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Monday, October 25, 2010

SL ARTS & LITERATURE: The World of Crap Mariner

How to describe R. Crap Mariner ?: Writer, Broadcasters, Actor, Satirist, Gadfly. I sit staring at the pages of material I have amassed trying to figure out precisely where to begin. Outside the wind howls, the rain pelts against the windows, and the trees rustle and sway. I give up and take a nap. Crap would appreciate that. Two hours later, I am back at it . . . Crap is simply unlike anyone I have ever met in my entire life. He is a creative force of nature: abstract random with a purpose. Crap Mariner always makes my head spin, and leaves me wondering what just hit me.
An experiment in windup clockwork servants gone horribly wrong, self proclaimed "Idiot-In-Chief "Crap Mariner lives in a massive tree in the center of Edloe Island, one of the Five Islands group of sims in Second Life. He’s not as much a virtual content developer as he is a virtual malcontent developer, sharing his opinions with the masses. (And if you're really nice, he'll tell you some of his 100 word stories before tossing you out of the airlock.). The brain behind the keyboard has been writing a 100 word story a day for over five years, and has developed quite a following of those who follow his example of writing discipline, those who appreciate the economy of a story told in 100 words, and those who marvel at the strange paths that Crap's compositional mind wanders.

Crap is a storyteller. He writes and records stories every day for the 100 Word Stories Podcast. Runs a website and assorted other internet connectors as well as The Weekly Challenge where people can submit stories based on the chosen topic and then compete to pick the next topic. If you go to the Clocktree on Edloe Island, Crap has an in-world book that will read the most recent story in open chat. Come by there at 5PM SLT on Wednesdays for live readings of his stories. Visiting his website is a portal into a vast iceberg of compositional creativity. Crap is provocative, edgy, confrontational, sentimental (Caledonia burns her thesaurus in frustration). Crap Mariner is a verb, and that verb is “To Express.” You may not agree with what he expresses, you may not even like it, but there is no denying the honesty and the wit in what he has to say. I have attended enough of Crap’s readings to know there is an undeniable fascination to them and, like the proverbial moth to the flame, if you flutter away without your wings being a little singed you were simply not paying attention.

In the moments between the Seanchai Library performances Dracula, in which Crap is playing “Jonathan Harker” I asked him a few questions about the World of Crap:

Have you always written?

“Yes, but I've never taken it too seriously, even when it ended up paying. It's not my dayjob. But I do get my share of rejection notices among the contracts and requests for pieces in this or that outlet under various names.

“You know, recently, the writer James Ellroy said to Time Magazine that people interesting in writing need to read, read, read, read, read, read, and read some more.  I feel like I've got more reading to do before really taking things seriously. Check back with me when I'm fifty or sixty, maybe seventy.”

What inspired you to take on the 100 word stories as a personal project?

“A long time ago, on an early online mailing list of alumni and friends, a friend of mine challenged himself to write one hundred 100 word stories. I wrote a few silly ones about Abraham Lincoln, which were inspired by a Woody Allen play in one of his books, obsessing on the phrase ‘How long must a man's legs be? Long enough to reach the ground.’

“They sat and gathered dust for a few years, then some other friends created a site called 100 Words Or Les Nessman where each participant would have to write a 100 word story every day or write about Les Nessman (a character from the WKRP sitcom).

“Right about then, podcasting was starting to take off, and I was a part of a lot of different ensemble podcasts, such as IMAO.us, The Dodgeblogium, Shire Network News, and others. So, looking for something to record and post on my own, I ended up recording and posting my stories.

“Eventually, I settled into a less-than-frantic pace of 1 story a day, although I made exceptions for continuing Honest Abe's bizarre adventures based on various quotes.  I was told that the recently-passed Daisyblue Hefferman, ever the Lincoln-purist, was somewhat aghast at this wacko project, and that always saddened me.  I respected and still respect her very much and wish she could have gotten a chuckle at it.

“Then, the Les Nessman site fell apart, so people wanted a place to write their own stories, and I opened things up on my site (and podcast) so they could write and record them. Eventually, that became The Weekly Challenge, where I'd post a topic and they'd have a week to write about it. That's been going on for over five years, and there's over 2500 episodes up on the site from me and various other authors. I think there's been over 100 contributors at various times and lengths of stay.

“It's just a fun thing to do, and even though it feels like a ‘I gotta get up and make the donuts’ kinda thing sometimes, there's always a weird idea right around the corner to spark a story for the day. I like doing them, and I think I've gotten pretty not-too-sucky at it after five years. But I have a long way to go before I get to 'fails-to-suck' or, God willing, 'halfway-decent.'”

What do you derive from the writing? Inspiration? Expression? Venting?

“A little of each and everything I suppose, although I try to keep the 100 word stories project narrowed to creative expression, and my walking-home mad rambles on Cinchcast as the daily brain-dump.

“I recently did a performance of what I thought were my ten best on 10-10-10, each with something special and twisted and yet complete and whole in just 100 words. (I'd share that list with you, but it's not 10-10-10. Ask me again in 2110.)”

Crap Mariner is someone who uses writing as a means to unlock the debris of his day and make something useful from it. Odd thoughts and events become literary journeys. There is no “box” to contain Crap other than the stricture of a 100 word limit. He phrases his wild, unleashed imaginative style as having a "Hey, I wonder what's around the corner?" feel to it, stepping off the beaten path and wandering into the shadows.

If you were recommending this idea . . . the idea of writing something everyday, even something small . . . what would you say to recommend it?

”Oh, wow. I used to beg, plead, and whine at everyone I knew to just give it a try, what's it going to do, kill you? C'mon, you wimp... just try... try... TRY IT! Some folks in Second Life have given it a shot: many of the Five Islanders (the collection of more than five sims I'm responsible for), a few musicians I know, some other storytellers on the grid, other podcasters, and so on.

“It's an opportunity to just go ‘What the heck’ and just dash something off... you know, like June Stormcrow does with her daily dashes on Milk Wood. Just throw something together on a whim, and then cut it down … sandpaper it to something complete later. (Look her up on Twitter and do the dashes. It'll spark ideas, get you started.)

“Skylar Smythe is leading a group through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way and Julia's a strong proponent of writing Morning Pages, or daily brain dumps. It's a great way to get things out of your mind and on to the page, then you can read through them and get familiar with when your ‘Inner Critic’ kicks in and tells you that you're no good, your writing sucks, and so on.

“I'd say this is a way of getting something on paper every day, whether it's based on something that happened to you, a friend, or something you daydreamed on the way to work or suffering through a conference call. A form of verbal doodle, I suppose. Then stick it in Word or Draftpad on your iPhone, and shave it down or boost it up to 100 words... or 150... or whatever you want it to be. I chose 100 because, well, it's what I chose and I'm sticking to it.”

Any big projects or ideas on the horizon?

“I guess you could call the 100 Word Stories podcast a big project, only because it's been going for over five years and has built up over time, story by story. I'm not planning on going nuts with iPhone or Droid apps for it, bum-rushing local open mike reading events in poetry slams and such, or building sims with immersive presentations and depictions of the stories or anything. Too lazy for that kind of thing, you know? Just one story a day, gather up others for the Weekly Challenges, and share them every week with folks that want to come by the Clocktree on Wednesdays.

“Matthew Perreault and I do a Voice-Streaming tag-team kinda thing in the coffeehouse at Chilbo once a month. I love his nerdpop sad-sack music and I think my stories have amused him now and then, so it's a good fit. And every so often, I pen up a Linden Home Companion parody of Garrison Kellior geared towards the grid and all the drama that goes on with the Lab.

“It's no secret that I'm the writer behind SecondLie on Twitter, and Twitter's great for throwing up microthoughts on a moment's notice. The moment the Lab does something dumb or screws something up, I drop into a three-point stance and think ‘Okay, what's funny about this?’ and then watch for the ball to snap. GO GO GO GO GO!

SecondLie has expanded into a show/featurette/newsbreak on Treet.tv called The Grid's Honest Truth. Zen Paine does an incredible job turning my audio blither into an amazing video production, and he deserves a medal or three for that. The guy's good, and I'm glad that Wiz and texas and the other Treeters goaded us into getting something put together for them.

SecondLie is also going to be doing something with his new Church of SecondLientology in the Chilbo community. Not sure what, but I miss the old Church of Elvis goofiness on Sundays and I'm sure I'll come up with something.

“I'm sure there's more to come... I'm like a retarded kitten in a yarn factory sometimes, and if I'm not rolling on the floor with the tailings, I'm bound to get caught in the machinery eventually MRAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOW! *crunch*”

That’s Crap Mariner. And I just got to do something few dare to do, I edited him … just a little. I hope I did him justice, having wound him up and pretty much turned him loose.  But that’s the wonder if Crap: I never know, cannot anticipate where he’s going with his stories and his many projects. But I hop on for the ride gladly because he inevitably takes me somewhere I would not have gone on my own. That’s truly is Crap Mariner: He’s a trip worth taking. Take the first step through the looking glass at http://firstlife.isfullofcrap.com/.


~Caledonia Skytower, Reporting
"Any ink is good ink, even if it is virtual"
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