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.

  © Blogger template 'Morning Drink' by 2008 / An SEO Wordsmith Production

Back to TOP