Monday, October 5, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Went to get a beer in Oakland

Nine o'clock, Sunday night, wanted a beer. I live in Oakland and the nearest good liquor store is a mile away. It's night, it's Oakland, that's a drive.

Two blocks from my house, police cars are blocking the street straight ahead and to my left, the two directions I want to go. A cop on foot is waving a flashlight. Charades with police, my favorite sport. I turn off the car stereo and roll down my window. The cop meanwhile has stepped forward, eager to send my oblivious ass on its way.

"Where do you want me to go?" I ask.

He could speak now but is apparently too deep into his role as a mime. He points, waves the flashlight. I turn my car to the right. "Thank you."

"You betcha," he says, speaking now that I no longer need him to.

I take a left at the next corner, head down the street to the main intersection. Where there are more cops, blocking the road to the left, the one direction I need to go. I take a right, drive four blocks to the next major street, take another right, drive four more blocks until taking one more right puts me on a major street behind all the action, drive four more blocks and take another right that goes half a mile until I'm at the street three blocks from my house where I was initially headed.

From there it's smooth sailing. A left turn and I'm less than a mile from my liquor store.

Knowing all the road blocks, I took a different route on the way back. What a hassle for one beer. Good thing I was already drunk when I started.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oh dear, is that black man the President?

I would love to see something about President Barack Obama that doesn't involve race. But Obama isn't the one who initiates race as the context. He is a man who has been given the task of fixing everything broken by his ridiculously inept predecessor. He's trying to choose his battles, because the Bush administration did not leave four years of problems, or even eight. But before Obama can even enter battle he meets flack that has nothing to do with the issues. This may happen with every president, but this is the first time we've elected a black man who is supposed to be our saviour.

It is impractical to try to remove the racial aspects from the attacks against and the defenses of the president. It is absurd to suggest that all these attacks would be taking place if he were white.

I think it's also safe to say that a lot of people would feel worse about being saved by a black man than by being failed by a white man.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Finished First Draft of Novel

And it's soon to be a big budget motion picture near you. I wrote a damn action novel, an attempt to convince myself I could write something straightforward without a million subplots/flashbacks. And in those terms I've succeeded, although it needs some fleshing out and I changed the setting of the last scene while I was writing it so I need to go back and fix that. Tons of things that need fixing, actually, but that's the nature of the beast.

Unlike anything else I've ever written, I assume this will get published once I fix it up. It has film and video game potential - the whole story is basically a first person shooter, then at the end shit blows up. Oh, and there's a love story, which isn't written very well at the moment, but will be tied in neatly when I rewrite. I mean, that's a piece of cake - I have experience with love succeeding and failing. The trick is making all the international espionage play out. And I think I'm pretty close to having that. And there's actually an important but not prominent character who could be the lead in a sequel that would not even be the same type of book.

It's fun writing what I don't know how to write and turning it into what I do know how to write, but turning it because I'm learning how to write more ways.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Swill 4 On Sale Now!

Sean wrote an excellent post about the new issue of Swill. As the editor-in-chief of this magazine, I gotta say I'm very proud of our first three issues but issue four is, in the words of Captain Beefheart, "the best batch yet."

There are excerpts from each story, from this issue and each of the previous issues, on the Swill website. The story order for this issue was like a music mix- there was never any question of one story being better than another, the question was always what segued best.

Having decided to open with a noir/horror/science fiction comedy, what type of story follows that best? Thank you John Shirley, a fine opening story and very difficult to label. Which was one of the reasons to open with it; it seemed like any of the other stories could follow it smoothly.

After that the ensuing stories could reasonably be labeled, in order: crime, horror, noir, wacked-out surrealist comedy, noir, fantasy/horror. Out of that batch Craig Hartglass's comic story about a day at the mall with Paul Bowles and Jack Kerouac clearly stood out in terms of "one of these things is not like the others." And we like things that aren't like the others.

We also like the others: W.G. Kelly, Steve Young, Brian Haycock, fine writers who gave us fine stories. Sean and I are also pleased with our own creepy little tales in this issue.

Last night one of the things Sean and I agreed on was that although the new issue is better than the first, the first had a diversity to the types of stories that we would like to have again. Clearly we like certain types of genre writing and see them as literary, but that doesn't mean we dislike mainstream literature. That is, we dislike the boring shit, regardless of genre. Anyway, the website contains my Swill manifestos (they're the back cover text from issues 1 and 2).

The main thing right now: we love this issue, check it out.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Blurry eyed sobriety? Hell, I know a cure for that

ooh look, there was a blank unaddressed email in my "Drafts." guess i was in the middle of saying nothing to no one and got interrupted. now, taking up where i left off...

god, maybe i should send this to everyone. i'm basically waiting for one file from sean then i update the swill website; i could recreate it from the version i have and i will if it's close enough (i have a hardcopy to compare to.) then our big deal issue 4 will be available to our hordes of followers next week; i'm posting July 24 as the release date - that's friday and i'll be mailing out authors' copies saturday.

so freaking tired right now, and i get up early all next week to open the store. which won't, of course, affect me going to writers group at 7:30 tuesday - hell, that tends to energize me, just means i'll be tired wednesday. if i can just make my brain work while i'm tired...

i think the house fire may have something to do with my fatigue. i know it did the night it happened, kind of hard to sleep while wondering if maybe the fire department missed something, even though they have these cool mri cameras that look behind the wood - i've read too much science fiction to have faith in technology. i guess if i read the front part of the newspaper i could have had the same response.

things not to do: don't let your house catch on fire. don't lose your best employee while your second best employee is on vacation (he's not leaving yet and she'll be back before he's gone, and i recommended him for the management job in our company - again, i think it's doing this shit the same week the house catches fire.) oh, and if your house does catch fire, don't let it fuck up any doors so they don't shut right, because then you don't know whether insurance will pick up the tab if you get the door fixed before your claim is processed - basically, i'm making this door workable without knowing what that entails but i pay enough in premiums and they're no doubt going up, i'd better get every fucking penny's worth out of this. also, avoid doing all these things in a shitty economy when you're about to launch a personal project and you want to do everything possible in terms of marketing.

good news is, i have a copy of swill 4 in front of me and it looks fucking great. one fucking typo and it's already been corrected, we print from the corrected file start of next week.

ok, this was going to be a deeply personal email to a close friend of mine but god knows who so we're going with this, all you close personal friends who make your way here. but if you happen to make it past the blog and all the way to my house, the two drink minimum applies only to me, you may leave as much alcohol behind as you like. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Got Home Tonight And Our House Was No Longer On Fire

But I couldn't park on my own block due to the fire trucks. The fire department had the thing out before it did much damage, mostly an outside wall, and a few minutes later they were done being dashing with us and out front giving hats and badges to the neighbor kids.

Thing is, I'd originally gotten home a couple hours before. Susan was home and I hadn't had lunch and was starving and it smelled like the neighbors were starting a barbeque. They have a decent number of them, and it did seem to me it was smelling like coals a long time without there being any smell of meat. But I was tired and didn't take much notice, had to go pick up Nate after awhile.

When Nate and I got back we were almost to our house when I realized I couldn't make it down the block in the car. Nate asked what was going on and I said it was probably one of the elderly people on the block had a heart attack or something. Nate wanted to take a shower right away so he got out and walked while I turned the car around and parked a block away.

It was only when I got close that I saw a fireman walking down from our driveway, and the big truck was angled right at our house. There wasn't any visible smoke but my wife was home alone. We have smoke detectors and a smoke alarm inside, but I walked damn quick to the first fireman I saw, waved my keys and pointed at the house.

Well, I was told right away that the fire was out and no one was hurt. Apparently a neighbor had seen the smoke outside, called the fire department and knocked on our door in case anyone was home. Thank you, Eve. Thank you, Oakland Fire Station # 8.

Apparently the fire was started by a smoldering cigarette butt in a planter pot on our back deck. I told Susan, it would be safer if she drank instead of smoked.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

How To Feed The Child Molesters

To each other, of course.

So, my new thought is, we catch all the pedophiles, don't feed them for a few days, and give them pictures of each other both as adults and as children then truck them all into an outdoor stadium and leave them a few days without supervision. Just armed security outside so no one slips out for more easily purchased meat.

Eat up, boys. Afterward, the janitors would receive combat pay.

Can O' Worms, or, I See Your Guilt and Double It

I felt good that I felt bad about the guy with the missing leg, but I felt bad that I felt good about it.

Guilty without being charged, your honor – I’d done nothing to cause the man’s condition, nor had anyone suggested I had. It was a ‘there but for the grace of God’ moment except I don’t believe in God, although I suppose if there were one, he she or it would be quite graceful. I on the other hand had felt self-congratulatory for what should have been a normal sympathetic reaction.

I couldn’t just feel sorry, I had to feel good that I felt sorry. And I couldn’t even stop there, my ego had to scream for more attention so it could blame me for feeling good.

Sometimes my brain is like a ball of dirt rolling down a mountain of shit until the ball is as vast as the mountain had been. There aren’t flies big enough to eat me away.

No wonder I drink. Flush this down. But the guilt never washes away, it just gets pushed out of reach. And what do I have to feel guilty about? Oh lord oh lord oh lord (the egotistical atheist replaces prayer with talking to himself.) It’s not as though there’s any pleasure I feel like I deserve.

Just that I want it. With a lack of satisfaction guaranteed. That is, I will feel consummate pleasure while the pleasure is being consummated, or until it has been consumed, but when it is done there is nothing left. The act itself, whether sex or drinking, may at its conclusion leave me with a momentary sense of well-being, but that moment passes and is soon replaced by pain or absence. Which leaves me needing more at a time when I can’t have it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thoughts About the film Being There

It's been awhile since I've seen it, but the movie Being There returns to my thoughts fairly often. What's written here contains spoilers and assumes the reader has seen the movie. It brings up some subjects peripheral to the movie itself that I think are interesting, but hey, it's a great movie, people should see it regardless.

The thing about the character Chance in Being There is not that he is a Christ figure, as implied in the film, but that he is like a Christ figure compared to the rest of us. Our intellectual and political icons (icons meaning the ones who’ve been publicized thus heard of) do not necessarily take the time to consider issues any more deeply than does Chance, and may rely on the quick “briefings” provided by television rather than the more time intensive articles printed in newspapers. The difference is that Chance admits to being molded by pop culture, (well, not in so many words, because he can only talk about what he understands, which is virtually nothing), which is of course what makes him adored by the masses: he seems to be one of us, but because he is seen as someone of importance each of his simple words is extrapolated into something of greater import.

Much of the story is about metaphors and symbolism: everything Chance says about the garden is treated as a metaphor (especially for the economy), and the story becomes about not what actually occurs but about how it is interpreted, both by the masses and by those in power. Chance is not Christ by any means—he is a fucking idiot, and if he is our Savior we are most likely doomed. But here Kosinski takes his stab at religion in general, for its inflating of conceivably inconsequential figures into Godlike ones–we know that Chance is not godly, but as he is treated that way he is eventually portrayed that way.

Is Kosinski then suggesting that those treated as Gods may eventually grow into such? Or, as a child who survived the holocaust and the megalomania that led to it, is his suggestion instead that people will believe anything and are fully capable of seeing any moron as God? The sheer cynicism of this would be easy to accept if not for the fact that Chance’s grand messianic moment occurs without an audience. It may instead be a moment in which a man, who by luck has been perceived to possess far greater attributes than he actually does, continues to not acknowledge the greatness that is an aspect of himself. And that lack of acknowledgement is a large part of what makes him admirable; his wisdom may be specific and not applicable to the rest of his life, but what really makes it wisdom is that it does not color his view of himself. Indeed, he seems to have no view of himself.

To a large degree this is a story about a man without ego dropped into a world rife with ego, and how that world embraces this stranger. Of course, they are embracing him because they are assuming things about him that are untrue, they see areas in which he is inept as areas in which he is superior, because they do not understand him to such an extreme that they fail to see how little there is to understand. And there is almost no doubt that there is something wishful to this aspect of the general concept: Kosinski was no mainstream socializer, was prone to hiding under tables at dinner parties.

Kosinski also knew a great deal about how fortuitous chance could be – he was supposed to be an overnight guest at the home of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate the night that Tate was murdered, but his flight missed its connection (of course, that story is according to Kosinski, who reputedly lied about virtually everything, more concerned with a good story than with what really happened. As Kosinski has been accused of plagiarizing the bulk of his work, it’s possible that this happened to someone else and it’s their story, but for my purposes it’s more useful if in this instance Kosinski told the truth.)

And if Kosinski was a plagiarist, perhaps there is a connection between him and the character Chance – a man who is lauded for things he has not done. Except, of course, this theory doesn’t work if Kosinski actually wrote Being There.

Monday, June 29, 2009

OF COURSE Language Is A Virus

And some like to spread it more than others. Writers are nothing but a bunch of verbal sluts. Open those pages wide, I'm diving in.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Neal Stephenson Needs An Editor

I'm reading "Snow Crash, " and for the most part really enjoying it, but I'm on page 430 of a 470 page edition and I'm pissed off. "Lay" instead of "lie" three different times so far, one of the instances in what is supposed to be a quotation from centuries ago, before this was a common grammatical mistake. Particularly odd is that the book is written in the present tense, so the only word written in the past tense in these sections is a word that is meant to be in the present tense.

I'm reading a Bantam Dell edition, a division of Random House. Um, no one proofreads this shit? I'm an editor, and there's no fucking way in hell this would get past me. It's not Stephenson's fault that he makes a common grammatical error (although I suspect he could use some grammar review, he's a good enough writer that I can see where his time would go other places.)

In terms of editing, it's not really as big a problem as the long sections where he rambles about Babel, backstory that seems to have been thrown inadvertently to the forefront (file that shit under 'research,' Neal, you have a really good story that you keep interrupting with this tedium, including quotes from George Steiner, whose own writing on this subject is far more interesting not only than your own but than the excerpts you quote.)

Ok, I was really enjoying this novel and should probably finish reading it, but god can I edit the next one? Because apparently no one edited this.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My Summer Fling

Ok, I've done the mid-life crisis thing before, but that's the great thing about the MLC - I don't know when I'll die, so I have to keep having one crisis after another to ensure that one of them is actually mid-life. So, although I'm happily married, in the interests of fulfilling this great western tradition/cliche, I must be perpetually infatuated with some attractive young woman and a car I can't afford. The car of the moment is a Bentley GT, which differs from my current car, a 1995 Maxima, in just a few ways: it goes from zero to sixty in about 4 seconds, topping out around 198 mph (the Maxima tends to start rattling a little at about 75, would probably explode at about 140, so god knows what it would do at 198), and the passenger side front door of the Bentley will open, whereas the one on my Maxima awaits the availability of a used part before I can even afford that option. And no, I haven't looked into the cost of the Bentley, but in this economy with my income I'm sure an affordable monthly rate could be worked out that would keep me in eternal Hell no more than a few days a week. And they have booze there, right?

Speaking of which, although I'm happily married, summer approaches and I find it hard to keep my hands off this little lady.

Screw it, I'm putting her in my mouth.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Barack and Michelle’s Night On The Town

I read with delight about Barack and Michelle Obama going out for a night in New York. Crowds gathered on sidewalks to wave and cabbies stood on the frames of their cabs to catch a glimpse of the President and First Lady.

The date itself: they went to some no-doubt expensive restaurant where the chef and owner grows his own food (which foods those are were not mentioned in the article I read), then to a Broadway play. Generally the idea of a Broadway play repels me, as something that is all too often a crappy Vegas spectacle with a New York snob-critic pedigree. The Obamas attended “Joe Turner’s Come And Gone,” August Wilson’s play about black American boardinghouse residents in the early 1900s, migrants from sharecropping farms. Hey Barack, where’s the totally irrelevant crappy Disneyesque song and dance numbers in that? Where’s the serious adults dressed like zoo animals? On skates?

So, even when they go out and have a good time, the Obamas do something serious and in good taste. And look like they love each other while they’re doing it.

Plus, they were criticized by the Republican National Committee for wasting taxpayer money. Which is, of course, the RNC’s job. Now, this would be a better point if the president were overpaid for his work, or took vacations half the time. (Which would have been a bigger issue during the Bush Junior administration except that his vacations were no less productive than the time he spent in the White House.)

Personally, I feel a ton of stress on the job, and I need to let go on a regular basis after work. And yeah, my family is dependent on me and although I’m good at my job this is a vicious economy that ensures no job security, but at least I’m not responsible for world peace and every national problem that became worse over the last eight years. Hell, the RNC should be forced to watch some August Wilson, to maybe feel some sentiment for the people they’ve been fucking over and feeding to the sharks the last eight years. A lot of the DNC could use that as well.

The head of the RNC recently officially stated that the Republican Party was done attempting to fix its own problems and was now going to go after the Democrats. Somehow he wasn’t summarily thrown out on his ass after that idiotic statement. Shit, even if you’re doing it, you don’t admit it.

Oddly, it’s not the morons of the Republican right that our president is fighting, just the problems they’ve built for him. And if anyone can solve these problems, I think Barack Obama is the man. And if there’s anyone who deserves a night on the town more than this man and his wife, please show us your resume, I’m sure you can find a job in this administration.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Of Course, He Wants To Give Them Happy Endings

Nathan, our 17 year old, just asked me if I knew where The House of the Scorpion (an excellent young adult novel) was. I was busy, said no, looked for it a few minutes later without success. I asked Nate if he'd found it. He was lying on his bed, reading, didn't hear me at first. Then he looked up quickly and said, "No, I'm reading A Clockwork Orange."

This is the same kid who's read Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and The Road more times than I have.

We do get some things write.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hey! Hungry Ego Here! Feed, Please!

Sanity seems to be hanging around lately. Not sure why; plenty of stress/fatigue, so it must be all the support from family and friends. Now if I could just convince myself I deserve it.

Ha, never said the neuroses were gone.

So much to be glad about, so much to be tired about. So if I get hyperbolic in any direction it’s almost certainly personal, but maybe only unilaterally. I yam what I yam, and so is Lola (oops, mixing Popeye and Kinks references – I’m not sure this sobriety thing really helps, my mind itself is fucking drunk.)

I wish I had an appreciative audience for everything that passes for wit in my mind. I may have blown it by not going into the bumper sticker industry. That and not going for it with my idea for mistletoe belt buckles, which I saw advertised years later in the back of Easy Rider. That one doesn’t bug me too much, I had someone willing to back me on it if I did the labor, but it was a moneymaking scheme, nothing to feed the ego – essentially just another bumper sticker.

For today I need nothing but a general feeling that I want everyone who’s been there to keep being there, and I know I’ve got people who aren’t going away. Shit, I’ve always been a hippy-dippy motherfucker in some regards: commit to people, stay with them, give everything and get everything. And like everyone else, I don’t always follow up.

But… I believe that absolute commitment to those you care about is the best way to live.

And when I talk like this I don’t trust myself. I’m sending a message to who – to myself, as affirmation of my ideals; to people I love and care about, who don’t really need this but if they read it will probably like it; to people who don’t know me as well or at all and who I’m trying to impress.

Anyone could be reading this. Taking my word for who I am (not something I’d do, but I’d actually recommend it to others – if you don’t actually know me, you’re unlikely to analyze me more closely than I analyze what I write. Hell, I can’t even help noticing every fucking time that the word analyze starts with the word anal.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Express Disapproval If You Don't Want Your Child To Smoke

Just sent an email and saw a big ad on the side of the page for Child Smoking Prevention. Sponsored, of course, by Philip Morris USA, a civic spirited organization that has probably killed more Americans than any terrorist group or war opponent we've ever had. Fortunately, they're good for the economy.

Anyway, there's a link at the bottom of the ad (which shows a very skinny mom talking to a daughter whose jeans were probably purchased within the last 20 years - the pants aren't old but the style is) that will take you to a page telling you how to converse with your child to prevent them from smoking. As explained by a company that makes a fortune selling cigarettes.

Apparently, any opportunity you get, whether through direct conversation or pointing out an anti-smoking billboard or commercial, what you are supposed to do as a parent is point out that you disapprove of smoking then ask your child what he or she thinks. Um, yeah, that's gonna fucking work. Just in case your kid is already smoking, point out that you disapprove before you ask what the kid thinks. Pretty much guaranteed to make the child resent you, talk about you to his or her friends, and smoke smoke smoke.

Well done, Philip Morris. Killing America's youth for how many years?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Today's Report Card

Can't get no forgiveness round here, everyone I moaned and bitched at the other day said there was nothing to forgive. See, I knew I had good friends, which is one of those things where you earn each other. I don't know how much I'd get done if I was as non-judgmental toward myself as I am toward others, but there's a time to stop driving myself and treat me like I'd treat a friend. Fortunately I have friends who do that for me.

People tell me they're fucked up too, but it usually takes awhile before I see it. Until I witness a neurosis that's at least as bad as one of my own I have difficulty empathizing. I'm a cynic who likes strangers, but I try to find flaws in them so I can relate. I can idolize or be attracted prior to that, but in order to really like someone I have to see similarities to myself. (Ego doesn't mean you think a lot of yourself, it means you think of yourself a lot.) And sure those similarities can be good qualities, but we're much closer if I catch you with a flaw that matches one of mine.

This itself might seem like neurotic ground, but other people do it too. People who marry (with or without paperwork) tend to have physical similarities, such as finger length or nose size or eye shape. Because on some level we're attracted to people who look like the people we grew up with. Whether that's evolutionary or genetic I don't know; I read this in some study and I don't remember what they gave as the reason behind it, but the reason was just an educated guess anyway. Basically, somewhere along the way I should be attracted to people who look like me. Which is probably why my wife and I are both half-breeds (she's half-Korean, half-American soldier, my parents are from Illinois and Ohio).

Okay, so I don't get the visual aspects of the argument. But I'm pretty sure there was a scientific study that firmly established that heterosexual males, regardless of their intelligence level, are attracted to hot babes. And while the term 'hot babes' remains open to interpretation, 'heterosexual males' is for the most part clearly defined (except in the Bay Area, where I happen to live.)

Anyway, the argument re. marrying the familiar didn't take on a Freudian tone. It wasn't that you marry someone who reminds you of your mother because of some underlying sex-with-mom thing; it was more along the lines of finding attractive that which you've grown up with. So presumably if you weren't in a close family unit that was related to you by blood, or if you were exposed enough to the community around you, your attraction might be toward another group.

Maybe it's a finger and nose length thing, but I grew up in pretty much exclusively white areas and have never been particularly attracted to white females. That is, when they were the only females around I was attracted to them, and I've never consciously sought out women of a particular racial type, I just seem least attracted to the group I grew up around. I don't know if that study I read about just gave percentages (I never looked at it closely) and maybe I'm a rebel compared to what the conformist is in the group they studied, or I'm rebelling (shit, I don't need it now, but when I was single I'd have conformed, rebelled, whatever road got me laid) and taking the 'exotic,' but for all I know the exotic I've chosen fits their definitions of sameness.

Susan and I have done a lot of stuff over the years, but we've yet to break out the ruler and measure the noses.

Friday, May 15, 2009

For those who wonder what I'm up to

Fuck if I know. Which is actually a vast improvement over the certainties of a few days back. I've survived what's presumably the most physically and emotionally draining aspects of this week, still need a break but no longer feel broken. And I subjected a couple of different friends to short self-centered monologues last night, for which I forgive myself (that's one of the things friends are for and I'm self-centered anyway, nothing to brag about but last night was not the time to deal with it.)

So I rambled a bit, kind of like this, couldn't always come up with the word I wanted but by and large was just a tired version of me. And friends don't seem to mind this sort of thing. Maybe I should get some of that self-esteem stuff and stop being surprised when people like me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Oh goody, almost Monday

I need to do nothing and that isn't an option.

Totally burnt out, physically in a way I don't understand. Shitload of stuff going on, but that's usual, only the details vary. I think it's a buildup; the standard denial is work stress doesn't bother me because I have to deal with it, and I'm good at dealing with it, same with family stress.

Of course, family stress this week includes our godson(who lives with us) getting hospitalized after a bad reaction to benadryl on Wednesday and not getting released until today (Sunday) while they monitored his condition, including a couple of days where they had him under suicide watch.

As usual, yeah, I'm fine. I had a fairly long talk with him today during which he said virtually nothing. Yeah, he's fine too. We have absolutely no blood relation but sometimes the emotional similarities are eerie.

My body has been aching. I know I hold the steering wheel too tight, I slouch too much, I'm on the computer a lot at work and at home and I drink too much beer and coffee. I've never understood non-chemical relaxing.

I cannot take it easy. I have a job to do, a family to take care of, and I'm writing a novel and editing a magazine.

If my body breaks down and we can still make the house payments I'm okay. I have to work to afford to write. Things worth doing have to be worth it of themselves. If at some point I'm paid for it that would be right, but what is right is rare.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Far Better To Have Health Concerns Than To Be Past That Stage

I just said that to my dog before feeding her a can of beef-flavored whatever. Having a Boonville IPA myself. Here's to yr health, love yr liver, all that.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reordering History

Popped open Yahoo at work this morning and was greeted with the news headline, "National Guard Kill 4 At Kent State." Jesus, I thought, again? Then I saw that this was a "news archive." Of course, it was listed at the top of today's news headlines, just a reminder that Cinco de Mayo is the anniversary not only of the invention of the margarita but of the Kent State killings (and if I got any of that history wrong, I am a product of the California public school system.)

It was also a reminder that our news media seems to feel its primary obligation is to keep us scared shitless. If a state of hysteria can be induced, maybe people will stop playing World of Warcraft and watching Youtube long enough to pay attention to the news. Fat chance, hysteria mongers. The news media, by going for ratings and competing with the entertainment industry, has lost the esteem in which it was once regarded and become just another channel to be flipped through. Yes, if I see a fire on the screen I will probably stop long enough to see where it is (unless basketball's on another channel, in which case I'll wait until local emergency banners are running across the bottom of the court,) but I won't believe the hyperbole that has been recently used regarding swine flu (let's use the worst case scenario as probability - that will get their attention) or had someone I knew convinced, from the television footage in London during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, that all of San Francisco was on fire.

Those who exaggerate peril both damage their own credibility and denigrate those to whom tragedy has occurred. People are selfish enough, we don't need to worry about ourselves when it's time to be concerned about others. And we need some form of news media that tells the truth and is delivered to a wide audience. The mainstream sources for news have done little over the years to prove themselves anything but gullible government lackeys, and it is only occasionally in a government's interests to reveal the truth. Guerilla news coverage historically has been done through independent newspapers with small circulations, could conceivably deliver their messages to the masses via the Internet but who will the mass Internet users trust?

Trust no one and carry an Uzi doesn't work against a government; they have more distrust and Uzis than you can imagine. And I'm a U.S. citizen. I'm not talking pogroms and layered graves. I just want information I can believe, and I don't know where to get it.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Swill Website Updated, New Issue Coming Soon

Finally updated the Swill website ( today. Nothing major in terms of content, just an animated gif that rotates a batch of quotes I like in twenty second intervals. Which if I had a more recent version of Photoshop I could have put together very quickly, but since I have Photoshop 5.5 it's a multi-step process just to get muddy text. The text I wound up with is still somewhat muddy, and I may get around to cleaning it up somehow at some point, but for now I'm fairly happy/relieved with the result.

The main changes on the site were made a couple months back, when the selections for issue 4 were finalized and I posted the authors' names. Then the real changes occur when we finish line edits and start running samples from the new issue, which is going to kick the shit out of our previous issues. And I like our previous issues, but we haven't had anything with the consistent strength of the stories appearing in issue 4.

One of the best parts about the layout process is that we get an actual page count, and then I get to tell Sean how many illustrations we need. At which point he comes up with as many pages as we need very quickly and all the words come together with pictures I've not seen before and I hit that moment where everything is what it's supposed to be. I am a cynic with ideals; these moments of satisfaction are rare and don't last, but damn I'm glad when I'm in them.

The magazine should be one literary or visual orgasm followed by another. Otherwise the reader is better off jerking off. Which is my reaction to most literature, but I suppose that also gives a clue to how much I love certain writing. And I'm not referring to erotic literature; I get off on Swill. And Swill exists because of a whole lot of other stuff I get off on.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

To Blog or Not to Blog

Someone mentioned to me recently that I don’t update my blog much. I was aware of this; I wasn’t aware that anyone cared. So I suppose I’m guilty of blog abuse. As it’s my blog, that would make it self-abuse, and it ain’t the first time. I just don’t usually do it in public.

My given reasons for not posting much are that I’m either writing my own fiction or addressing someone personally. It’s not an unwillingness to waste time on the internet. The web is both a very useful resource and a great excuse for not doing what I should. I am easily entertained by the artistry of others, especially when it takes me away from working on my own.

Much as I liked that reasoning, I know there are people who write a lot more than I do who also maintain blogs. I don’t know a fucking thing about what might cut into the rest of their day, but something lent the air of bullshit to what now seemed to me justification.

So, a bit of self-analysis. Some of it’s easy. I’m anal. This makes for good editing skills, makes me reluctant to post words I haven’t gone over thoroughly. If I like something enough on a casual basis and don’t care much about how it reads I’ll post it. Otherwise it reflects on me the writer, me the editor, me the anal-retentive. And while I’m generally low-key to be around, a large part of my self-esteem comes from the quality of my work, and my writing is part of that. The part I would like best known.

I think it comes down to an inability to believe I deserve the good things I get. Why do I have this great wife and family, this job I’m really good at, a handful of terrific friends? Just a really basic belief that I don’t deserve the good things that I’ve got, therefore I must undermine them. Fortunately, I’m really good at drinking.

The good news is, over the course of these paragraphs I’ve come to terms with all my internal issues and will be blogging frequently and cheerfully from here on. (And with great subtlety.)


I suppose some editors are failed writers - but so are most writers. – T.S. Eliot

The relationship between writers and editors should not be adversarial. As someone who’s spent a lot of time on both sides of that relationship, I’m certain that there are many good people out there who just don’t have time for more than a form letter. I often consider myself one of those people. I’m also certain there are many editors from whom I should be grateful that the form letter is the only dealings I’ve ever had with them. That assumption is based not on any run-ins I’ve had with editors, but on my general cynicism toward the human condition.

As an editor, presumably the idea is to get the best writing possible from people whose writing you like. As a writer, presumably the idea is to get your work published in the best condition possible. That last phrase is often where writers and editors come into conflict.

As co-editor of two small magazines, Swill and Monday Night, I have suggested quite a few line edits over the last few years. This occurs especially with Swill, which is my baby (although Sean helps me raise it) and has something resembling a specific direction. It’s a genre fiction literary magazine, or some such thing. (Check the excerpts at – we have published a wide variety of story “types,” and my favorites among them fall within all the categories, where they can even be categorized.) Regardless of the labels, I want the magazine to be as good as possible, which means suggesting edits. Writers do not agree with all my suggestions, and I’d probably be appalled if they did. The idea, after all, is to improve their story, not take it away from them. And I only make these suggestions if I am interested in publishing the story in the first place. As this suggestion process generally occurs after the story has already been accepted, the writer wins all arguments anyway.

Of course, sometimes the writer must wonder what the hell the editor is thinking, as witnessed by poet Frederick Seidel, who told this story about one of his first major publications, in The Hudson Review, in a recent New York Times Magazine.

“I got back a letter from the editor saying that the poem was brilliant… but wouldn’t I consider a number of changes they wanted to propose to the poem’s advantage? So I took a look at their suggestions, hung onto the poem and three months later sent it back to them – no changes whatsoever. Back came a note saying: ‘Wonderful! That does it! It’s just superb.’”

And yes, I feel fully capable of being that editor.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Belated Updike Elegy

Just a one liner, but I love it:

Our reading life is too short for a writer to be in any way polite.
- John Updike

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Subba Cultcha

So, last night I’m listening to some music and my wife asks what I’m listening to. I tell her the band name – Zola Jesus – and that it was given to me by one of my music-sharing friends, and we talk about the music a bit. She says it’s an interesting sub-culture, and I agree: “They sound like they’ve listened to a lot of Pere Ubu and PIL.”

Susan’s reply: “I meant the sub-culture of people who share music.”

I never thought of it that way. I’ve been sharing music with friends since the late 70s, although it’s been shared in different ways over the years. Under the influence of my friend John, I got real good at making mix tapes in the 80s. I’d made them before, but they’d just been one song with a gap then another song – from John I learned the art of blending one song into another. And on a good cassette deck it was easy to check levels as you recorded, and a challenge to end each side of the tape smoothly. There was an art to it, and those who were good at the art and shared similar musical tastes – it was always great to give or receive a tape like that. So much went into it.

With cdr’s and Itunes and similar programs it’s far easier to put a mix together. You never have that gut-crunching moment when your last song for the side doesn’t fit and you have to rewind to the spot where it was going and replace it – and those were always tight segues, starting at the exact moment after the previous song ended. Recording on a computer means you get told whether your songs fit or not, and there’s no exact time frame you have to fit – you just have to be under 80 minutes or 700 megabytes or whatever your disc allows for the format you’re recording in.

The artistry of the mixing aside, the point for me is I love music, and I know other people who love music. And if we form a sub-culture, it’s a sub-culture that supports music released on small labels. And the music shared causes others to purchase music from those small labels. Because God knows, I don’t listen to the radio much, to a large degree because commercial radio plays shit and noncommercial radio is both hard to tune in and inconsistent. I’ve never heard Zola Jesus on the radio. I expect I’ll buy their next album if I can find it.

Recently I was looking for the Sector 27 album that Tom Robinson recorded shortly after the break-up of the original Tom Robinson Band. Tom has his own website, and above some free downloads he was offering was the following text:

“Free Downloads: iTunes downloads cost 79p per track. Writer/publisher get 6p, Performer 6-8p, Visa/Mastercard 7p, Apple 12p, and Record Company almost 50p. Sod that. Help yourself to my songs & share them with your friends:”

In the meantime, I expect I’ll remain part of this sub-culture that I didn’t know existed.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Music Review

Michael has a post up about the Art Pepper album, Smack Up. I mentioned a song from this album in a piece published in the first issue of Monday Night; the prose poem or whatever you want to call it is reprinted here.


During the Coltrane I fantasized wild out of control glorious spasms. During Art Pepper it was something thinner; a quiver, a shiver, a sitting alone. It was a blues song, Las Cuevas De Mario; I didn’t know it was a blues until it blew into me. I’d heard it before but the time hadn’t been right.
The trumpet is rounder than the sax; it makes one’s head revolve. Saxophone, a straighter sound: when it curves, the turns are tighter, the head moves vertically, within itself.
Shaken by everything; reading Burroughs, listening to Coltrane and Pepper, drinking: I’m just frail, and that’s how I’m supposed to be, and that’s how these artists make me. I realize I don’t associate Burroughs with music, his writing seems more to do with painting and film: it lacks the fluidity of most music. But there is music, good music, that lacks fluidity; the world often lacks fluidity, is as fluid as chaos. And there is music that reflects that, and some of it is what I’ve been listening to while reading Burroughs tonight.
Making love to a stranger/the possibility of sudden death/the chance to see what has not been seen.
There is in Burroughs a bizarre, sinister hope, a wish for love that cannot be possible, and that when imminent is sure to be destroyed, interrupted, or corrupted. Yet the hope remains.
A man whose life is centered on one great tragedy—in this case, the shooting death of his wife—must, of course, be veiled. That Burroughs has in his writing unveiled an imagination of vast horror is certainly no more amazing than that some critics have somehow seen these horrors as impersonal.
In his work Burroughs has succeeded in creating a world solely his own, replete with fantasies clearly personal—homosexual fantasies far from polite revealed to a world that to a large degree thought such acts subhuman, fantasies that often combined orgasm and death, as written by a man who shot to death his wife and afterward openly loved men, fantasies that blatantly preferred the outcasts to the society.
And the hedonistic pleasures, well yes, they are there to see us through; and the visions of madness and terror, we know versions of these to be true; and the travels through time, and dreams, these test our pallid visions of reality, our insufficient and inaccurate definitions of what is.
Burroughs, of course, also does not know. But he is willing to fill the page with possibility, to intelligently, emotionally and physically challenge life: those who see his work as distant are missing the sadness that rains down from its clouds. Fold up those umbrellas and be soaked.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I Want To Be Famous Because I'm Great

That is, I have more ego than those who just want to be famous. I want to be famous because I deserve it. Which isn't to say I believe I deserve it yet. Deserving it is what I'm working toward, and yes please I'd like the fame that comes with it. Of course, I'm talking about the amount of fame that a well-known writer would get, which is not the hounded by paparazzi invading my privacy to the point where I should be allowed to shoot them variety. No, I aspire to be known as a writer (and I don't walk around claiming to be one just because I have a few novels in the works. Hell, everyone's grandmother has a few novels in the works. "I could be the next Agatha Christie." No thanks and no I couldn't, Ms. Christie was phenomenally good at what she did and I do something else.)

I can legitimately claim to be an editor on the small press level; we are working on the fourth issue of Swill and the eighth issue of Monday Night, both scheduled for summer publication, and I am proud of what both publications have achieved. Monday Night is more of a shared credit, as it was started several years ago as an off-shoot of the writers group I was in at the time. The number of editors has gradually dwindled to two, with Jessica's focus primarily on poetry and mine primarily on fiction; Sharon, who used to be one of the editors, does all the artwork and layout. And although a version of that writers group still exists, none of us who work on the magazine are in it.

Swill is more specifically mine. To a large degree it was my wife's idea, as she told me I should stop grousing if Monday Night wasn't doing everything I wanted it to do. Also it was her idea that I involve Sean. Swill owes a lot to the writing of Delphine LeCompte. Delphine has a lot of stories on line and I'm a big fan. She submitted stories to Monday Night and I was the only editor who liked them, and I loved them. There was a story of hers that was being considered for Monday Night and it got published elsewhere. Delphine and I exchanged numerous emails; I really wanted to publish her. And I wanted to publish fiction that didn't fit in the so-called "literary" magazines. I had fiction of my own that didn't seem to be marketable at all; I thought it was literary fiction but the literary fiction markets dismissed it as "genre." After a few years of this I came to the realization that what these markets considered literary I considered boring. They were rejecting me not because I wasn't good enough but because I wasn't part of the program. Whereas I'd been thinking they should publish me because my stories were so obviously superior to what they were receiving.

I guess Swill publishes the work of writers who don't do what they're supposed to. I like stories and I hate epiphanies because in real life there's action and there aren't epiphanies. In real life of course there's tons of boredom too, but that doesn't justify the stories that replicate those scenes. I really hate writers. Not all, but maybe all the ones who call themselves writers. I mean, unless that's what you do for a living, but so much writing is self-absorbed and why should I care about another person when I'm self-absorbed myself?

So Swill has gotten one terrible review from a zine press, one decent review from a litzine review magazine (I disagreed with their criticisms but it was fairly written, ran excerpts from a few stories, and clearly expressed the reviewer's prejudices, which I actually found impressive) and have had nice things said about us by Harlan Ellison. Let me rephrase that:


Because Harlan Ellison was one of three writers specifically mentioned on the back cover of the first issue of Swill. It was a note about literary fiction, which I said we like, but we think literary fiction includes Harlan Ellison and James Ellroy. (The third author I mentioned was Shakespeare - he included a lot of violence and humor in his work, yet some of the critics put up with him anyway.)

As I don't expect James Ellroy to ever say anything nice about anyone but himself (although maybe he'd like us, since he's one of my favorite writers), and Shakespeare is even less likely to give us a shout, we may have already achieved a chunk of the fame we're seeking.

We want more, of course. We make absolutely no money doing this and we think it's worth something. Issue 4 will be our best yet, and I was quite excited today when I found out that I know someone who knows one of the leading science fiction editors in the world, and he'd be happy to help me contact him. Not that Swill is all sf by any means; out of the 7 stories in the next issue, I think two would fit in that category, four would probably be best classified as crime, and one is a bizarre comic literary fantasy that has nothing in common with the rest of the issue except that it's damned good.

God, like authors aren't obscure enough. What if it turns out I get most famous for editing?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentines Day Massacre

I am, of course, a bit late with this, but it's the sort of thing no one would complain about: "This is absolutely horrible, you asshole, and you should have given it to me yesterday." Nope, this is the music mix not to give someone you're courting, and probably not to someone you've broken up with - why bother? - but to give yourself after your heart's been stepped on.

Fortunately for me, none of this has anything to do with my current situation except that Jenny suggested that I do an anti-Valentines mix, perhaps so she wouldn't feel so guilty about hers. I'll be sending copies of this to those I think most likely to appreciate it. If you haven't received an email from me by Sunday morning (which, technically, it is now, but I think of morning as when I'm drinking coffee not alcohol) and you'd like a copy, lemme know. Playlist is:

1 H-A-T-R-E-D Tonio K.
2 I Don't Need the Reasons Eastern Dark
3 Sharpening Axes Graham Parker
4 Song For The Dumped Ben Folds Five
5 Devastation Malcolm Middleton
6 Shelter Black Mountain
7 Stupid The Dirtbombs
8 Repulsion Dinosaur Jr.
9 Pretty Baby (You're So Ugly) Ty Segall
10 Someone who cares The Only Ones
11 How Much I've Lied Gram Parsons
12 Hell No, I Ain't Happy Drive-By Truckers
13 Empty Heart The Hellacopters
14 Trouser Minnow Rapeman
15 Temporary Thing Lou Reed
16 I'll Say It Real Kids
17 Gun Uncle Tupelo
18 One More Night Dave Edmunds
19 Teardrops Must Fall Mink Deville
20 Ever Fallen in Love? Buzzcocks
21 You Don't Know Me Sister Double Happiness
22 The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow) The Jam

Friday, February 6, 2009


Hey man, this is love. Love you Lux, love you Ivy, love you Nick and Bryan and Kid Congo. Don't mourn, memorialize. Best to all, I can't convey what the Cramps have meant to me, I got kicked out of a Holiday Inn parking lot looking for this band. Aloha to Hell. "I've lost touch with reality."

Ivy, if somehow you ever see this, best to you, love, cheers however that comes.

I don't know where to stop with this. I could talk the Cramps forever. One of the greatest bands I've ever heard or seen, a band I felt physically related to those times when I was screaming animal noises drunk in the street but as songs. At the time I never saw not being a madman as an option, I felt like I was faking it. And here was Lux doing what I wished I could be doing, and I was "out there" compared to most people I knew, but not out there like the Cramps were out there. What a fucking blessing this band was. Whoever you are, whatever you are, you can be this. Release what's in you, let it out.

Of course it helps if it's musical, especially rockabilly/psychedelia.

Nick Knox was one of the best drummers I ever saw, and he could chain smoke an entire set, flipping his sticks between cigarettes.

I don't know how to talk about Ivy - every time I saw the Cramps I chose her side of the stage, got as close as I could, watched her shimmying shoulders while she played guitar. Sexiest goddamn guitarist I ever saw, and what a player, and this is supposed to be a tribute to her man.

Because Lux - there's no fucking describing Lux. Lux was everything I wanted to be. He was fucking insane, singing his ass off, all over the stage and amps, and if you ever saw that video where the Cramps played the asylum, Lux telling the crowd, "People say you're crazy; I don't think you're so crazy," and you know he's been hearing this and living this and it's funny, but it's also why I could relate. No matter how out there I was compared to my classmates, what had it been like for Lux in school?

They were sick, they were funny, they played great rock n roll and they never had a choice about becoming a part of the mainstream. They were always the Cramps, they couldn't be anyone else and no one else could be them.

Life stripped bare left them no choice but to make this noise, these noises. I'd say RIP Lux Interior but I don't think that's an option. Rock, Lux, wherever you are. As if you could say no.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama Vs. Assault Weapons

Found this on a gun site. I spend a decent amount of time on gun websites, researching weapon details for fiction I'm either writing or editing. I don't know if the gun lobby is genuinely afraid of Obama or just using this opportunity for marketing, but I see it as promising that someone working for peace is seen as frightening. The need for AK47's in the hands of individuals is an extrapolation of the 2nd Amendment that I can't dismiss altogether, despite the number of nuts who may hold it. Trust in government is not one of my strong points. Of course, neither is trust in individuals, which is why I would feel a damn sight more comfortable with restrictions on assault weapons. Peace and love, eh?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Best Albums of the Year - 1978

It takes me awhile to put these lists together, and this is by no means final, but 1978 is to my ears one of the greatest years in rock music, and Jenny was curious so I put it together. God knows what I've left out, I didn't go through my records before doing this, just put it together tonight. Suffice to say, any big name bands left off this list were left off intentionally, but there are other things I need to work on tonight so I'm putting this up pretty quickly. And apparently I have a lot of albums from 1978 - of the zillion things left off, I think Willie Alexander's album would've been # 21. Here goes:

1 Pere Ubu Dub Housing
2 Talking Heads More Songs About Buildings and Food
3 Johnny Thunders So Alone
4 Magazine Real Life
5 David Johansen David Johansen
6 Joe Ely Honky Tonk Masquerade
7 Wire Chairs Missing
8 The Clash Give Em Enough Rope
9 Bob Dylan Street Legal
10 Lou Reed Street Hassle
11 Pere Ubu The Modern Dance
12 The Adverts Crossing the Red Sea With The Adverts
13 Bruce Springsteen Darkness On The Edge of Town
14 Southside Johnny Hearts of Stone
15 NRBQ At Yankee Stadium
16 The Buzzcocks Another Music In A Different Kitchen
17 Siouxsie & The Banshees The Scream
18 Big Star Sister Lovers
20 Elvis Costello This Year's Model

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I was invited to a party by J.D. Salinger

I was invited to a party by J.D. Salinger
The house was hard to find
It was a surprise party for Thomas Pynchon
B. Traven was there
Sam Beckett monopolized conversation, with his
Borges wrote down the whole thing
But ascribed the transcription to someone else
A man perhaps fiction
Whose pen and paper themselves
Would have required invention
If I had not been there to witness
The guest of honor revealing
Less than everyone knew.

In a room like this
We suppose the desk exists
Because we put things on it
And the drinks do not spill
That is, we do not see them spill
We still think we drink them
As we do not hear Salinger or Pynchon or Traven or Beckett
Or myriad others who have not spoken
Yet they cover their ears
Because what we sense as silence
They hear as screams
And even if they are wrong
Their interpretations of hallucinations
Are far more lucid
Than yours or mine of reality.
The question becomes
Why do they call it a party?