Welcome to the Teeming Brain
Hello and welcome to The Teeming Brain! My name is Matt Cardin and the brain in question is my own, which indeed teems with thoughts, impressions, and creative impulses. This blog is a tool that I’ve created to help me glean it.
By way of introducing myself—and this information is of course archived on the “About Matt Cardin” page— I’m a writer with two books to my credit: the short fiction collection Divinations of the Deep (2002) and the novella The God of Foulness (2004). Both are horror fiction. A third fiction collection, titled Dark Awakenings, is tentatively planned for early 2007. I also write scholarly papers, essays, and reviews, and am fairly well known amongst a certain subcommunity of readers for my writings about contemporary horror author Thomas Ligotti. I have a master’s degree in religious studies from Missouri State University and have therefore written a number of substantial papers dealing with religious and philosophical matters.
In addition to my writing, I’m a musician and composer with twenty-seven years of experience as a pianist and keyboardist. Presently I’m in the late stages of recording an album of instrumental music that I plan to release some time in the next twelve months. It will feature nearly an hour’s worth of music representing various forms and genres—classical, New Age, electronica, rock, heavy metal, and maybe more. Much of it is informed by my twin emotional attachments to horror fiction and film and an atmosphere of unredeemed melancholy. Aided and inspired by some very helpful input from Jason Van Hollander, the award-winning fantasy and horror artist who is providing cover art for the album, I’ve decided to name my musical project, i.e., my one-man “band,” Dæmonyx (pronounced “Demonics”), for reasons that I’ll soon explain here at this blog. The album itself will be titled “Curse of the Daimon.” I’ll eventually be sharing the titles of the individual songs, notes about their inspirations, and a few mp3 samples here at The Teeming Brain. I may even give away a free CD or two.
Beyond all that, since the early 1990s I’ve kept a private journal in which I conduct an often-agonized philosophical conversation with myself. Three years ago I selected and edited portions of this journal to create a book-length work, portions of which were published just last month in a book titled In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing from Impassio Press. Much or most of my journal writing has been prompted by thoughts and feelings in response to the books I read, films I watch, and music I listen to, and I’ll probably end up sharing some of that here.
Finally, tangential to my real interests as described above, I pursue a hobby, which also happens to take up most of my daylight hours and serve as my primary source of income, of teaching English language arts to high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Given that this not only depletes much of my time and energy but also provides a great deal of fertile fodder for culture-oriented rants, I’ll probably have some things to say about that part of my life. Most of it will not be positive.
The Teeming Brain is effectively an expansion of a blog I started in October 2005 titled Confessions of a Conflicted Cultural Skeptic. At the time I created that one, I was caught in the grip of a stronger-than-average eruption of disgust at the insanity of contemporary American, Western, and world culture as evinced by everything from television to politics to the book publishing industry. This was abetted by the fact that I was reading Morris Berman’s The Twilight of American Culture at the same time that I was preparing to lead four sections of sophomore students through Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Berman’s 2000 book proved to be a searing and convincing diagnosis of late-stage cultural decline, while Bradbury’s, for its part, although it had long been one of my favorites, startled me all over again with its scarifyingly accurate depiction—fifty years ahead of the fact—of the cultural dystopia that America has largely become in this 21st century of the Common Era. I used Confessions of a Conflicted Cultural Skeptic to conduct a few extended rants inspired by my then-current state of mind.
But I soon realized that I had limited myself by framing the blog exclusively in terms of that state, which, when it comes over me, consists largely of a combined attitude of rage, disgust, and despair. For instance, it occurred in January that I wanted to write something in response to a religious question I had received from a student, but the parameters of my blog didn’t quite accept that. Similarly, for several years I’ve been increasingly interested in the apocalypse-level issues of peak oil, global warming, American culture-death, and the impending world financial crisis, but that, too, was properly excluded from my blog as I had framed it.
So while Confessions of a Conflicted Cultural Skeptic will continue to exist over at Blogger, I will no longer be updating it. Instead, I’ll incorporate a few of its posts into the categories I plan to create here, and will then use this broader format to pursue not only that particular tangent of cultural angst, but also many of the other subjects that interest me as well. The categories here at The Teeming Brain will eventually expand to include Books & Authors, Movies, Music, Philosophy & Religion, Writing & Publishing, Apocalypse Watch, Rants & Such, of course Dæmonyx.
Regarding the title I’ve chosen, the expression “teeming brain” comes from a famous poem by the English Romantic poet John Keats in which he expressed his “fears that I may cease to be / Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain.” In other words, he was saying that he felt himself so fertile with unexpressed thoughts, emotions, and impressions that he was afraid he might die before he had had the chance to write down everything that was demanding to be written. I sometimes share this sentiment; hence, my loose borrowing of Keats’s wonderfully evocative term. I’m one of those unfortunate types who is saddled with a volcanically active intellectual, emotional, and imaginative life that I frequently squander due to a lack of time, opportunity, and quite often the sheer will to bring all of it out into the open instead of letting it rot and die inside me. Thus, as stated above, I’ve created this blog as one modest effort among several others to help me glean my teeming brain before it kills me. (Incidentally, I also like the term “teeming brain” because it conjures up a vague image of a brain or psyche that’s bristling with bizarre, half-formed organisms like schools of mutant fish shimmering and struggling for dominance in psychic space. Or at least that’s one connotation it has for me personally. Chalk it up to my long-running love affair with the writings and persona of H.P. Lovecraft and a few other relevant horror writers.)
As I close this first post, I’m sensing the arising of a question on the part of you, the reader, and so I’ll go ahead and be helpful by stating it for you: “Why should I or anybody else care about any of this? What sort of deep-seated vanity has led this Matt Cardin guy to conceive, let alone to execute, a blatantly narcissistic plan like this one?” By way of deflection, I can’t help but think back to a clever and related moment from an episode of that late, lamented, short-lived television series from the early 1990s, Key West (which was really just an attempt by another network to create a clone of CBS’s hit Northern Exposure) that goes something like this: The lead character, played by the ever-amusing Fisher Stevens, asks permission from his editor at the local newspaper to start writing a weekly column focusing on human interest stories. “You know,” he clarifies, “for insights, impressions. Stuff like that.” His editor responds, “Why do you think anybody gives a diddly about your insights?” Stevens pauses for an uncertain moment, and then says, “Well . . .” To which his editor replies, “Good answer.”
But to return to this point, why indeed have I created this blog? Aside from the fact that blogs are presently multiplying at such a blinding rate that it seems they’ve become a kind of cultural imperative, if not a full-blown requirement for citizenship in the Information Society, there’s the fact that I don’t entirely agree in all cases, at all times, with the otherwise sage advice given so brusquely and obliquely by the editor of the Key West Meteor. This is because most of my greatest satisfactions and even exhilarations in life have come from discovering that my own deepest, most personal insights and observations have been shared and expressed by someone else. Essentially, I take what Tom Ligotti identified as the sole authentic consolation of fictional horror in his indispensable essay “The Consolations of Horror” and expand it to apply to life as a whole: “This, then, is the ultimate, that is only, consolation: simply that someone shares some of your own feelings and has made of these a work of art which you have the insight, sensitivity, and—like it or not—peculiar set of experiences to appreciate.”
If it should so happen that something I say in text or music, that some thought, emotion, or idea that I express in a journal entry, short story, song, or rant, ends up invoking that same sense of identification in somebody else—perhaps you? — and that it perhaps helps to solidify and sharpen your own thoughts and feelings about the matter, then the question will have answered itself. Or maybe you’re somebody who just shares some or all of my interests and will be interested to see, read, and hear what I have to say about them. I know I’ll certainly be interested to read your own words if you choose to comment or if you have a blog of your own. And although the present post may seem to belie it, I’ll aver now that instead of uploading gargantuan posts very infrequently as I did at my last blog, I plan to post more concise ones and do it on a regular basis, probably several times per week. (Of course, I’m on summer break from teaching right now. We’ll see what happens when school resumes in August and the slow pressure-cooking of my spirit begins again.)
In any event, that’s the purpose of this blog. It’s an ongoing transmission of gleanings from my teeming brain to yours.
An explanation of the name Dæmonyx and my reasons for applying it to my musical activities.