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.

September 10, 2004


I had a whole post written out that was a response to a political poll which I found maddening. The gist of the message was this:

The absurdity of thinking that George Bush is more "trustworthy" is daunting. How do you get through to voters who have no sense? America may just deserve George Bush.

I decided not to post it because spreading all that negativity was just making me feel bad. Writing hate and paranoia about George Bush isn’t cathartic. In fact, it may just make me feel worse--about the future of the country, the world, my basic faith in humanity. I really can’t live like that. Anyone who reads this blog is probably not going to be swayed either way, so it doesn’t really serve a purpose. Somehow I just have to stay positive when faced with the weird illogic out there in the real world.

There are certain issues that I’d rather tackle in fiction, namely in "The American Book of the Dead." There I can at least poke fun at certain things. Satire is much more cathartic than hate. It’s certainly less worrisome. Fiction just comes from a different part of the brain--it’s less reactionary, more forward-thinking. This is true even if the fiction is hate-fueled and paranoid. Fiction has a life of its own, a diary does not in the same way. I am glad I have the option.

This is not saying that I’m going to lobotomize myself. There’s a great amount of stupidity out there, and I can’t help but feel it. Really I enjoy writing about it. I’ll still write about some of the ideas that led me to write a book about the apocalypse, UFOs, and other dementia. But without so much fear. Fear is worse than hate, it is more of an uncontrollable emotion. Oftentimes hate is made of opinion. Fear is involuntary.

As you might have noticed, I am a writer who’s very hard on himself. I rewrite myself constantly--in life and on paper. You have to be to a certain degree if you ever want to improve. But you can’t be so much that it’s paralyzing. I usually revise things a thousand times before I show them to people. Here, I’m publishing in real time. John Steinbeck wrote daily journals when he wrote The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden. I want this blog to be something like that, not a deranged pulpit.


I didn’t do such a good job with the "They Were Expendable" post. I realize now that I was being disingenuous. I was attributing ideas to the big bad Republicans that I have thought myself. The truth is we are all expendable in a certain way. People die everyday and it seems to have very little effect. A tragedy can happen and we are sad and angry for a moment but then two days later we have to go back to our lives--paying the bills, personal concerns, and so on. I don’t know if this is a product of short-attention-span or it’s human. The empathy surrounding 9-11 seemed to last the longest of all but faded after around six months--I remember people throwing beer bottles at referees at a Cleveland Browns' football game. To me that signaled the end.

There is not nearly enough public outcry about the tragedy in Russia. If it doesn’t affect us directly, we just don’t think about it. Right now, Americans are mostly thinking about hurricanes and the election. This is not all cynical, however. Something like the Russian story is so tragically sad that you just can’t spend all your time thinking about it or it will be debilitating--you have to move on.

But still, it shows that people can die and it won’t be much of an issue. Every day we hear about bad things happening to other people, and every day we think about it briefly and go on with our lives. Humans adapt to both the environment and to ideas. Discarding certain kinds of information cannot be healthy. It contributes to the sense that people can be discarded as well. My whole paranoia about those in power is that they see people much the way most of us do. We hear about 1000 dead in Iraq and some people protest, the families are deeply sad, but most probably see it is a vaguely sad number.

I am not all righteous indignation about the Republican party. I am a committed misanthrope myself. I find many people annoying and disappointing. Perhaps I shouldn’t worry so much about what’s wrong with other people. How am I supposed to be empathetic for people’s sorrow but not annoyed at their failings? This might be the definition of benevolence, which I don’t possess. It’s not as if I think people deserve to die, but I do think some people have not earned the right to live. I’ve got to get off this topic. It’s more than a little depressing.

September 9, 2004

The Environment

It occurs to me that I might sound like a psychopath. I don’t want to sound like a psychopath. I don't want to sound like a conspiracy freak. I’m releasing some of my most extreme worries here. It’s probably more reasonable to talk about an apocalypse in terms of the environment, rather than a possible world war. I’m not even an avidly protesting tree-hugger, but I do believe we have to protect the Earth, and all points suggest that we are not. The Pentagon came out with a report that environmental disaster was a pressing issue. This was the Pentagon, not Greenpeace.

Currently there is a war on the environment. Curtailing environmental destruction is much easier than fighting the war on terror. It’s easier to stop a corporation from polluting the air or the water than it is to stop one random creep from blowing up a restaurant. But they don’t. Laws now favor corporations. And that’s strange.

Something has to explain policy which is very basically not a good idea, and benefits only a few. This is the core of conspiracy theory--people getting together and devising plans that benefit only them. Honestly, Kerry, wealthy son of a diplomat, married into an empire, old money, old Ivy League, old politics, is even a likelier candidate to be in on a conspiracy.

The Republican platform just seems against common sense. If you asked people, "Are you pro-pollution?" most would obviously say No. "Are you pro human rights?" "Do you think you should be paying more taxes than rich people?" "Do you think people should have health care?" Etc. This is what gets me riled up until I become a kind of extremist. This world is frustrating and beautiful. I don’t want to see it go away.

They Were Expendable

I feel a little bit better about John Kerry’s chances. As Mariel Hemingway says at the end of Woody Allen’s "Manhattan," "You have to have a little faith in people."

I don’t think Bush/Cheney can lie forever and get away with it. Saying health care is affordable, and so on. And their ugly rhetoric won’t translate as well outside Madison Square Garden. There is just too much wrong with the state of things for it to not register with voters. Kerry would have to be behind 30 points to lose this election, so be ready for something very stupid and corrupt to happen to make sure he does. I didn’t think I would be talking politics so much, but I find this campaign profoundly engaging.

I want to talk about something controversial--the expendability of some people. This a very sensitive subject, so I’ll tread carefully. Supposing there is a man who beats his wife and rapes his daughter. Basically, he doesn’t offer much to the world except pain. If he was to suddenly vanish and lose his job, there are many unemployed people who would gladly take his place. Believe it, he’s out there. I have worked for a man like this. People called him "The Monster." Now, I’m not advocating murder here. This is a hypothetical question of ethics. How is it that the sanctity of human life is equal? Someone who creates a great work of art or works with orphans is not equal to the man who beats his family. Ghandi is better than Hitler.

There’s an unlimited number of fucked-up stories out there. People will say that everybody has something to offer. In this varying, and crowded world, I would bet there are some people out there who have absolutely nothing to offer, except as a warning. This is tragic. It's just too easy to breed, and too pleasurable. Honestly, I don't know what to make of this. Childbirth is a magical process, but then overpopulation is a disaster. Really, I am playing devil's advocate. This perceived expendability could be used as a means for justifying war. A forest burns to control the forest.

The wife beater is pretty easy to attack. How about the person who knows very little about life but does little harm. They just go about their daily job, not really hurting anyone, but not really learning about anything either. There are people of differing degrees of evolution on the planet. Some people search, most don’t. Mind you, I am not advocating that some people are useless. They may love what they do and love their families--that is enough. I am trying to think like people who do not sufficiently regard human life. The problem is not in determining that some people are "better" than others at some things--this much is obvious--but that, based on this, you can choose who will live or who will die.

Do you think that the conservative elite has any respect for the working class military? No. They may just have similar ideas about the expendability of "lower" people. This is why they wage a war without so much of a heavy heart. I get a real sense of condescension from this administration--rather than listening and responding to the will of the people. The Republicans may think of everybody as less evolved than the rich. Perhaps their mistake is very basic--they think that money is a sign of progress rather than intelligence. Maybe they believe too deeply in survival of the fittest. I am just theorizing here. Something has to explain the weirdly abusive conservative agenda.

I’ve read a couple of interesting quotes. Bush said he sees America as a land of ten-year-olds who need guidance and protection. Karl Rove said that people who have "too much education" vote Democratic. The Republican party wants people to be ignorant. Why? Why would they want an ignorant country? In my most paranoid fantasies, I think the Republicans have a long term plan to break down the mind and the planet, so that everything is expendable when it comes time to bring about the apocalypse.

More strange paranoia from Ash Tree. Believe it or not it shows a faith in the human race that there should be some kind of massive conspiracy. It’s too depressing to believe that the powers-that-be are just brute and dumb and don’t know any better. That may be the whole root of conspiracy theories. The idea that there is much more beyond what we know. Like UFOs, conspiracy theories are a kind of God.

Here's what we do know: people in the Bush administration seem to believe deeply in Christianity, as do their base. For devout Christians, Armageddon is inevitable and necessary. If Bush really believes in the Second Coming of Christ, and he is actually trying to bring it about, be prepared for the campaign to get even uglier. For Bush, the election is a religious issue, not economic, or even about one war. Then again, Bush might just be a Christian to energize his base. I have no idea what the fuck goes on in Bush’s mind, but it really seems like the Republican platform is trying to fulfill something very dark. Vote for Kerry.

September 7, 2004


There is something wrong with me. I said I wasn’t going to check my referrers on this site, but I’ve gone and made it so I can anyway. I can get addicted to anything, including how many hits I get. Perhaps I’m a masochist. In fact, I am a masochist.

In a sense, blogging is a dangerous artform for the easily addicted. Instant gratification. You can see your readers evolve. It’s an amazing window--it feels very good every time I find that someone has stopped by. There’s no chance that I could sell 100 books a day, but a hundred hits is not impossible. "Hits" may just be the right word.

Overall, blogging has been a great experience. It’s one of those things we might take for granted because it exists. Everyone having the ability to self-publish. I always dreamed of becoming a successful enough writer that I might have my own column which people would read and trust my opinions. Sort of my "Notes of a Dirty Young Man." A lot of ideas and writing have been lost while I waited to be successful. No telling if people will trust my opinions, but it really doesn’t matter. There’s always the possibility that they might. I have hoped for overnight success for too long. It’s time to get writing.

I’ve also put up links to books on Amazon. It seems a little odd to try to make money off of other people’s work, but I gotta make money somehow. I’m certainly not going to make any money off my own books. And I can point people towards some good writing. Judging by the number of referrers I’m getting, money probably won’t be much of an issue. Deprecating. I still have the ambitious dreams of an editor coming by the site and thinking, finally, there’s our man. Some habits won’t die.

September 5, 2004

A Conspiracy of Dunces

I suppose there doesn’t have to be any great conspiracy for Bush to be reelected. People just have bad taste. It’s a strange and sad world where most people like crap and only the minority dig deeper into what the world has to offer. I have found very often that it is rare to walk into somebody’s home and find a bookshelf. Are you kidding me?

I don’t want to sound arrogant here/supercilious, snake-like word. Most people just aren’t very curious. Most people don’t read. Most people don’t investigate all the music that’s been recorded--classical, blues, punk rock, old folk songs, whatever. Why don’t people want to learn about human achievement? It’s baffling.

The intelligentsia has been crying foul for centuries. The mainstream has always been devoutly dumb and good art has had to fight and claw to get noticed. Always. However, things seem worse these days. I used to dream of the better sixties--all the music, the intellectual talk, the idealism, and so on. I didn’t realize at the time that I was living in just as artistically vibrant a time. The bands on SST records are pretty amazing: Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Descendents, Black Flag, Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth. This was like another Beat Generation.

Perhaps I am not looking hard enough, but the world seems to be crumbling artistically. I think they have no idea the impact television will have on people over decades (or maybe they know exactly what will happen.) It’s incredibly dangerous. I know because I’ve medicated myself with television too many times. It is the great inebriator, the real opiate of the masses. It makes people believe in things that don’t matter. Worse yet, it makes things that do matter have less of an impact.

I imagine this is why music and movies have become so unimaginative. TV has something to do with this. People have been trained to not try very hard. This is true for both the audience and those who make music and movies. Nothing has to be good to be successful. You’d think that CGI would open up the imagination on screen because anything’s possible. Instead it’s drained meaning from movies. They’ve become less human, more like an infantalizing cartoon.

This ties into the election. I heard a commercial on the radio this morning for Pepto Bismol which advertised a new "delicious cherry flavor." Does anybody on Earth believe that Pepto Bismol is delicious? People have so much crap thrown at them via commercials, billboards, movies, TV shows, magazines, and other people, that George Bush can lie while smiling and it doesn’t matter, it seems like a normal part of the everyday fabric.

It’s a great irony that Hollywood is left-leaning, when they are very responsible in fostering the stupidity and blind hero-worship in America today. Americans love actors. It doesn’t matter if you are intelligent or even tell the truth, as long as you appear to be a hero. Despite what they say, Republicans like Hollywood just like they like Ralph Nader. It helps them win.

So if George Bush gets elected, don’t be surprised. The same dumb beast that makes Britney Spears successful will elect George Bush President. People are just getting progressively dumber and less involved. By the way, I am not really a great fan of A Confederacy of Dunces. People either love or hate that book. It’s for another type of reader, not me. This is starting to sound like I don’t like anything. That’s not true. I like writing.

September 3, 2004

The Right

I want to write some more about UFOs. The point of this journal/blog was to exercise the other half of my mind. I have to admit I have a deep seeded desire to be taken seriously by the literary community--despite my criticism. I want to have books that stay in print long after I’m dead, published by the Library of America. I want to be lauded at elegant, sophisticated New York parties where they drink good wine and talk about Sam Johnson. Obsessing about UFOs is probably not my ticket in. But what can I do, I find the issue too interesting to leave it alone.

For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that Roswell happened and there’s been a government conspiracy covering it up. After Watergate and during the Cold War, it would have brought down our standing in the world if it was revealed that the government had been lying for decades. At first they wanted to see if the aliens were violent, friendly, or Russian. They thought it was safer to keep it quiet while the world was so volatile. Maybe they discovered technology that would be awfully destructive in the wrong hands. There’s also the issue of undermining religion if it was revealed that "God" has a broader meaning. All in all, they may have feared the breakdown of civilization.

If anyone knows about the cover-up it’s probably Dick Cheney and the Bush family. Prescott Bush is rumored to be part of the original conspiracy in the fifties. Daddy Bush was CIA director in the seventies. So the UFO conspiracy--if it exists--is most likely being led by the right wing. Pro-oil, pro-corporate, pro-war, pro-Christian. What is the relationship between conservatism and covering up the UFO issue? It’s very confusing, especially when much of the abduction literature suggests that the phenomenon is benevolent. In fact, most aliens seem like bleeding heart liberals--decrying our destruction of the environment and each other.

If the far-right does know about UFOs, why do they believe so vehemently in Christianity? It’s a religion which has been rewritten to suit the desires of the church--removing the concept of reincarnation, for one, which negates the concept of Jesus being the only one to rise from the dead. Modern Christianity is not the final word about God. You’d think that people who know about the origins of UFOs would also understand the origins of Western religion. My guess is that Dick Cheney is not a Christian at all, and little Georgie Bush is allowed his ideas about Jesus and faith: it’s a good front. But a front for what? Even if there is no conspiracy, why are they intent on ripping apart the planet? It’s almost like they’re fucking everything up on purpose.

Basically, this world doesn’t make any sense. People will vote for George Bush as they wave their cowboy hats. He is everything wrong with ugly America. At the same time he may be the best representative of the mainstream American soul. Support of GW almost has me believing in mind control. Incidentally, every book I’ve read on mind control--by Jim Keith or Alex Constantine--makes me believe less in mind control than when I started. I am not a liberal zealot but it just seems weird to me that anyone could support GW Bush. It’s not even about taxes anymore--everybody raises taxes. People are just very strangely blind.

For those who doubt what I’m saying about UFOs, try and be open, it is not a tabloid issue. If you don’t believe it’s an important issue which needs serious discussion then the debunking has worked. There have been more sightings by credible people than you would ever hear about if you didn’t dig. Most scientists won’t acknowledge the issue because they will lose their funding and standing in the scientific community. Scientists are like artists: only a very few challenge the status quo. The same goes for military figures--they are afraid to be vocal about the issue. At some point we will look back and laugh, the way we laugh at people who thought the sun revolved around the Earth. Remember, they jailed Copernicus.

To say UFOs don’t exist doesn’t make any more sense than saying God doesn’t exist. Atheists bother me: they have the arrogance to claim they know about the true existence of God. Atheism is another form of fundamentalism, i.e. it holds too strongly to one idea. I can understand if you’ve been through a tragedy which destroys your faith in God. But even that proves that evil is alive and well, not that God doesn’t exist. UFOs fall under the same category--nobody can possibly make absolute judgments. It’s like declaring you know what’s on the other side of the universe.

September 1, 2004

Magic Mushroom Cloud

I want to explain some of the more esoteric ideas from the last post. The Mayans talked about 2012 as being the end, which may actually be the beginning of something extraordinary. Every religion has its eschatology. We are possibly on the edge of a new consciousness. Check out the discussion boards of Daniel Pinchbeck’s Some of the best discussions on the topic. Strangely troubling and exhilarating times we’re living in. Something is happening here, and we don’t know what it is. Yet another Bob Dylan reference. UFOs, ghosts, the afterlife, string theory, we use only a small percentage of our brains. Obviously there is more to life than what we see.

I don’t entirely agree with the Mayan cosmology hypothesis. Most religions are metaphorical and allegorical and a compilation of stories from other religions. Are we supposed to believe that the Mayans had the true window in? I may end up eating these words but that’s how I feel on September 1, 2004. I hope we do reach a collective expanded consciousness and we arrive at it through something other than a cataclysm. The human race has hardly earned the right to evolve, but then we may just have to in order to save ourselves.

The books I’ve read on the subject take too many leaps. I’m thinking about a book by Jose Arguelles, which has some of the same problems as Zecharia Sitchin--king of the ancient astronauts theory, if you don’t know him. They’re both on to something, there’s a lot more going on than we’ve been told, but they have not reached the final answer. They pick and choose the passages which fit their theories. The Old Testament is a mixture of stories from other cultures--Persian, pagan, etc. Sitchin wants us to believe that his analysis of the Old Testament is truth. I don’t want to get into it too much but he theorizes that the Gods of the Old Testament were flesh and blood ET’s who created us using genetic manipulation. It’s hard to read that last sentence without laughing. A closed-mind is a closed-mind, whether it’s about gay marriages or far-out cosmology. Anything that questions dominant thought is a positive if it’s done with enough intelligence and sobriety. Then again, there’s nothing less sober than RA Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger which is incredibly head-blowing. Disappointingly, he discounts some of it in Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth.

I have not done many psychedelics myself. Dropped acid a couple of times. Taken mushrooms a couple more. No profound visionary experiences. When I do it I want to do it right. Something like Aldous Huxley: laying out the music to be listened to beforehand, really studying the effects. I am not sure I am ready yet. For the moment, I will try to travel inside myself via writing. I’ll read up on other people’s experiences, like Pinchbeck. It’s not the same, I agree, but I’ve found that reading can be a visionary experience. I read a book about channeling which felt like a form of intense meditation. All of a sudden, a voice said to me, "I chose to be you." I am not kidding. This was not wish fulfillment.

I used to feel such sentiments to be silly. I was an aspiring intellectual, which meant I was above such ideas. I cultivated cynicism, arrogance. At the same time, I loved renegade writers. Something of a contradiction. I actually aspired to be a "New Yorker" writer, which is really very tame--sophisticated, very adult, but doesn’t stray from the party line. New Agers give some ideas a bad name. Kenny G and John Coltrane play the same instrument but that doesn’t make the saxophone worthless. If I am going to be a challenging writer, I can’t write off far out issues--especially issues which have such important implications.

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