Monday, November 07, 2011

Draw the Line

This weekend I was lucky enough to have a world-class artist in attendance at my latest karaoke gig. She's Kelly Toon, which is apparently her real name. You can check her out here.

As I jammed with my partner in rhyme, Travis (I believe we were doing Aerosmith's "Last Child" at the time), she sketched this great caricature:

Pretty talented, right? According to her Website,, you can hire her for professional work including illustrations, airbrushing, face painting and caricatures.

She also sounds just like June Carter Cash.

Travis says that caricature is the best thing that has ever happened to him. Pretty sure he just stares at it all day.

Oh! And, since you're dying to know, the rest of our setlist:

"The Other Side" (Aerosmith)

"All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" (Hank Jr.)

"I'm Down" (The Beatles)

"Last Child" (Aerosmith)

"Katmandu" (Bob Seger)

"What It Takes" (Aerosmith)

"Love In an Elevator" (Aerosmith)

(We like Aerosmith.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Short Stories That Will Rip Your Guts Out

My first semester of grad-school creative writing is in the books (see what I did there?). Here is a list of my favorite short stories I read this time out. Each of these made my jaw (or a tear) drop.
  • "At Night" — Andre Dubus in Dancing After Hours. This story is only four paragraphs, about a wife whose husband dies next to her in bed at night. The last sentence killed me.
  • “Honesty” — Ron Rash in Chemistry and Other Stories. At the suggestion of his wife, a struggling professor answers the personals ad of a young mother whose felon husband has vowed to kill her when he gets out of jail. The way she tells this story — and the things the professor realizes about himself--are tough to take.
  • “Knockemstiff” — Donald Ray Pollock in Knockemstiff. A man who lives with regrets because he didn't shoot a rabbit with his dad when he was 6 gets one final chance to tell the girl he loves how he feels before she moves to Texas with another man.
  • “A Temporary Matter” — Jhump Lahiri in Interpreter of Maladies. A husband and wife who have avoided each other since a shared tragedy make regular dates in their apartment when the city shuts off their electricity for one hour on five straight days. Eventually, they start telling each other secrets. The last secrets they tell are brutal. Here's the whole story.
  • “Bullet in the Brain”—Tobias Wolff in The New Yorker. A critic gets himself killed during a bank robbery because he can't stop being a critic. The story starts out funny, but the sequence where you see his final thoughts, including a flashback to when he fell in love with the language he now criticizes, is breathtaking. You can actually listen to the story by clicking the link.
  • “Everything in This Country Must” — Colum McCann, in Everything in This Country Must. A father and daughter in Northern Ireland are struggling to save a horse from drowning and receive unwelcome assistance from British soldiers — the same army that accidentally killed the daughter's mother and brother. In this case, most of the soldiers seem to mean well, but the father just can't bear to benefit from their help.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Promises: Darn Hard to Keep!!!

Writing new stuff is a lot of work, so here's a column about Lent I wrote 10 years ago. --J.B.From the College Heights Herald, March 15, 2001

By Jacob Bennett

Gosh dang it, this is harder than I thought!

I stopped cussing for Lent--you know, the Catholic holiday where people prepare their souls for Easter by giving up stuff--and it's kicking my behind.

It's hard as all get out to think of stuff to give up, since it's supposed to be something you really love. I'd rather give up nothing than be like my hell-bent friends and give up something silly like broccoli or homework.

Geewillickers, I don't do my homework anyway.

Giving up cussing was my Get Out of Hell Free Card, because not only do I love doing it, it's supposed to be bad for you. It'd be killing two proverbial birds with one proverbial stone.
But I've never realized how daggum much I cuss. I have to stop myself every couple of minutes because -- son of a biscuit eater -- I'm a little south of profanity.

In fact, about two minutes into Ash Wednesday, this guy said he was going to, uh, know my mother in a Biblical way, and I lost control and implied that he was born out of wedlock.

When I realized I'd broken my Lenten promise, I immediately started swearing. I felt like a big wiener.

Since then it's been a constant battle to rinse my salty language, especially when you consider that I pretty much hate everybody and everything.

I've been using the Seven Words You Can Always Say on Television: shoot, heck, dang, darn, gosh, golly and relations.

The other day I sang a great rendition of Kid Rock's "American Bad Tush."

I went into a relapse when I heard Aerosmith's new CD, and I kept saying bad things to the effect of "Tarnation! That's a jolly good song."

They're gonna bleep it anyway.

Lent loopholes say you can partake in whatever you gave up on Sundays, and one girl who gave up cookies even suggested we get together Sunday for "cookies and cussin'."

I might even drop that bloody habit after Lent, and just use PG language.

It's kinda fun to come up with creative ways to express my bitterness at my life choices, and it even helps my chances of not going to the devil's house.

But I'll probably go back to cussing like a sailor that got stung by a jellyfish.


Columnist Jacob Bennett wants to hug you like an animal; he wants to feel you from the outside. He wants to hug you like an animal; his whole existence is flawed. Get closer to him at