December 31, 2004

Last Hopes and Complaints of 2004

Happy New Year, everyone. Going through the year, every year, I usually find that I’ve accomplished something, even if it felt like a snail’s pace throughout the year. This blog is actually pretty meaningful to me, and I started it in 2004. Connecting with people, getting my mind down, it’s a form of hope. Thanks everyone for reading and writing. The election was depressing, but it also got me energized in a certain way. Despite the world, I had a productive final week of 2004, which feels shameful to admit. No work was coming in from my job, so I got to spend all of my time working on fiction. I hadn’t been able to do that in over a year. I realized how hard it is for me to split half my time and my mind writing ad copy. I found out I can still write, which was a good final thought heading into the new year. I am going to try to sell this story. Here comes my last bit of self-absorption for this year: I still don’t know where I fit in as a writer. I’m not a "New Yorker" writer where the writing itself reads like a book review. I’m not an academic writer because I can’t willfully quote Homer or Keats. I’m not a mainstream writer because I can’t write that way, but not that I don’t need to. I can’t be an underground cult hero like Burroughs because my life isn’t interesting enough, and I’m too solitary to belong to a generation. I’m not a genre writer. I’m currently writing a science fiction novel which is probably a mistake because I am not a science fiction writer. Stanley Kubrick directed a science fiction movie, a horror movie, an 18th century period movie, etc. Not equating myself with him, but that’s how I look at fiction, which amply screws me with publishers. The most important one: I am not a literary writer, which is a genre in itself. I am just not wordy enough. Small press writing can be as tame as mainstream presses, and they have less money so they don’t publish as often, so that isn’t much of an option either. I haven’t published a novel in too long. It would energize me to have a new book sitting alongside those writers I love. It’s not vanity to think a book and new readers would help me feel welcomed. My New Year’s Resolution is to live in the world, to not always hide behind words and a computer screen. Trying to do something with my songwriting is part of this. I really want to start a rock band. Philip K. Dick and Jack Kerouac took speed. I’d like an upper for 2005. No doubt I am full of myself. The whole world needs an upper. If I was a better person, I’d wish selflessly for other people’s safety, and of course I do, but my thoughts inevitably come back to the person I’m closest to, myself. This either makes me an incredible prick, or human. Maybe my anxiety is tied in directly to the world at large. Maybe I’m not a prick after all. Here’s to hoping. See you next year.

December 29, 2004

Jim Woodring

Back to weird. Jim Woodring is good God. This picture should cheer you up.

If you don’t know Jim Woodring, see him. If you do, there’s a lot to check out at his site. There’re flash games and wallpaper. This picture’s on my desktop.

I think I’ll start posting more pictures. It’s easy, it looks nice, and I don’t really have to write anything.

On Moving On

I looked at some pictures from the tsunami disaster and it depressed the shit out of me, as it should have. A bruised woman who’s missing her 13-year-old son…I guess it’s good to meditate on other people’s suffering, makes you human. Though I could never be empathetic because I don’t know what the hell it is like. The closest I could come is living through September 11 in New York City. Seeing the planes hit, the burnt, artificial smell in the air, the fear that something else could happen, running down from 23rd street thinking my dog was suffocating in the dust, which was ridiculous really because we lived far enough away. My daughter’s birth was the most emotionally intense experience of my life--filled with powerful fear and worry, but that ended happily, with powerful joy. Her birth was the most alive I’d ever felt, the most human.

So I’ve got nothing to possibly compare. People are suffering horribly right now, and I’m sitting warm at a desk, writing a BLOG. Hopefully it’s wrong to feel petty. There’s a wise quote somewhere about focusing on the good things. I can’t help it, but the tragedy does seem far away, until I see another picture. I care but I’m not crippled by it. Human beings have a terrible capacity to adapt to tragedy. It’s probably going to get worse, as the population grows, and we develop new, creative ways of killing each other off. In my paranoid moments, I feel like we’re being prepared for something. And then I go back to my job. I still want to finish the story I’m writing, I still want to sell it somewhere. I want to try to get it into a longshot like "The New Yorker" which I’ve spouted against but that’s only because I hate what I can’t have. I’d like to jumpstart my writing career. I still feel like I’m always suffering in some way, which really is crippling. Meanwhile, people are suffering in much worse ways, somewhere, maybe even down the block. Dumb, brutal world we live in. This tragedy seems different, like the Holocaust or September 11--even if it’s an act of nature, people are still powerless and hurt. I don’t know what to do about it exactly. A downer post, but I got it out.

December 28, 2004

Tsunami Aid

Darling Maggot, best blogger, has a link up about donating for tsunami relief. Here's another one.


Someone on the Daily Kos made the point that the Iraq war costs (conservatively) 1 billion a week, which works out to 144 million a day, and a fraction of that is what the U.S. has offered for aid. This should be a new rallying cry: without this stupid war, we could afford a lot more humanitarian aid. As if Bush gives a shit about being humanitarian. More people have died in Iraq than from the tsunami, and that could have been prevented--IF these new weather patterns are not a result of environmental neglect. I bet Bush hasn’t even looked at a picture of what’s coming out of there. He doesn’t read the fucking newspaper.

Movie Reviews

Saw "I Heart Huckabees" and "The Life Aquatic." This is what happens when you try your hand at screenwriting after smoking too much pot or maybe taking ecstasy. Not that I didn’t like the movies, but there’s a kind of ultra-dry humor that can only be understood by someone who’s high, or someone who’s overly convinced of his own genius.

Both movies take all the most ridiculous parts of earlier movies and multiply them by a thousand. Wes Anderson’s "The Royal Tannenbaums" actually pissed me off quite a bit, up there with the new "Star Wars" movies. It’s unreality was an irritant, it seemed smug. How do you touch on any kind of truth when everything is more than slightly false? The soundtrack felt like Wes Anderson was showing off his music collection. It felt like a mix tape rather than adding anything meaningful. And I don’t think it’s all that funny for one of the characters to always be listening to The Clash.

I liked "The Life Aquatic" more once I realized that it was supposed to have no relation to reality whatsoever. It’s a little too obsessed with being unique and creative and original. It’s absurd but strangely rigid at the same time.

Interesting that "I Heart Huckabees" should come out at the same time because it has the same problems. I had always thought that David Russell might be an acid-head. The parents at the end of "Flirting with Disaster" turn out to be LSD dealers, and the freneticness of the movie seemed to be written under some kind of influence. I’ve known people who smoke pot and write screenplays and they tend not to make any sense. Huckabees makes enough sense. "I Heart Huckabees" takes all the extremes of "Flirting with Disaster" and multiplies them--a lot like "The Life Aquatic." I liked Huckabees more, mainly because it watched like an absurdist Celestine Prophecy.

Also saw "The Incredibles." Anyone who says this is neo-fascist and Ayn Rand-inspired needs to lighten up. I think that line of criticism might have been the last gasp of the election. People just wanted something to attack. It’s a superhero movie, a fantasy. I think Harry Potter might be more dangerous. In the first movie, he’s already famous for doing nothing. He’s also a superhero, but he’s worshipped in a different way than any Marvel Comics hero.

Even though all of these movies are highly talented and well made, there’s something sort of restrained about them, mechanical. I’ve always thought that music was getting less interesting because people were taking more ecstasy than LSD. Granted, I haven’t taken either in quite a while, but I’ve still got opinions. Ecstasy is a superficial drug, very uncerebral, unlike acid. It’s more about the skin than the mind. I look at a band like Radiohead which sees their version of "Sgt. Pepper" progress as becoming more machine-like, more computerized. I think Radiohead are amazing but for some reason I don’t listen to them very often. Something about his voice--like he’s cooler than his audience. I come back to "The Bends" and "Kid A." All these artists may be taking the wrong drugs, or using the right drugs wrong. To me, sixties psychedelia and the reality of seventies movies are more human and moving.

December 27, 2004

Dion McGregor

I recommend everyone listen to this beautiful lunatic. It’s my Christmas gift to the anonymous people who come by here. Click on Food Roulette.


That way lies madness.

December 23, 2004

Naked Pictures

When I check in to see who has come here, I have recently found someone has logged in from the Security and Exchange Commission. Whoever you are, show yourself. Am I under investigation? Are you just someone working a dull government job looking to kill time? I won’t tell your boss. I’d also like to hear from "xo. war." again. This person said they were going to comment on every post here. He/she stopped at ten, but I can understand. I like what you wrote. I feel stalked and privileged.

I get a fair amount of searches from people looking for information about the "Ash Tree." I’m sorry but I’m not your man. Here’s a picture though. Click on it for information.

It’s got a fairly intense feel, but then all trees do. If I was another sort of person, I would research it, but not now. The title Ash Tree actually comes from my name: H. Baum. H sounds something like "Ash" in French and Baum means "Tree" in German. That’s it. My grandfather’s German but I don’t have any French in me, so far as I know. I like the idea of a tree that’s made of what it is when it burns away. Sounds pretty zen, or something darker, probably both. Something that is dying and growing at once.

December 20, 2004

Literary Hell

I probably shouldn’t admit this. There’s a major reason that I shouldn’t be a science fiction writer. I don’t like most science fiction, even those books people find seminal. I started reading Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash this weekend. It hasn’t spoken to me yet. I just don’t find the Deliverator all that interesting. I may live to eat these words. I hope I do because I’d like to get into it.

Here comes sacrilege: I have started and stopped reading Gibson’s Neuromancer more than once. I don’t really like Bruce Sterling. Maybe I just don’t like cyberpunk. I don’t care about computers enough. This may sound entirely ignorant because the books are probably about more than computers. But people love these books so much that it seems I should be able to take something from them. I can read anything and everything by Philip K. Dick. I don’t what it is that separates him from those other writers. I trust what Philip K. Dick lays down, even when it’s poorly written. I trust his inspiration. He seems to write about the mind more, rather than just the machinations of culture. It seems more human. It’s authentically weird instead of trying to be weird. Maybe he just writes better sentences.

I feel like I should at least have read some of the important works of the genre if I’m going to try it myself--if only out of respect. Part of the reason that I wanted to write a science fiction novel is because I am not a science fiction writer. I can tackle it from a different angle--less confined, maybe, hopefully. Some of the masterpieces of science fiction were written by non-science fiction writers--Brave New World, 1984. Those novels I finished. On the whole, I put down a book if it doesn’t instantly feel like being on some kind of unique drug. This doesn’t happen very often. It’s frustrating and my own fault.

There are certain books I appreciate but can’t read. Gibson might fall into that category, though one of these days I may pick up a novel and it’ll floor me. I’ve started and stopped reading Naked Lunch and Tropic of Cancer over and over again. I like reading non-fiction about Burroughs and Henry Miller rather than reading their fiction--most of the time. I like their letters, I like Burroughs’ straight-forward early stuff. I like Miller in small doses as if reading prose poetry. I feel like I am going to literary hell for not unconditionally loving these writers.

December 17, 2004

Old Sun

I like these lyrics. It uses the sun idea that Kurt Cobain used ("in the sun I feel as one") but he didn’t invent it. It was probably the Beatles: "I’ll Follow the Sun," "Here Comes the Sun." They did everything first. Actually it was probably old blues. I can’t deny my influences though. Somebody please buy me the Nirvana box set.

Old Sun

I went outside last night
the moon wasn't above
Instead the sun looked down,
smiled, and said "Hello"
I said, "What's going on
with you two all this year?"
She said, "I need repose
from all your hopes and fears
"Just what is wrong with this,
from dawn to dusk is cold
"I wanted to be up
when you all rest yer skulls
"Because to watch you day in/day out
is too much
"For one Old Sun to handle
who is deep in Love."

Down the Rabbit Hole

I wrote this song when I came back from a book tour. A friend of mine stayed in my apartment while I was gone. When I got back he wasn’t there and all I found was a notebook with a suicide note. I spent the night not knowing if he was dead or alive and the song poured out. The song is filled with quotes from his suicide note. Morbid, maybe, but there it is. He signed off the note with "Down the rabbit hole…"

Next day I found out from his mom that he’d put himself into rehab. He healed up and he’s doing fine.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the hatch
Eggs don't last
I'll take you to paradise
but don't get attached
Woe to him
who thinks he's unhinged
then opens doors to places
but will not let you in.

On your shopping spree
did you buy the ceiling or the floor?
On your killing spree
did you kill someone you adore?

I believe
you are not bothered
when you cry "need"
above all others.

Please forgive my mind,
all I'm crack-ed up to be
I may be sinking high
but I'm not above living
as a number on a shelf/
a king without wealth
The critics panned my murder
said at least I could spell

I believe you
are not bothered
when you cry "need"
above all others.

Where there's a will
there's no way
to understand wasted promises never made
Down the rabbit hole
I'll lose my healthy glow
I hope you won't miss me
but here I go...

December 16, 2004


I don’t talk much here about being a songwriter. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about it. There’s a link to my CD on the right where you can hear most of the songs. They were recorded 3 years ago, the summer before September 11 in NYC, during a much more melancholy time of my life. It’s not like my songwriting is entirely different now--that’s really just what comes out of me. But I don’t want to write songs that are blatantly self-pitying. Currently I’m writing a rock opera counterpart to my new novel about the End of the World--light things, but not all about my own ego. I don’t like writing straight autobiography in fiction so I thought I’d pour those ideas into songwriting, but I’m done with that.

I used to think of songwriting as a hobby, something I did to pass the time when I wasn’t writing fiction. It makes me schizophrenic sometimes because I don’t know what to concentrate on. I played drums and bass in other people’s bands when I lived in New York City for 10 years. I was writing songs on the side sometimes, recording them in my living room. I kept it private. I gotta admit I’m a songwriter now and I should start something with it before I’m forty. If somebody knows someone who wants to start a rock band in Los Angeles, I’d be grateful. I’d like to get back into playing live music. When I lived in NYC, playing in bands was my whole life--East Village, going to shows, getting drunk, going to record stores, the whole thing.

It’s next to impossible to get four or more young egos together. Every band I’ve been in or been close to has fallen apart. I don’t know where I can find three people to play what I want them to play. It’s been easier to record by myself where I can play everything like I want it to be played. I’m not a control freak, but I’ve got ideas. Sometimes I think it makes more sense being a solitary songwriter. This is why I’ve put it off. Also, I don’t own a guitar amp.

At some point I’m going to lose the RocknRoll urge. Amazingly, John Lennon was thirty when the Beatles were OVER. I got his "Acoustic" record this weekend. Inspiring, cool. I knew there was a reason I wanted it. I didn’t look up any Amazon reviews, I just had a feeling. I’ve been playing the Beatles songbook lately and the "Acoustic" record includes tablature for each song. Life-affirming when things work this way. I hope I can roll with the inspiration.

It’s Beethoven’s birthday.

December 14, 2004


After a long wait, I finally received the contract for the French translation of my first novel--only to discover the contract’s in French with no English translation. I can’t read it. If I didn’t need the money so badly, this would be amusing.

When I lived in Paris for a year, I intentionally didn’t learn French. I was working on a novel and I didn’t want to take up a lot of time or space in my brain to learn the language. When I explain this to people, they treat it like a failure.

I’ll admit not learning the language was a way to put myself into exile--a way to avoid people, which is something I do normally. But it was necessary to write the book, a very hard book to get down. I’d walk around town, write in parks, feel like Henry Miller. It was an intensely romantic time.

When I was done with the novel, I felt lost in Paris. I had replaced my communication with people with characters in the novel, and when they were gone, I felt the alienation deeply. There’s nothing so disorienting as not being able to speak the language, especially for a person who’s so concerned with words. When I got back to NY, I talked to strangers more than I ever had. It was liberating. I’d tell the pizza guy, "I would like a slice of pizza, please. Pizza is very good. I like to eat pizza. Thank you," rather than point at things and say, "Merci."

The novel I wrote in Paris was my follow-up to the novel that’s now being translated. I thought I was writing something important with that second novel, which may be every young writer’s delusion. Didn’t get published. That first novel seems to be the one that keeps sustaining me. Maybe I’ll be one of those writers that’s popular in France first. It has its own kind of romance. Strange because I am a purely American writer, or at least I want to be.

December 13, 2004


I admit it: I love baseball. I feel like I’ve got to qualify it because it annoys me that a baseball player will take a 15 million dollar contract with a bad team over a 14 million dollar contract with a good team. At that level, what’s the fucking difference? I do have to admit that it’s got to be hard to say no to a million dollars. But most normal people could live off the interest of a million dollars, let alone 15 million dollars.

It’s just a hyper-capitalist, cocksmanship game where they have to get the best contract they can--even if it means moving their family across the country. It doesn’t make human sense. Really they shouldn’t be making that kind of money in the first place. Which doesn’t mean I don’t like following the baseball trades. In fact, I enjoy following the trades more than I actually like watching the game itself. The games almost seem like an afterthought. I like listening to baseball on the radio, it’s got a timeless feel to it.

I put up a link to It reads a lot like the Daily Kos. People intelligently dissecting things, making predictions, feeling indignant when something goes wrong. I’ve said it here before, there is something very closely related between following politics and following sports. Competition is competition.

So…today the Mets got Pedro Martinez. I am glad.

December 10, 2004

Tin Foil Hats

I touched on this in an earlier post about atheism and the left, but I’ll repeat myself. I’m the only one who notices anyway, but still I have to mention it because I am a freak of thoroughness. If I think it, I’ve got to document it, which is why a blog is a perfect venue for a person with my kind of illness.

This is a response to a comment to the last post that I never got. I imagined (fantasized) a reader coming here and thinking the talk about UFOs was ludicrous. They’d say I needed a tinfoil hat because I believe in such things. On the Daily Kos, epicenter of liberal talk, they are extremely averse to any sort of far-out talk whatsoever. Some of this makes sense--if Kos starts talking about UFOs and the Knights Templar, he is going to lose all credibility.

But there’s something much deeper than that. The term "Tin foil hat" is becoming a new PC mantra, designed to shut someone up if they say something controversial. In fact, it’s the left-wing that is more of an enemy of weird thought than the right wing--because it is only in the left-wing where certain ideas could be allowed to grow. The right wing are busy being single-minded Christians and money-lovers. Meanwhile, the left-wing are busy being rational. The left-wing may be even more self-righteous than the right. I’ve found that Christian self-righteousness is on shaky ground--they are so defensive about their religion because deep down, where they can’t see, they’re unsure about it. I’ve seen this in my mother-in-law, a former pot-smoking delinquent who became born-again, and her religion just seems like clothes she wears. She prays in the morning and watches TV all day.

Liberals, on the other hand, know they’re right, and everybody else is just misguided and absurd. They are more condescending and more rigid. This is generalizing, but it’s the sense I get from the political left. I am not much of a protester, I could give a shit about local congressional races--I do however find presidential elections very interesting, which is why have been reading the political blogs lately. Political types seem to be more concerned with the law and facts than being truly open-minded. They are led by their conception of sobriety and reason, a kind of status quo--instead of entertaining radical new ideas. This is true also of a lot of "literary" writing, which has a sort of gentleness--it may be about dark subjects, but it wears its intelligence so conspicuously, a master of arts, that the darkness is in some way overshadowed, unreal. It satisfies the intellect, the fact-based part of the brain. Really those writers seem to be superficially showing off. It’s like the difference between fusion jazz, where everyone is a technical expert, and Coltrane jazz, where everyone is bleeding their soul.

Not that I have achieved what I want as a writer. I have a deep-seeded desire to please all people. I am a Kerry-like politician. I want the conspiracy nuts to agree with what I say, I want intellectuals to think I’m smart enough, I want the political left to think I am rational-minded. In short, I am full of shit. I want my writing to be eye-opening and controversial and I’m also worried about offending people. I wish I could lose that and stop being such a fucking apologizer.

December 9, 2004

Fun and Profit

This is the kind of story that goes unnoticed, which scares and annoys me deeply:

Terrorism for Fun and Profit

In which Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz manufacture the Soviet threat in the seventies just as they are manufacturing the extent of the threat of terrorism today. This Book seems eye-opening--it suggests this administration was complicit in 9-11. I have not read it but the reviews seem to suggest that it’s sober and non-paranoid. Eisenhower warned of the military industrial complex at the end of his administration. But building up a global threat of nuclear weapons just for profit is beyond diabolical.

The main theme of "Farenheit 9-11" is that the War in Iraq was not done to protect us against terrorism, but for war profiteering. There has always been war profiteering, but this just doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to build up nuclear weapons in the 70s/80s and kill tens of thousands of people in Iraq. Hungry for power? Are they just a bunch of power/money junkies who need more, more, more? Do their policies feel justified when they feel another adrenaline rush of power? This seems a little simple.

The argument that the neocons want to be world-builders in the Middle East by creating a viral democracy just doesn’t seem like enough either--especially in light of a manufactured Soviet threat in the seventies, when the Soviets were already crippled and fading fast. The neocons thought it was a good idea at this time to build up a nuclear arsenal. And now they are making a contained terrorist threat worse--threatening the entire world with that very same nuclear arsenal. The Hegelian model suggests that two opposing forces are good for progress. Thesis vs. Antithesis = synchronicity. Captialism vs. Communism was good for the global marketplace. This is secret society stuff, but the climate today is just weird--it’s almost like they want to destroy the planet.

I don’t think that they are hard-right Christians who want to bring about a Reveletions-based apocalypse. Little boy Bush might believe in this, but I cannot believe Dick Cheney is any sort of Christian. Certainly Wolfowitz isn’t. You don’t know want to know what I think because it will discredit me completely. I believe in a UFO conspiracy. I’m not saying it ties into this necessarily, I just think there is a lot more than the nightly news will ever tell us--the fraud allegations regarding this election are a good example. People have been tried and convicted on less evidence than they have about fraud. You don’t need 100% smoking gun proof to start an investigation, which thankfully some high-level people are doing…

Back to my nut: I believe UFOs exist and any conspiracy is probably being headed by the Cheneys of the world. The fact that I can’t write about UFOs without fear of immediate ridicule suggests that conservative debunking has worked. There have been thousands upon thousands of witnesses, and that is evidence in itself. I like the UFO issue for the very reason that people are afraid of it. When choosing between conservative thought and far-out thought, I’ll go with the far-out. Eventually a lot of far-out thought becomes the mainstream. Not all of it, of course, but take my word for it: a lot of deeply intelligent and rational people have been involved in investigating UFOs and have come forward as witnesses.

It does seem like there is a lot we’re not being told. Manufacturing a war is proof enough that there’s a lot more to this strangely-evil administration than just plain incompetence. They are like a Bond villain, or Mr. Burns--they are the bad guys. Soon I imagine you are going to start seeing conspiracy theories becoming the mainstream. Maybe "National Treasure" and The Da Vinci Code are the beginning. Things are going to get a lot weirder.

December 8, 2004


I worked as a P.A. on a movie that my mom produced called "Sexual Life" about sex lives. It will be on Showtime at some point. My wife and I had just driven a 14-foot Uhaul dragging our piece-of-shit Toyota from Wilmington, North Carolina, with our year-old daughter sitting in a car-seat between us. Harrowing, stupid of us, wouldn’t do it again. In Texas, lightning storms in every direction, we got hit by a mini tornado, so the truck swerved left then right and we had to stop in the middle of the highway. Thankfully, no one was behind us, or. In Barstow, almost home, we tried to make a turn in a hotel parking lot and got stuck. Our truck + car was too long. A guardian angel mechanic happened to be in the parking lot, and helped us dislodge the car from the truck. These are the kind of moments that seem impossible while they are happening, a dreamlike disaster, but somehow you get past it.

We were terrified of L.A. We came there to be close to family and I was out of work in Wilmington. There was a welcome party for us when we got there in which someone told me: I know of this great duplex for rent in Los Feliz, it’s only $2200 a month. Only 2200, we were paying $575 in Wilmington for an entire house with a backyard. People were talking of the new Beyonce record as if it mattered. And I thought, holy shit, what do I have to become in order to live here. Somehow though, we managed. Like that drive out from NC, we got it done, and then the past is suddenly behind you. It was traumatic, but really a profound experience. We both found jobs, a good apartment with decent enough rent, a nice daycare center around the corner run by old Israeli sisters. For these reasons, I always believe in my family.

Almost as soon as we hit land in L.A., living at my parents house, I got the work as a P.A. I’d like to never do it again. Found out how strangely hate-filled a movie set can be. A lighting engineer screamed at me, "Get that the fuck out of my way!" about a crate of water that wasn’t in his way. "You’re not going to put those fucking chairs on my truck" the key grip yelled. Why do you care if some chairs are on "your" truck? It’s a crazy food chain of hostility. It was one power trip after another. P.A.s are at the bottom, carting trash, bringing coffee, so they get the brunt of it.

It felt like being in the army. Everybody on the set had the urgency that the job was never going to get done, but it always got done. They rushed so they could wait and then complain about waiting. It reminds me of porn where a lot of the time people have an expression like they hate each other, turning sex into something only aggressive--as if on a movie set, which is supposed to be glamorous, and isn’t, people are deeply bitter. The same guy who yelled at me about water said, "Friends of mine want me to get them work. I tell them, get a job at a moving company for a year, and then tell me if you still want to do the job."

I can’t believe anything can be created in this climate. The grunt workers didn’t care at all about the movie, most of them didn’t know what the movie was about--this could have been art or crap, they were just there to set up the equipment. Meanwhile the actors are treated like porcelain royalty, as if they could break at any moment. This is why people like to become Hollywood actors, and it was a relatively small movie. The male actors seemed slightly embarrassed that they were being pampered while the real men did the heavy lifting.

It was a one-million dollar movie which had to shoot at a heavy pace, so I imagine the climate’s better on a 100-million dollar movie. Food's better, more time to do things, more people to do it, more pride maybe, but I asked someone and he said this was basically what it’s like. Glad I had the experience, even though it was humiliating. It was good to get a glimpse into the machine. It told me, once again, that I need to be a writer. Waking up at 5 a.m., terrifying drives in the Toyota which couldn’t go past 60 on the immense L.A. freeways, where everyone seemed to know where they were going and they were impatient about it. The job was a microcosm of all my fears about moving to L.A. It was only a year ago but it could have been a decade.

December 6, 2004

John Lennon

The anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination is on Wednesday. When I wrote my celebrity stalker novel, the one book I read as research was the biography of Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, called Let Me Take You Down. I love John Lennon but Mark David Chapman is an interesting story, even if he’s a sick, evil freak. He would call payphones, which he could see, and threaten anonymous strangers. Horrible, but still fascinating--I stole it and put it in my book. So either I was taking artistic license by basing a character on Chapman or I’m going to hell and every bit of bad literary luck I’ve faced is Instant Karma for trumping up a fucker like Chapman.

While I’m on the topic of that novel, someone put up the cover and the ability to search through it on the Amazon page. I haven’t been in touch with the publisher for years--since the founder split unamicably and someone new took over. So I have no idea who could have spent the time scanning in the pages from the novel. Glad that somebody’s thinking about it.

This weekend, I unearthed the Beatles songbooks. "Help" through "Let It Be." Belting out Beatles songs badly, annoying the neighbors. The Beatles are like the Bible of songwriting. Every song seems like a fable, like it always existed.

For some reason, the Paul McCartney songs are more fun to play, even though I like John Lennon’s songs more. The highlight was singing "I’ve Got a Feeling" while Olivia, my daughter, jumped up and down on the bed screaming, "Everybody pulled their socks up, everybody put their foot down Oh yeah, oh yeah, Ohhhhh yeah." Didn’t sing the "wet dream" part. She loves the "Yellow Submarine" movie and her favorite song is "Hello, Goodbye." I can’t believe I have a daughter who loves the Beatles. I love her. Our gift to her this holiday are the Yellow Submarine toys which you can still buy. She’s going to flip out.

December 3, 2004


I should drop it all and become a television critic. At least on this blog. I’ve had more hits for "Trading Spouses" than I’ve ever had for anything. The demonically liberal vegan women seemed to strike a chord with people. Probably because she was liberally demonic.

Which leads me to annoying moment #2, really an annoying person. My dorm-room neighbor when I was in college told me that when he got out of school he wanted to become a critic. He said this with a superior little gleam in his eye. This probably doesn’t scream out, annoying, but it’s stuck with me. He didn’t dream of creating anything, he dreamed of criticizing other people’s creations. Instead of writing short fiction or poetry for the school literary magazine, he wrote book reviews.

Everyone needs a nemesis, perhaps. The man followed me around. He lived around the block from me when I lived in downtown NYC. He always had pretty girlfriends. Seemed to aspire to be a character from a Woody Allen movie. Last time I saw him on the subway he told me with the same superior little gleam that Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep was a profound Joycean take on the Jewish experience. Something like that. I think he now writes for "The Nation." I’m green with criticism.

Been seeing a lot of movies recently, in my living room. Watched "Insomnia" last night, which I liked. I trust every word coming out of Al Pacino. It was nice to see a movie with real live human actors. Before that I saw Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Something. Only half-watched it, waiting for the next special effect. I heard this was the more adult version of Harry Potter. If that’s true then adults are in trouble. Before that saw Kill Bill 2, which I liked after the first half hour when it stopped taking itself seriously and started being completely ridiculous. Even if it seems like a movie made by a genius ten-year-old it still has a vision. I prefer someone reaching for something and not totally succeeding than a serviceable movie by a hack. Terrence Malick’s "Thin Red Line" fits into this--he was overreaching, but at least he was reaching.

While I’m at it, I don’t understand the great love for "Lord of the Rings," especially by liberal-minded people. Seems like an overgrown war movie, except instead of Nazis or Russians you have orcs and killer elephants. A lot of macho talk about bravery and courage, black and white good vs. evil, it seems fairly pro-war to me. I know I should sit back and enjoy it, and I did. It’s hard not to be entertained by gigantic killer elephants. Doesn’t mean it’s good. And it’s not like I’ve never been a D & D nerd. I know what Armor Class and Hit Points are, intimately.

I once heard an interview on NPR with Stephen Ambrose, the historian. He said that men want to go to war because it’s the only place that they can prove they have courage. He’s dead now, so I shouldn’t go overboard, but this is moronic, and dangerous.

No, I’m not a critic. I only criticize every other thing I see, which is being generous.

December 1, 2004

Class Reunion

I’ve been invited to my 20 year elementary school class reunion in February. Scares the shit out of me a little bit, but then I’m sure it does everybody. Time will tell if I actually end up going to it. I’ll see how I feel the day of. I’ve got a terrible memory so there are a lot of people I only somewhat remember, except Gwyneth Paltrow, who was always a princess, the most popular girl, and Maya Rudolph who’s on "Saturday Night Live" and is dating Paul Thomas Anderson. At least that’s the last gossip I heard. This is what happens when you go to a private school in the true heart of Los Angeles.

Many people from my elementary school went on to my high school, Crossroads, so I’ve seen them recently. It’s a very incestuous little community, no different than if the high school was in a town of 5000. A writer from "Vanity Fair" recently emailed me about an article he was writing about Crossroads but then I never heard back from him. It’s that kind of high school. I went to high school with Cher’s kid, Jack Nicholson’s kid, Gary Coleman, Sean Astin from LOTR, director Barry Levinson’s (Rain Man) kid, director Paul Verhoeven’s (Robo Cop) kid, after me was Kate Hudson. I’m sure there are a lot more but I don’t really want to spend time remembering.

My first novel, about a celebrity stalker, written when I was twenty, was very much a product of going to that high school. I discovered punk rock, which was good, but I was alienated as hell, sitting alone on a bench, believing in hate. The place seemed removed from the stuff of real life. Every high school in America has its beautiful popular kids, but there’s something a shade more insane about the kids of the people that everyone in America worships. All high school kids think they are at the center of the world--but for the kids of the Hollywood ruling class, they actually were. That sounds like something that would go in that "Vanity Fair" article.

The thing I’m not saying is that I am a Hollywood kid myself. My father’s a screenwriter, my mom’s a producer, so that first novel had a whole lot of self-hatred in there as well. They weren’t wildly successful, but they were in the business, which means my mom once spent an afternoon with Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and a monkey in a trailer. I always thought that I had grown up in an atheistic family, but this was never the case. My parents worked for the new American religion. Instead of going to church on Sundays, they checked what movies were coming out on Friday. That sounds like bad Hollywood memoir writing, which is why I choose to write about Hollywood from a lunatic’s perspective, my own thoughts magnified.

Gary Coleman was a senior when I was in the eight grade. He was short so he chased after the girls in my grade. One time during P.E. we were in the weight room and a small figure burst into the room wearing a space outfit--expensive, silver from the helmet to the boots. He shot us all with a toy laser and then left. The teacher looked embarrassed. We all laughed. I don’t have to look too far for a lunatic’s perspective.

November 30, 2004

Mystery Train

I read this in Greil Marcus’ Mystery Train the other night. About The Band:

"Like most good American artists, they had been romantics, but not fools; when the romance began to go, their talent for asking the right questions went with it. They still looked for community, but like many who cannot find it, they fell back into an even deeper privacy than they started out with. Because their dreams were too real and too beautiful to give up, they felt a sense of guilt; their withdrawal…was a betrayal of those dreams."

I have had the same fear and guilt in myself, and I have never been wildly successful--my only audience is something I imagined I might one day have. That sort of confidence, even if a delusion, can be enjoyable and I should be grateful for it. Sometimes I feel as if I am coming down from the high of my twenties when I believed in myself in a romantic way. (I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to. Besides, Empty Drum, my biggest critic, seems to have abandoned the experiment.) I am a father now, a husband, so my dreams have to be a bit more pragmatic. But at those times of apathy and artistic inactivity, I feel like I’m betraying my better self.

I’ve been sick for three weeks. Coughing through the night, and now, mysteriously, my hearing seems to have dropped out. Too much pressure. So I shouldn’t feel so guilty about not writing fiction. Ah, but I do. Jewboy I am. In the past, I have felt devoutly inspired to write my new novel--only it came at a time when my daughter was just born and I was unemployed. Any fiction writing seemed irresponsible. Now, I’m employed and some of my past obsession has faded. I fear you have to grab inspiration when it comes. I’ve spent so much time thinking and writing about my latest novel that I’ve lost some interest in it. Even writing this last sentence is dangerous--once something is stated, it becomes less urgent, and creating anything needs a sense of urgency.

I saw a play on PBS called "Collected Stories" with Linda Lavin (sitcom’s Alice) about an old, intellectual writer and her young apprentice. She talks about how you shouldn’t talk about what you’re writing because you’ll lose some of your desire. This is why seeing a shrink might sometimes be bad for writers as well--the pent up energy will go "out the mouth" rather than onto paper. Another good line from that play: "Life’s too short for the ‘New Yorker.’"

Inspiration, at least for me, is delicate. If you don’t run with it when it hits you, you might be lost. Back to the Beatles: John Lennon couldn’t write the songs from Sgt. Pepper in 1975, he was hit with the inspiration in 1967. This isn’t entirely fair because writing a novel unfolds over a much longer time than songwriting. It took Flaubert five years to write Madame Bovary. It’s incredible and enviable that he cared about the book to the same degree five years later--but then again in the 19th century time ran at a different pace.

This blog is my virtual shrink. It’s still writing, so I shouldn’t feel so guilty that my thoughts are getting lost to the wind…but I do. I hope my obsession returns. Prayer number 3534634 recorded.

November 23, 2004

Television Uber Alles

Saw an episode of "Trading Spouses" last night. Two mothers from very different homes trade places. Never seen the show before. Don’t watch much new television. A vegan mother was traded with an alligator-killing Cajun woman. It’s stuck with me because it was like watching a horror movie. The vegan woman was a total fucking bitch, pure self-righteousness of the store-bought kind. Hates killing or wearing animals but she isn’t against torturing her kids. I know these shows are cut together to show the worst of everybody, but they didn’t have to look far with this woman. Of course, the Cajun was down-to-earth and likable.

I fear fascism from the right, but liberal fascism is right up there. The cities will be patrolled by members of the suede/denim secret police (from the Dead Kennedy’s "California Uber Alles.") I don’t know, there's something about this woman, with her squealing friends who look like they worship "Sex and the City," which incidentally seems like a retelling of Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl--am I being observant, or is this mentioned over and over again? Saw that show only once in a hotel room somewhere, and they were talking about cock size and I thought, haven’t they already had this conversation? Anyway, vegan women, early thirties, husband-desperate, perfectly cut hair, expensive clothes, one wearing a shirt that says "Vegan" tight to her chest. People can be hateful.

And I’m hateful for saying that. I’m sure the woman with the stupid t-shirt has family, people who love her, people who she loves. I’m sure the woman who’s a tyrant to her children had tyrannical parents of her own. But this mother told a ten-year-old boy that he was not going to live to forty if he kept eating meat. A ten-year old. This is cruelty--similar to telling him that he would burn in the fires of hell. In fact, there’s no difference between far-right Christianity and her brand of veganism. Nothing against veganism, really, but no one’s life should be dictated by one idea. I imagine this woman had some terribly fucked-up parents--you could see it in her eyes. Sad really, I should be sympathetic or ignore it, but this type of wisdom never seems to arrive.

A lot to take from a TV show. Got me thinking about people in general, again. If I were in charge, I would probably be a fascist myself, jailing people for being insipid and annoying. I would be the warden, banishing myself to solitary confinement.

November 18, 2004


I don't usually post links to random sites or other web miscellany, but I found this very cool site. A lot of free theological, occult, strange books.

Sacred Texts

If I didn't fear that I was developing a brain tumor from staring at the computer so much, I'd be spending a lot of my time here.

Here are some more free books:

Read Print

November 17, 2004

Scenes from "The Golden Calf"

For any of you who are interested--and I know there are thousands of you out there--here’s a link to the scenes that were filmed for my first novel.

The Golden Calf

The director filmed them as part of the IFP program, which probably stands for something. He was excited about the project and wanted to continue with it, but I haven’t heard from him in a year. Such is life. He’s busy filming videos for music I’ve never heard of and commercials. He got a very cool cast together. The woman from Cassavetes’ "Shadows" as the mother--one of those movies I’d like to own and watch over and over again. Especially good is Kevin Corrigan as Ray, the main character. He’s sort of an indie God from parts in movies like "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," "Walking and Talking" and "Goodfellas." He’s real good in all of them and real good in this.

It was a very strange experience seeing my dialogue come to life. I developed a new appreciation for what actors do. Actually, they basically got every line wrong from what I had imagined, but it didn’t matter because the actors breathed a new kind of life into the screenplay--I adapted the novel myself. I’d only had actors read something I’d written once before: a sit-down reading of a play I’d written about prison. It’s a sometimes aggravating process hearing your words read out loud, sometimes better, sometimes worse. It is amazing how drastically the meaning can change by just putting a different accent on a word here or there. There was a discussion about the reading of the play afterwards with some of the actors. Their feeling was the one actor who I thought had got it right had delivered the worst performance. Shows what little I know.

I guess an actor’s job is to distort what’s on the page in a certain way. I don’t say that as a criticism. It really showed me how skilled an artform acting can be--a performance is like real-time interpretation. Acting is much more subtle than I’d given it credit. I’ve spent a lot of time hating actors in my life for seeming kind of self-sycophantic. I am one who likes to hide so I resent those who like to exhibit themselves. Everybody seems to be acting all the time, so professional acting seems redundant. But acting is a kind of music: like a band covering a song in their own style, rather than playing it exactly the same way. Every classical music piece is played slightly differently by each musician even though the notes are the same. The idea is to bring the actor’s mind to the part rather than represent exactly what’s on the page. Maybe this is obvious, but I only got it when I saw something I had written performed. All in all, a cool experience.

November 12, 2004

The Plot Against America

The Plot Against America : A Novel by Philip Roth

Don’t know what I can add to the discussion that hasn’t been written by 100,000 reviewers. Not that I’ve read any of them. I tend to stay about from literary rags like the New Yorker and the NY Times Book Review because they make me feel envious and inadequate, and then superior which makes me feel jilted and forsaken. None of these things are positive. More suffocating negativity, which is not a promising way to begin a book review for a novel I enjoyed.

My reaction to this novel has a lot to do with writing The American Book of the Dead in which a fascist, hard right wing President takes office--the worst paranoia about GW come to life. In short, The Plot Against America is about Charles Lindbergh winning the White House in 1940 and beginning a Nazi agenda in the States. It is a glimpse into what the holocaust might look like on American soil. It is a deeply affecting premise. Methodical and convincing. I began the novel before the election and I even thought of starting the American Book from scratch. If Kerry won, I would write an alternate history of what the world would have looked like if Bush had won the election. Now I feel like we’re living in an alternate history where anything is possible and no dystopic paranoia is farfetched. I don’t think we’re headed to a fascist theocracy overnight--but even the echo of a potential is scary enough.

Philip Roth is a schizophrenic writer. David Bowie sings in a lot of voices as well so there’s really no problem with it. Every novel seems to have a different voice. The Plot Against America is closer to Goodbye, Columbus than Portnoy’s Complaint. This isn’t hyperactively sexual like some of his novels, or hyperactively intellectual like American Pastoral. Which is probably why I enjoyed it more--it lacks the ego and pretension of some of his other books. The Professor of Desire is the one that irks me most, in which the main problem faced by the author is that he is having a menage a trois with two Swedish girls. Poor guy. I'll admit that I tried to read that book when I was particularly hard-up, so maybe it’s better than that.

I am exactly the audience for The Plot Against America. I am a sucker for fiction that borders on non-fiction. Unlike In Cold Blood or The Executioner’s Song, this novel is fiction first, non-fiction second, with a memoir somewhere in there as well. It’s well-researched but not overwhelmed by its research--I am sure there’s a review out there which says the opposite. I imagine there are a lot of true stories in this book, given a different background. He manages to meld all of these different mediums together. Plainly, this is a well-written book. Roth is great at ending chapters and mid-chapter breaks. It is all very similar to what I want to do with my new novel, not that I've done it yet. In The American Book I am trying to divine what my life will be like in 20 years during wartime--here, Roth is trying to determine what his family’s life would have been like during a tragic alternate history. With the election now over, and a potential fascist now in the White House with a blank check, the novel was strangely comforting.

November 11, 2004

The Surreality Based Community

There seems to be a serious conservative streak on Daily Kos that discounts anything related to esoteric belief. "Tin foil hat" has been thrown around far too often. The term "reality based community" seems ill-placed in a progressive movement--as if reality is exactly what we see. This may be a scientific age but there is a lot more we don't know than we do know--every new discovery rewrites old discoveries. We quite possibly live in a multi-dimensional universe. I don't want to lecture on string theory and quantum physics, but there's a whole lot more going on to "reality" than the "reality based community" likes to believe.

One thing I have heard mentioned is that the answer to red-state religious hysteria is atheism. Flame away, atheists, but how can you possible have the arrogance to claim the answer to the question if God exists? To me, this is a kind of headstrong fundamentalism equal to far-right Christianity--the idea that you have the final word about God. If you can give me the definitive answer about what happens after we die, I’ll listen to your thoughts about atheism. The fact is no one knows what happens after we die, so the reality-based community is a lot more complicated than any legislation, candidate, or political party can possibly represent.

Another commenter said that if God exists than he would have stopped those planes from hitting the Trade Center. This falls under the supposition that God is all good, the devil is all bad. To my mind this is a kind of juvenile depiction of God. The concept of yin/yang makes a lot more sense to me--i.e. God is both good and evil. Furthermore, the concept of God is a lot more complicated than a man sitting on a throne in Heaven. God is Gaia, God is the collective unconscious, God is mind, source, and so on. I can't claim to know the definitive answer to God, but I do have faith that he/she/it exists and is not fully described by any religion. In fact, God is better described by the new physics--which in fact proves that Eastern religions have been right all along. At some point, science and religion will become one. Right now for the Democrats to claim they’re the party of science and Republicans to claim they’re the party of faith is a dangerous road.

I am more prone to believe the themes of the Da Vinci Code than middle-American Christianity. Actually, present-day Christianity is a distortion of the original word--concepts such as reincarnation being stripped from the religion and the holy trinity being invented around 600 A.D., My aversion is to the current dumbed-down version of Christianity, not to faith itself. So I find people’s cynicism about religion here to be troubling. Yes, this election made me hate religious zealotry--we answered an attack by Islamic fundamentalists by voting for our own brand of Christian fundamentalism. But because this was a faith-based election--and faith won over common-sense--people's reaction is to abandon faith entirely. To my mind not having faith is more conservative than liberal. Believing a book to have every answer is something else, but I don't think science is so much more attuned to our complex reality than fundamentalism. If science had all of the answers, we would live in a paradise.

I understand that the left can’t start screaming about certain issues without looking like paranoid loons. The left can’t talk about fraud, secret societies, and UFOs or else they won’t be taken seriously. Still it seems very strange to me that people here should be so wary of any talk about fraud--it shows a strange amount of trust in the other side. This administration is full of dementedly sinister people, and because there is no "proof" it must not be true. Yes, there needs to be proof to overturn the election, but lack of proof does not necessarily mean it’s false. The fact that there is no proof might just mean that they covered their tracks. The people who deny fraud and the people who deny the room for faith might be two sides of the same coin--they are people who rely too much on the scientific method.

To abandon far-out ideas for "reality" is conservative to the core--remember, they jailed Copernicus, Stravinsky’s "Rite of Spring" was scandalous. The mainstream is always averse to new thought--whether it’s new science or new art or new religious thought. Oddly enough, many people in the left-wing seem more mainstream than liberal.

November 9, 2004

Annoying Moment

Probably first in a series. In Paris, sitting in my living room with a group of classical musicians: a cellist, a violinist, and a piano player. Listening to the Beatles. They winced and laughed about how flat the strings were in "Eleanor Rigby." The pianist said, "Amateurs." That was annoying.

November 4, 2004


I don’t want to say too much on the election except it’s embarrassing and humiliating and depressing and dispiriting. That and I don’t think it was a legitimate election. I am tired of hearing about mandates and a decisive win. A country divided. And so on. Kerry lost the Presidency by 150,000 votes and those votes might very possibly have been rigged. This makes me feel alternately abused and relieved.

We live in dangerous, dark ages, Jim Crow times right now. People believe in both Jesus and hate. We are an alcoholic country, drunk on a destructive version of God. We need to hit rock bottom, near dead in the gutter, before things will get better. We were attacked by Islamic fundamentalists and we voted a step towards our own American Taliban. This country was founded on the principle of Manifest Destiny so maybe this should be no surprise. I could call this growing pains but we are not growing fast enough--our spiritual intelligence is regressing.

What is called "moral values" are in fact immoral values. It is fucking ironic really. This country is crucifying itself. George Bush is the Golden Calf, the anti-Christ, whatever you want to call him--he is a darkly-spirited man. He represents pro-war and hate, a rapist of rational good will. Part of these "moral" values, I agree, is a sense of deep belief and Kerry did not display this nearly enough. I think he is a kind, giving, caring man but he lets his political machinations override his actual convictions. Yes, this election was a pro-Christian, anti-gay, pro-war referendum, but Kerry did not give a full sense of who he is as a person--this would have sold the non-zealots on his cause. He attacked Bush too much because he thought it was working. Then again, maybe it did work, and thousands of votes have been discarded.

What I look forward to is another Watergate, called Votergate, led by an out-of-work John Edwards. If Karma has any play in the world, and the real Gods aren’t dead (which they aren’t), something will happen to these people. Nixon went down two years after 72, the year of my birth. I also look forward to George Bush finally being held accountable for his policies. Even with Bush as President, 9-11 fades into the background as the days pass. He cannot bank on it in the same way again. If there is another terrorist attack, it will have far different implications this time around. If he fixes nothing and things do indeed get worse, as they are bound to, the non-evangelical Bush supporters are going to defect. That may be Kerry’s lasting legacy--shining the light on what Bush has done wrong.

After it is all over, I am still here. I appreciate and love my family even more. They are a beautiful juxtaposition to the crushing, heartbreaking disappointment I have been feeling. And we are not at the apocalypse yet. We are not at martial law, or civil war, and civilization breathes on. I have lived through 4 years of Bush and made it. Our health care premiums for my daughter are far too high but so far we’ve managed to afford it. I have more fodder for my novel. Maybe it’s good to have an enemy. At least now I can turn off the TV forever. If Kerry were President, I’d be watching his press conferences. I will totally ignore Bush as nothing he says has any relation to reality. All in all, I am proud to live on the blue left coast, away from the blood-red states in the middle of the country. I have never felt so at home in Los Angeles. Time to get back to my mind and keep writing.

October 18, 2004

Central Scrutinizer

Hi, it’s me, I’m back. But I don’t know for how long. I’ve become progressively obsessed with this election. Dangerously obsessed, in the cult mind-set, can’t see straight sort of belief. Truth is, I can get addicted to anything. The stakes are so high in this election--life and death, a battle between blind-religious and rational thinking, the possibility of an actual apocalypse. I’m not going overboard here--the Suskind piece in the NY Times yesterday talks about everything regarding Bush’s faith except the obvious--his belief in the inevitability of the Rapture and the Second Coming.

I’m getting off topic. So much is riding on this election that it has overtaken my mind. Nothing much matters to me. I can’t work, all I want to do is read political stories. If I see a pro-Bush piece I search for a positive Kerry article to balance it. Oh, that feels good, a little jolt of optimism, I want some more of that. And so on. I’m a nut.

So I have neglected this blog. I have really neglected the American Book. I am partly interested in seeing how this election turns out. I think the sky is going to fucking clear when Bush is elected out. I read somewhere that the Bush Presidency is like a bad relationship--we won’t know just how bad we had it until it’s over. Fear hangs over everything like weather. I’m of the belief that half of the terror alerts are bullshit, so if Kerry gets into office, the terror alerts won’t be necessary. He is going to discover a war on terror campaign that may seem like it’s intentionally mismanaged.

I read pro-Bush articles in which people say Kerry will be defensive on the War on Terror, Bush will be offensive. These arguments aggravate me so. Number 1. Bush has been on the offensive and look where it’s gotten us. He has mismanaged it so far--what makes a Bushite think that he will do better in the future? Number 2. Bush is so maligned in the world that nobody is going to jump to our side if we do need to preemptively strike again. Number 3. Less importantly, Bush has terrorized the country himself by pumping us full of fear of the enemy. Being that fear of terrorism is basically all that Bush has in his corner, these points are important. Kerry will defend the country against terrorism because he has to.

All right, I thought I could purge some of my political bent by writing a non-partisan blog entry. I can’t. I want this election to happen already so I can move on. I think Kerry’s going to win due to incredibly high voter turnout numbers--people who are not now being counted in the polls--young people, minorities, cell phone users, the anti-Bush sentiment is huge, even with Republicans, etc. Still, I find following this election fun and satisfying. This is the reason people follow religion--a belief in something much larger than themselves. This election seems much deeper than Democratic vs. Republican: it’s spiritual, intellectual, moral as well. The election of one of these two men is going to drastically change the culture and emotion of the world. I can’t stay away from it.

October 5, 2004

Book Covers

While I’m posting pictures. The covers of my novel. I had some hand in the designing of the cover for the Soft Skull edition. I found the designer, Andy Goldman, who I went to high school with. I gave him a cover of a collection of Cornell Woolrich stories called Nightwebs. I liked the pulp style. The novel’s a mixture of Jim Thompson, Bukowski, and "Taxi Driver," as well as myself--anti-Hollywood, young man’s anger. I love what he did with the cover, and most people like it.

The book was the first full color, professionally bound book by Soft Skull. Up to that point they’d been printing at Kinko’s. In no small way, they learned what not to do with my book. They’ve grown since then.

I had no part in the designing the U.K. edition, put out by Rebel Inc. Press, part of Canongate. I gotta admit it flatters my ego that my name’s so big, up in the sky, but the Hollywood sign thing has been used before. I have a novel Wormwood which is basically the same cover.

Once again, my book was abandoned by the editor once it came out. The editor who took on my book left the press right when my book was coming out. I don’t want to complain too much, it’s fucking great to have a published book, I’m proud of it and grateful, but still there’s a strange pattern here.

October 4, 2004


Absurdly cute picture of my daughter. The DNC sent us a picture of Kerry/Edwards at the convention. Olivia picked it up and we told her it's John Kerry. Our bit of parental indoctrination. "John Kerry," she said in her two-year-old voice. When Kerry came on the news, Olivia flipped out. "John Kerry, John Kerry" she yelled and ran to find the picture, clapping, laughing, jumping up and down. I should have filmed the scene and sent it to the DNC. It was the most convincing pro-Kerry display yet.

October 1, 2004

Gut Feeling

My gut reaction to the debate.

Kerry lost. Dammit. He spent too much time attacking Bush. The issue if Bush was wrong to go to war in Iraq is somewhat irrelevant. We're at war. It takes a lot to switch a Commander in Chief midway through a war. Therefore, Kerry needed to talk more about what he would do, rather than what Bush has done wrong. People already know things are messed up--it needs a new plan. Why in the hell didn't Kerry address the charge "What message does that send the troops/allies?" He has a tendency to not address the obvious, i.e. the flip-flop charge.

When Bush says, snidely, "That's not true," to some charge by Kerry, the average voter doesn't know either way. They'll probably side with who's in charge. Bush seemed like an asshole, but he knew his shit, and that may be enough. I'm talking about "knowing his shit" to people who don't know the facts, which is a whole lot of people. Bush seemed in command at times. He seemed to be swiping Kerry off his shoulder like he was a flea he had to deal with. I thought some undecideds might like this.

My point is this: Bush has never been likable, he's always seemed like a prick and still people want to vote for him. So I thought his aggressive/defensive posture in the debate wouldn't be read as negative. The left are looking at Bush through the lens of despising him. This election is going to be decided by people who don’t hate Bush. Most people don’t think of him as Chimpy or a criminal. If they’re still undecided after what they’ve seen from Bush in four years, how is this debate going to change their minds?

This morning…

Once again I should have a little more faith in people. I never think that people will see Bush for what he really is so I assumed people would see his performance as strong. Bush seems to always get a pass. To me, last night wasn’t any worse than normal--he’s always that bad. But people can be discerning. So far, I've been wrong about the debate and I'm glad.

I always judge myself too harshly out in public. I get home from a party and I think shit, shit, shit about all the stupid things I said. Which are never as many as I think. I replay these moments over and over again. Last night, I judged my guy too harshly, and I judged the other guy as better than myself. Exactly what I do in life. I should never be a pundit. I take things too personally.

September 29, 2004


My daughter’s out of daycare for a couple of weeks, under my care, so I won’t have a lot of time to post. In the meantime, here’s something I posted at the Daily Kos. Thanks to everyone who got through my last long-winded post…

It's possible that in another couple of weeks we'll wonder why we were all biting our nails about Kerry. Everything seems to be going in Kerry's direction. The tide can turn against Bush overnight. He could start looking like a sad, lost, little joke, overseeing the remaining days of a failed presidency. A fantasy, of course, but Bush's main attack, the flip flop charge, is already losing steam. You can't say the same thing over and over again without people losing interest or thinking Bush has a one-note attack.

One of the most hopeful things I saw about Kerry's campaign was Kerry saying that he waited until 2 weeks before the debate before going negative on Bush and Iraq. They know what they're doing. The flip flop charge is all the Bush campaign has against Kerry, and once that's gone, they may be sunk. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" comment that he'd do it again almost nullifies Kerry's "flip flop" comments at the Grand Canyon.

The Democratic convention seems years past, but it did a lot to build up Kerry. If Kerry does well at the debates--looks dignified, trustworthy--Rove and Fox aren't all powerful enough to spin it entirely in their direction. There is just too much wrong with Bush's presidency for spin to work across the board. The only way for Bush to win this election may be to steal it.

The main issues are the economy and national security, but it’s really about who has the character to deal with these issues. It's fairly obvious that Bush doesn't have the policy to deal with terror: Iraq is a growing disaster. It's because people don't trust Kerry on a fundamental level that they haven't come to his side. It may have less to do with his policy decisions regarding anything than it is about the feel that people have for the man.

The debates may change all that. Everyone’s eager for Kerry to pounce on Bush, but really the debates are about showing who Kerry is, not what Bush isn’t. People want to find a reason to feel good about Kerry. These are very uneasy times so any sense of uneasiness is amplified.

September 27, 2004

Cosmic Debris

I want to keep going on the theme from the last post. The comments were very cool. Even the negative comments are interesting cause at least people are paying attention and it’s getting a response. As long as they don’t outnumber the good comments, of course.

So supposing tomorrow I was offered a six-figure book deal--and my "cosmic debt" was fulfilled. By no means would this convince me that I am a "great" writer. I would not feel automatically christened, as if my entitlement was complete. Success isn’t enlightenment. However, how could I not feel somewhat smiled upon? I don’t believe that it is an arbitrary or random process determining who becomes successful. This stems from my belief in God at the most basic level--everything has a reason, everything has purpose. At the core, down to the DNA, there is a spiritual basis. I don’t mean this in any ghostly, or even transcendent, way.

I would be ecstatic if I was given the opportunity to be a well-fed writer. There is more to creating art than just completing a work. The Beatles were able to complete Sgt. Pepper because they had all the time in the world to do it. They had the money to use string sections and perfect the record. This is much more important in music than in writing where all you need is a pen and some paper. Still, Philip Roth and many others can wake up every morning and work on their writing. I have to spend the majority of my time trying to make a living, paycheck to paycheck. Sure it’s a test of my artistic meddle to see if I can still write in this environment. But ultimately I would like to be successful so I can have the freedom to write and explore what I like.

What is it that makes some people popular and some people not? Often, very good things become successful: The Beatles, Jack Kerouac, Nirvana, Martin Scorsese. I would like to be a part of that group. Somehow great things do rise to the surface. More often, crap becomes successful, so it is not a proof of worth. Success might mean you’ve touched the human soul, but then I’m fooling myself because Celine Dion touches the human soul as well. Though maybe Celine Dion has been very helpful to a lot of people, saved them from suicide, got them through illness and so on--even if she has no depth.

Which leads me somewhere else--there is a great chasm between great art and crap. There are very few Mozarts, Einsteins, John Lennons--while there’s an endless amount of failure. Maybe "bad" artists don’t see it as failure. Maybe they love what they do and are expressing themselves as well as they can. Fine, but John Lennon is just miles above most other songwriters. Was he divinely inspired? John Lennon was more than just "lucky." Paul McCartney is proof of that. Once is luck, twice is something else. I think there is something mystical about the Beatles. Just how great they were, the head of a movement, three songwriters all in the same group, same town, same time. Almost as soon as they broke up they all seemed to lose their talent. The dream was over. Perhaps we all have the capacity to be divinely inspired, but only some know how to channel it. Maybe, but even these channelers have something over the rest of us.

We seem to be living in a time when fewer and fewer artists seem to be touched by God. I think people have become too inward, too self-conscious. Art is becoming an expression only of the self, rather than something transcendent. Look at John Coltrane, personal and transcendent at the very same moment. That man really was touched by God. Listen to Glenn Gould play Bach’s Goldberg Variations and tell me if that doesn’t sound like the language of God. Is this totally arbitrary? Was Gould given genius like somebody else might be given cancer? Mozart was composing symphonies at six. It almost seems like a disorder. It’s not like he had the time to cultivate his genius, he just was a genius. I believe that Mozart was touched by something outside himself, he was possessed. But even this seems passive, like he was a puppet of God, and that in itself seems arbitrary.

On that front, sort of, I find it very strange to what a sour degree brilliant songwriters lose their talent. Paul McCartney, David Bowie, I just heard some new songs by Roger Waters which pale next to what he’s done before, even if it has a nice anti-war message. It’s almost as if they used up their brilliance in their early years. Maybe they abused the privilege. Maybe being that wealthy makes it hard to feel in the same way they once did. Maybe rock music can only be made by people in their twenties. I’m glad that I have fiction writing to fall back on. Prose writers usually get better with age.

Basically, I have no answer to any of this. I’m trying to define divine inspiration and trying to determine if success is divinely inspired as well. I have no idea.

September 23, 2004

Unrequited Messiah

While I’m making dull lists, here’s my top fifteen novels, in no order:

Harry Crews- All We Need of Hell
Jim Thompson- A Hell of a Woman
Richard Yates- Revolutionary Road
John Steinbeck- The Grapes of Wrath
Dostoevsky- Crime and Punishment
Hubert Selby- Last Exit to Brooklyn
Charles Bukowski- Ham on Rye
Denis Johnson- Jesus’ Son
F. Scott Fitzgerald- The Beautiful and Damned
Philip K. Dick- Ubik
George Gissing- New Grub Street
George Orwell- Keep the Aspidistra Flying
James Baldwin- Another Country
William Burroughs- Junkie
Truman Capote- In Cold Blood

It gives some sense of who I am. Most of the writers, except for two, are long since dead. I am a contemporary writer who doesn’t read very much contemporary fiction. This makes me feel wrong.

To tell the truth, I make these lists so someone typing William Burroughs in Google might come across my site.

At this point in my writing life, I am becoming more interested in getting read than actually writing. I’ve done a lot of unrequited writing in my time and it’s been pretty deeply discouraging. Contemporary Press, are you listening? You’ve had my novel for months. Bleak House Press? You have 50 pages, want more? Lately, I haven’t been feeling like a writer. Writing fiction into the wind feels pointless. Recently, all I have been writing is this blog. Everything is writing to a certain degree, and it’s somewhat satisfying, but still I feel guilt-ridden. It’s a sickness of the vain and ambitious.

I always felt somewhere deep that I would be a successful writer. I used to feel like I was part of the history of writing in a beautiful way. I wanted to be a giant. Really, who doesn’t. Success always felt like it was around the corner. I don’t know if this was delusion or what. Now I wonder if this was immature idealism. Success has yet to come and I am losing some faith. Some writer God is playing with me, wondering what will break me or make me stronger.

All hope is not lost, however. If it was, I wouldn’t even write this blog. I still feel some undercurrent of inevitability, however faint. I have to. I just can’t use it to justify bad behavior--arrogance, depression. I may have been getting a swelled head before my time. Enough humbling already--what’s the final lesson I have to learn before I become who I’ve wanted to be? Whatever the answer, I’ve been getting great comments on this site, including an offer to read at a book festival. This is progress.

September 22, 2004

Girlfriend in a Coma

Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland

Holy shit, this is a good novel. How come nobody ever tells me about these things? Of course, books seem to find you just at the right moment, and this was exactly the time I should have been reading this novel about hope and the end of the world. I normally don’t like writers out of this generation: Rick Moody, David Foster Wallace, Michael Chabon. Writers who are too interested in expressing their cleverness and intelligence. So much wordplay, they have a way of writing around their subject.

I have the same problem with John Updike, a different generation entirely. He never writes a direct sentence, as if searching for what the hell he is talking about shows that the writing has great levels of meaning. Every time I read Updike I forget to read. It’s like listening to a book-on-tape--endless airlike droning, and then all of a sudden I think, Shit, I should be paying attention. By that time it’s too late.

Updike said that there’s books that every writer should read. This is bullshit. It has nothing to do with unique self-expression. John Grisham may have dutifully read his Canterbury Tales, it didn’t turn him into a brilliant writer. The Phd writers seem like the equivalent of a mansion--great sophistication may have gone into building it, but really it is garish and self-involved. Irony is a disaster for exploring the soul. I should be honest, I have not read everything by the above writers. I couldn’t get through Broom of the System, Bright and Risen Angels, Cavalier and Clay, a long list of Updike--which some people probably take as sacrilege. Not my religion.

Again, I’m getting off the subject. Douglas Coupland, Girlfriend in a Coma. I thought Douglas Coupland fit into this list of writers. He does write in that smug, superfluous, flashy way, but he is also not afraid to be sincere, even earnest, and this is a big distinction. I wasn’t a great fan of Generation X. Actually, I couldn’t get through it. All those sidebars seemed overly clever and affected. I was hoping for my generation’s On the Road, but it wasn’t. Although its hyper-irony was probably appropriate, what the generation needed was an antidote to the irony, not an expression of it. Girlfriend in a Coma is a better novel.

I have a very big problem of not being able to finish books, so when I do find a book that overtakes me, my faith and hope is restored. I have the theory that there is always one exactly right book that you should be reading at any one moment. Reading Girlfriend in a Coma was one of those moments. The problem with this theory is that I pick up books and put them down if it doesn’t stick. Often I feel like there’s something else I should be reading. When it sticks, though, it’s a beautiful experience.

Michael Talbot at the end of his book "Mysticism and the New Physics" talks about having intuition when it comes to discovering new books. He talks of walking into a--I think it’s a library--with the idea that he would somehow intuit the materials he was looking for--low and behold he leads himself to an article in a random magazine which takes him on a new lifelong path.

Now I get far out. My new tactic for finding a book is to go to the library and peruse the shelves and see where my mind takes me. Some books just shine out at me and I pick them up--Girlfriend was one. Some other books that have been very important to me--such as The Creating Consciousness, Science as the Language of God--have mysteriously called out to me. In a library, with row after row of seemingly anonymous books, this is really saying something. If this is true--if books really do find people at the right moment--there’s reason for hope.

September 17, 2004

For No Reason

…except to show off my music collection. I won’t be happy until I own every piece of music that’s ever been recorded. I must be a materialist. Here’s what I come back to most often:

The Band- Music from Big Pink
Jimi Hendrix- Cry of Love
Devo- Duty Now for the Future
David Bowie- The Man Who Sold the World, Heroes
The Kinks- Village Green, Muswell Hillbillies
The Beatles, The White Album, everything
John Lennon- Plastic Ono Band
George Harrison- All Things Must Pass
Brian Eno- Before and After Science
Roxy Music- 1st album
Talking Heads- Remain in Light
Meat Puppets- Up on the Sun
Schubert- String Quintet
Beethoven- Grosse Fuge
Shostakovich- Quartets
Prokofiev- Piano Concertos
John Coltrane- Coltrane (1963)…
Duke Ellington- Money Jungle, Small Groups
Brahms- 3rd Symphony
Do Make Say Think- & Yet & Yet
Tortoise- TNT
Frank Zappa- Hot Rats
Wire- Chairs Missing
Neil Young- Harvest
Zombies-Odessey and Oracle
Bach- Goldberg Variations (Gould, second time)
Railroad Jerk- One Track Mind
Pavement- Wowee Zowee
GBV- Bee Thousand
3- Dark Days Coming
Thinking Fellers- Strangers from the Universe
Sebadoh- Bakesale
Lou Barlow- Winning Losers
Folk Implosion- Dare to be Surprised
Frank Black- Teenager of the Year
Stevie Wonder- Innervisions
Sly Stone- Riot
Bob Dylan- Blood on the Tracks, others
Dinosaur Jr.- Bug
Pink Floyd- Meddle, Animals
Mingus Plays Piano
David Byrne- Catherine Wheel
Per Ubu- Modern Dance
Nirvana- In Utero
NoMeansNo- Wrong
Stooges- Raw Power
Rolling Stones- Exile on Main Street, Satanic Majesties
Helium- The Dirt of Luck
Smog- Wild Love
Miles Davis- E.S.P.
Wayne Shorter- Soothsayer
Thelonious Monk- Criss Cross
Black Market Clash
Husker Du- New Day Rising
Polvo- Cor-crane Secret
Adrian Belew- Desire of the Rhino King
Neutral Milk Hotel- On Avery Island
XTC- English Settlement, Drums & Wires
Flaming Lips- Soft Bulletin
Grateful Dead- American Beauty
Velvet Underground- Not Nico
Beach Boys- Smile
Minutemen- Double Nickels
The Who- Tommy
Elvis Costello- Blood and Chocolate
Milk- So Many Dynamos
Nick Drake- Pink Moon
Lou Reed- Transformer
Sonic Youth- Sister
Elgar- Cello Concerto, Dupre
Debussy/Ravel Quartets
Arvo Part- Tabula Rasa

Mostly men, I realize. It’s what I am. Most of my favorite fiction writers are men as well, and American.

September 16, 2004

Talking Heads

I have a guilty pleasure of reading the daily reports on the election, monitoring which candidate said what, going to Atrios and Kos and reading the comments, and following the polls. I really think there is no difference in doing this than following sports. Listening to a sports announcer say "Mike Piazza needs to change his stance at the plate" isn’t a whole lot different than hearing Mark Shields say, "Kerry needs to stay on message."

The stakes are higher, obviously, but pundits aren’t much better than political sports commentators. They both nitpick every moment and then make broad proclamations about what will happen, which usually are wrong. But I am still enjoying the election, just like I enjoy watching baseball--although I haven’t for a while since the Mets turned to shit, again. Just like sports, it’s up and down. I see a pro-Kerry poll and I feel good about my team’s chances. I see Bush speak and I feel pessimistic again.

I’ll say it again: Kerry’s got a real uphill battle. The fact that anybody supports Bush is troubling. He's dumb, he's untrustworthy, he's chickenlike. There is some sense of inevitability about a Bush win. Kerry is not just campaigning against a candidate. He's campaigning against Wal-Mart, and sit-coms, and bloodlust. He's campaigning against ugly America itself. This may be unwinnable. Perhaps America needs to fail utterly in order to learn from its failure. Still, I hope.

Kerry can only improve and recently he has been. His main problem is Iraq and terrorism, but if at some point he lays out a cohesive and coherent plan, people will listen. One giant thing working against Kerry is that in these times of fearing death he looks like a gaunt mortician. This is not helpful. Also, he is fundamentally uninspiring. I read a quote which seems like a good thing to say, but then when I see footage of him actually saying it the message falls flat. He was much better in the convention when he joked and smiled.

I nitpick the candidates just like the pundits. I am part of the problem. I know it’s wrong but what can I do. Perhaps I should be a monk and spend all of my time focusing on more important matters, forget the TV forever, but I enjoy both sports and Presidential campaigns. I am trivial, a fraud like a newscaster.

"Remain in Light" is a good record.

September 15, 2004


There’s an interesting quote in Daniel Pinchbeck’s Breaking Open the Head where he says that issues of spirituality/source/alternate realities might seem like the entire world when you’re caught up in it. If you stop thinking about it, these profound issues just kind of fade into the background. I have had the same problem--albeit not by taking Salvia or DMT. But I have had some profound revelations in my time--thinking God is everywhere, believing and seeing synchronicities in everything.

Mainly this has occurred after reading certain books. If I read a book about UFOs, I feel like I can look out the window and see a UFO hovering overhead. A week later, I don’t care nearly as much. Ideas digest. This is how books work: a biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald makes it seem like he was the only thing going in the twenties. Fiction is the same. It seems like the center of the world while you’re reading it, or at least it should.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it but I had a very good experience reading The Celestine Prophecy. I say "embarrassed" because the book’s written at a 4th grade level. This might be the best way to disseminate certain ideas to a large number of readers. The Da Vinci Code is the same way. The Celestine Prophecy brings home the idea that synchronicity is one of the most basic religious principles. Everything happens for a reason. This sounds blindingly obvious, but more often than not I forget to look for synchronicities. It’s like music in the background.

Pinchbeck makes an interesting point in the most recent issue of I recommend it. He says that we are going to possibly come to the brink of annihilation so that we’ll have no choice but evolve to a different sort of consciousness. My fear--and the issue I’ll be tackling in "The American Book"--is that we are going to have to go through a major war in order to reach this change in consciousness. Living through 9-11 in New York City, I found it to be an amazing collective experience. You could have gone up to someone and hugged them and it wouldn’t have been turned aside. The point here is it took a catastrophe for that kind of warmth and empathy to evolve.

Whenever I read Pinchbeck I feel sort of petty and unevolved--focusing on the dark rather than the light. Another point he makes in the same interview is referring to the "monotonous" protesting of the Left. There does seem to be a myopia on the part of the Left, and myself as well--focusing on Hollywood and other failings of our culture. I’ve had my moments concentrating on issues of God and devotion, but they are never sustained. Part of the reason for this blog is to work out past baggage. It’s like a bunch of imaginary readers are my shrink. Being that I am making these words public, I am more accountable to what I say. This isn’t so easy a task. I have had years of conditioning as a self-hating, world-hating miscreant.

I’ve got to get back to the "American Book." Unfortunately, my daughter’s going to be coming out of daycare so I am not going to have a lot of time. She’s in a Jewish daycare center which celebrates the Jewish holidays, including the obscure ones. There’s a synchronicity in there somewhere.

September 14, 2004


It seems like this blog is becoming a place where I unleash everything I think sucks in the world. If that’s so, there’s an unlimited number of things to write about. At the same time, I’d rather not spend all of my time brooding about how dangerously bad everything is.

I used to be much more interested in dark topics. I don’t know if it’s a symptom of having a child or hitting 30, but I just don’t care about wallowing in darkness anymore. I see a hyper-violent movie by someone like Tarantino and I think, Who cares? It’s not that I think it’s reprehensible to "celebrate" violence, it’s just that I think it’s uninteresting. At one point in my life I thought that the dark half was all that mattered. I used to believe that I had to feel darkness in order to write about it. This is just wrong. Even I become devoutly happy I will not lose my anger, it’s too powerful of an emotion.

The movie "Taxi Driver" has been very important to me. My novel, Oscar Caliber Gun/The Golden Calf screams of it. At nineteen--lonely, self-hating, hard-up--the movie spoke to me. I don’t know how I would see the movie now. I am sure I would think it’s an amazing feat of self-expression. But I used to take that kind of anger as a kind of religion. A justification. That’s not a way to live an entire lifetime.

One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen is "Requiem for a Dream" by Darren Aronofsky. An evil movie. I think he might be an evil director. His first movie, "Pi," a more interesting movie, ends with the character happily lobotomizing himself. "Requiem for a Dream" ends with a long, horrible montage of human degradation. People think this is good filmmaking because it affects them deeply. You could show footage of puppies getting their eyes gouged out and it would affect you, that doesn’t make it art. The film made me feel awful about humanity. "Taxi Driver" would never do that.

Another really depressing movie is "The Butterfly Effect." My wife and I rented this movie thinking it would be a good, cheap sci-fi movie. I’ll watch anything sci-fi. In the first half hour of that movie there’s child porn, a dog gets set on fire, and a baby gets blown up by a bomb in a mailbox. It just made both of us feel bad and we turned it off. Have I become a lightweight?

Possibly. Or possibly these movies are just very unredeemably ugly. I can’t listen to Limp Bizkit for a similar reason because it just expresses one aggressive emotion. Hip-hop has the same problem. John Coltrane has aggression but he also has deep melancholy and humanity, he’s trying to reach somewhere outside himself. Kurt Cobain is the same. Perhaps I take things far too seriously. "The Butterfly Effect" is just a bad B movie. But I can’t believe that. I find it sad that people can watch all of those horrible things happen and only come away with the idea that the acting was bad.

I don’t want to spend all of my time hating and feeling down about things. The problem is there’s so much to hate. Bad movies included. I envy writers like Kerouac and Henry Miller who had such a love and lust for life. (I’ll set aside the fact that Kerouac died a disgruntled drunk.) This is a different world than they lived in. Post punk rock. We went from "All You Need is Love" to Nirvana’s "I’m a Stain." It’s an uglier world out there. If you were to go on the road today you’d see McDonalds after McDonalds. Certain kinds of quaintness are gone. Somehow I have to reconcile all the stupid, heinous, mindless shit out there and still stay positive. Sorry to always be the bringer of bad tidings. I need to take up meditation.

September 13, 2004

Plastic Surgery Disasters

My favorite "Twilight Zone" episode is about the rich old man with the family who are all waiting for him to die so they can collect his inheritance. He tells each of them to wear a mask which is a reflection of their ugly inner soul. One mask reflects greed, one reflects superficiality, I can’t remember the rest. When the clock strikes midnight, the old man dies and the family all remove their masks and find that their faces have conformed to the distorted shape of the masks.

I see plastic surgery the same way. The strangely inhuman lips, high-cheek bones, lifted eyes, waxen faces, are like the true reflection of people’s souls. Oddly, they don’t look more beautiful, they just look like people who have had plastic surgery. It’s like a new psychotically superficial race of people. In some cultures, like Los Angeles, it’s a badge of honor, an exhibition of money, like driving a Lexus. Which just goes back to my point that it’s an expression of a distorted soul.

I should probably be more sympathetic. It seems to be a disorder like Anorexia. Once people start they cannot stop. Joan Rivers, Courtney Love. People think they are making themselves look better but really they are making themselves look much, much worse, even scary. At the moment, plastic surgery doesn’t have the stigma of eating disorders--probably because it’s so expensive. It’s something you go to doctors to do rather than to stop.

This is a pretty easy target. And perhaps I should not be so judgmental, more forgiving. A commenter remarked that I should not judge her for being illogical (for not voting for Kerry) but what can I do: plastic surgery is sad and weird and illogical. What is any kind of protest if not a judgment? The people who are the most peace-loving are also the most militant protesters. Plastic surgery is something I can judge freely. People are cutting the character out of their faces and replacing it with a strange, ugly conformity. It’s another example of people not having any sense.

I live in Los Angeles so I witness this all the time. Once again, I point to the hypocrisy of Hollywood being left-wing and also being the capital of superficiality. These things do not go together. The same mindset leads to people respecting Bush over Kerry--appearance over skill. This is not a minor issue. If Hollywood really wants to elect President Kerry, they should start making smarter movies, and stay away from movies so drenched in money.

I wrote a book about a celebrity stalker (Oscar Caliber Gun.) Many people have asked me, Why do you hate celebrities so much? They’re just actors. Hollywood has more of an effect on the American mind than religion. If you don’t believe that, look at the number of people watching TV every night. The U.K. edition of OCG was retitled The Golden Calf. It’s a better title. Hollywood has people worshipping things that they shouldn’t--plastic surgery is a symptom of this. I sound like a conservative, don’t I? The difference is that conservatives want people to believe in the Republican Party or Christianity rather than Hollywood. Admittedly, that gold Oscar statue almost has me believing in the Bible.

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