed my cart to the subway and went home.

Brian Wask is the founder of Tire Swing Press. You can find more about his books and music at Join the fan page on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jamie King Reviews Personality Traits: Self-Consciousness

Self-consciousness made its debut fairly early in the trait game, right around 3 or 4 years of age. Its early work was visceral, usually consisting of a simple awareness that there was poop in one’s pants, and that this was not okay. Self-consciousness could have remained this way, as a survival instinct, if not for the complications presented by 12 years of formal schooling. When anonymity is the goal, self-consciousness quickly becomes undesirable. In the conformist boot camp of high school, any awareness of the poop in one’s pants is excruciating not so much for its inherent health hazards as for the fact that it sets one apart from the surrounding poopless masses. Also it’s gross. I mean dude, seriously, come on.

In adulthood, self-consciousness becomes a two way street; a street that will occasionally host long, noisy parades dedicated to one’s shame and humiliation running in both directions. Like all traits, self-consciousness has its fans and its detractors. Proponents of self-consciousness often pride themselves on having total control over the way others perceive them. These people never allow themselves to “play the fool,” but would rather calculate every move by carefully predicting its outcome. In social situations, you may find them passing off lines from obscure books or movies as their own, putting off certain interactions until they feel comfortable with the ambient music, and strictly choreographing the way in which they pensively check (or pretend to check) their text messages.

Those who reject self-consciousness may enjoy a more carefree existence in exchange for the constant possibility of massive embarrassment and/or severe injury. Abandoning any sense of how one is perceived is a great way to free up mental time and energy for other things, such as generating actual accomplishments rather than cultivating the appearance of success. This devil-may-care attitude, however, puts one on a fine line between maverick and asshole, and those who eschew self-consciousness completely must be prepared to live their lives as some variety of mav-hole.

As with all traits, self-consciousness is best enjoyed in moderation. Some situations, such as a first date or job interview, lend themselves to high levels of self-consciousness, while others, such as Burning Man or a meth-fueled orgy, do not. The trick is finding what level of self-consciousness is right for you. If you are considering a career as a poet, robot, or department-store manikin, you might wish to give your self-consciousness a long leash. However, if your goals fall more along the lines of a reality TV show participant, sports fan, or the inventor of Twitter, self-consciousness will only stand in the way of your dreams.

On the trait-grading scale of one to ten, I give self-consciousness a solid seven. While it’s probably not going to land on anyone’s top ten traits list, its overriding influence on many other aspects of a personality cannot be disputed. Some people, who on occasion may find that a grating awareness of their own tousled nose hairs prevents them from mustering up the confidence necessary to order a sandwich, may wish that they could give up self-consciousness altogether, and return to the impetuous, free-spirited days of their early childhood. It’s hard to deny the appeal of living life without any backward glances, or peripheral vision for that matter, to slow you down. However, before succumbing to the regrets of a life observed versus a life truly lived, consider this: can anyone who stumbles blindly through the day, oblivious to their poo-choked Dockers ever be truly alive? Or are they rather, in the end, just kind of nasty?

Jamie King is a writer and comedian from Washington State, based in Brooklyn. Recently, his work has appeared online in McSweeney's Internet Tendency and onstage at The Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre, New York. More essays, videos, and propaganda can be found at

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chris Conroy: Small Fires

Can I tell you about the guy who was standing in front of me at the register?

I was in my car in the parking lot listening to the weather report—another blizzard pushing up from the south—when I saw him walk in the deli. He was the type most would keep their distance from; a camouflage jacket with the hood up hid some of the green tattoos painted on his yellow skinned face, his jeans were baggy and looked wet, he was without a car in a place where everyone owned one and—on a metaphysical level—the air around him was tense from things he had done or what things had done to him. Most would wait in their car for him to come out and leave before they went in, nothing positive could come from the possibility of interaction with him they would think, or simply would not even give him a thought, perhaps a meaningless phone call to a friend ("oh, nothing just thought I'd say hello...can you believe this weather...."), until the unconscious threat was gone.

I kept the engine running and went in for my lotto tickets, my hand catching the closing door my man had just opened. He was standing at the register like I said. It was just him me and the guy behind the counter. He ordered cigarettes and then turned around and our eyes met. I smiled at him. Tears were in his eyes. "My dad died yesterday," he said, "I thought last year was a bad year, and...and now this." The guy behind the counter was nervous, his large brown eyes not blinking. I said I was sorry to hear that. "Sorry to hear that." But he just stood there in front of me. He looked back at the clerk. "And now this," he said still standing there. The tattoos were bad—bad like the artwork sucked—snakes and letters and numbers and I wondered if there was any regret in them. There's always regret. Less is more with bad fucking tattoos and regret.

"Can you do me a favor?" He asked.

I looked at the clerk and then back at the question. "What?"

"Can you do me a favor?"

The clerk said here, here, I have a book of matches for you.

"What's the favor?" I almost called him boss.

"Punch me," he said. A tear rolled down his cheek slow like syrup.

I looked back at the clerk. "One mega and one pick six—quick pick." I put two bucks down and took the tickets and book of matches. "Follow me," I said to the guy and went outside.

I leaned up against the front of my idling car. The windows were fogged from the running heat; the vibration of news radio ran through me like a sermon heard from a hallway. I tossed him the book of matches. They landed at his feet.

"You smoke?"

"No." I watched him light the butt with a lighter he had inside his jacket. It took him awhile to get a flame going—click, click, click. And then a tiny light inside a hooded cave. Puff, puff, puff.

"What did he die of?" I asked him. "Your father."

"He just died. They called me up and said he's dead, your father passed they said. They told me where I had to go and when. That was all.”

I say nothing and then, "Where do you want me to hit you?"

"His name was Earl...he was an asshole," he says. "Can I have a few dollars to get something to eat?"

"Eat your cigarettes," I tell him. "Happy meal."

"What?" The wind kicks up and almost blows his hood down. He holds his hands over his head trapping the hood tight. "Fuck you," he says like a question, then: "FUCK YOU."

A snow flake melts on my knuckle. The sky is gray and the storm is here like dog shit in my nostrils, unmistakable, distinct, but not yet under my feet. There is so much more to the sense of smell than humans know. "Good," I tell him. "Fuck me."

"Your fucking tattoos," I tell him, "are terrible." I hold my hands out and the flakes melt into me, microscopic sculptures of art here and then gone in seconds, half seconds. "When was the last time you looked in the mirror? Do you know what you look like?" For a second I almost reconsider what I'm doing, but only for a second, this is not about me, or is it? I bring my arms back to my sides, the wetness dripping from them.

He starts walking away.

"Hey," I yell. "Where you going?"

He keeps walking.

I breathe in and then shout, "Your father killed himself because of you. Because of worthless you."

He stops.

"You're a fucking waste," I yell, "And Earl knew it. Couldn't live knowing it."

He turns and starts back to me.

I close my eyes and hold my hands out again. The snow, now fat and flaky, smacks my hands, my arms, my face…and then the knuckle, his hard cold knuckle to the side of my face, above the left eye, cracking me crooked like a sharp stone skimmed on calm waters. I keep my eyes closed for awhile waiting for another shot but nothing comes. All I see when I open them is a book of flaming matches glowing in a new storm.

Conroy's fiction has been published in several online and print publications, including Whetstone, Word Riot, Ward6 Review, Zingmagazine and The Hell Gate Review. Check out an excerpt from a fiction in progress--Quercus Alba--in the inaugural print issue of The Wanderlust Review, Feb 2010. Or drop him a line at

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brian Wask: The Changey We Hopey For

The following is a query I submitted to the magazine Christianity Today. I never heard back.

Dear Christianity Today,

I know you don’t publish books but your magazine was the first thing that came up when I Googled Christian Publications, and I got a good idea you might want to get behind. In the year 2010 Uganda will contemplate, and most likely consummate, a law sentencing homosexuals to death. According to blogger David Rattigan, “The bill is effectively a mandate for the genocide/mass slaughter/mass murder/wholesale execution – call it what you will – of gays.” I predict this is going to be big. The streets of the capital Kampala are already celebrating with signs like HOMOSEXUALITY IS UGLY AS THE DEVIL WICKED. Now gay Ugandans are going undercover while advocates scramble to toss water on the homophobes controlling legislation. But this is where my book will end. Unless of course it sells well and in that case we should publish a sequel. I’m sharing this idea with you because it’s Christian related and the submissions rules on your website suggests Christian related topics.

And listen to this. Christian kids will love it. Stephenie Meyer can’t write like this. I got a great piece of monolog from one of the main characters already in my head. He says this during a passionate plea to someone, not sure who yet. But he says, “My gay heart feels like it crawled out of my mouth, slithered along the dirty sidewalk and sunk into the gutter, rolled around in trash among body waste and used condoms from gay women, climbed out, filthy and broken and all slimy, pumped back up my muscular chest, into my mouth and nestled between my even gayer lungs.” If that line doesn’t sell you I don’t know what will. You put those words in Hugh Jackman’s mouth you got yourself an Avatar. I promise. Funny side note: This morning my neighbor Feo woke me to tell me he’s leaving to kidnap the preacher Pat Robertson, hoping to hold up production of the 700 Club. Before he left I suggested he might get better leverage with Jerry Springer. He disagreed. Last time we talked he was in Virginia. I called him a fool and a liar but he assured me a shovel was in the trunk. I’m starting to think he’s just a fool. It’s not so funny anymore. But a dead Pat Roberson is.

Sidetracked. Always happens. Happened to congress last week when Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, unexpectedly announced to the Senate Armed Service Committee, “Allowing homosexuals to serve openly would be the right thing to do.” But, it’s speculated, a lot of the Admiral’s parents’ showbiz friends were gay so that makes him bias. He went on to say, “I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.” Who they are. I’ve come to rely on the military for a few things but never for championing Gay Rights, and with such clarity and logic. Who they are. Those three words stand out for me. I think the Admiral is bias. It seems his parents and their Hollywood hegemonies had a positive influence on his prejudice. That’s possible, so what’s wrong with other people’s parents? To see John McCain’s reaction to Mullen’s statement you’d think the United States was in no position to move forward on any issues while at war with a culture that pushes walls over on suspected homosexuals. McCain thinks we should wait until everyone is ready. I don’t think you wait to do the right thing. Imagine if he became President, with Palin the Punchline as his sidekick. Instead of progress we’d be suffixing our words like a corny couple– changey hopey, smoochie poochie– and talking about converting homosexuals back to the way God made them. That idea scares me more than any Underpants Bomber. You can expect a debate on the issue soon. They had the same kind of debate in 1948, when Harry Truman decided to racially integrate the American military. Conservatives thought that was a bad idea and predicted it would lower morale and ultimately destroy the nation. You following me?

Anyway, back to the book, it should start with a small group of American Missionaries who go to Uganda to spread the word about homosexuality’s dark agenda, its followers hell bent on sodomizing cattle and drinking the blood of straight babies. One of these missionaries is a pastor, who, like a lot of pastors, teaches people who hate themselves to hate others instead. The pastor admits he was gay once but he’s not gay anymore. He’s back with his wife and they even plan to make another baby, so they tell the large crowd gathered in Kampala, a few kind eyes buried beneath the anger. And the crowd roars because one thing gays can’t do is make babies. Or can they? This is where the story takes a huge turn for the better. I swear I guarantee a Pulitzer or an Oscar or a wedding ring for this one. Because the pastor is pregnant… and he’s a man. Go ahead, catch your breath. If you’re anything like me you can see the mechanic from Wings wearing a prosthetic belly and delivering one of the best monologues in cinematic history. He was in Sideways too. I forget his name, but the Oscar goes too… that guy. Good luck Crazy Heart 2.

You get the idea. I can’t explain the book any better. Or the movie, whatever you think will turn a better profit. No doubt both will. Only a retard like that guy on that cable news network would argue otherwise. Imagine, I can see the hardcover edition cradled in the arms of America’s greatest patriots, between Sara Palin’s Going Rogue and Joe the Plumber’s Fighting For the American Dream. Why not, let’s name it Going Rogue While Fighting For the American Dream. I’m going to cry. I hope you’re as happy as I am. This event will feel like a rusty screw-jack turning into the bottom of a liberal’s left foot. Hello champagne. Getting stinking rich feels good, especially when no one else is. Oh, a little something else to think about, maybe another book. George Washington, the first president, gay as Mr. Brady. Swear.