December 29, 2005


I think I’m going to take a break from this blog for a little while. I’ve said this before so this might mean nothing. Probably a couple of weeks.

Resolutions for 2006:

Try and keep off this computer.

Get healthy.

Good things should come from that.

Here’s something to read in the meantime:

Punk Turns 30

Meet the Family (via Post Atomic)

December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas


Have a nice weekend, everyone.

December 22, 2005


On the lighter side. I made a list. This is what blogs are good for. Or bad for. Top five favorites, subject to change when I remember more. What I grew up on and what I like.

Frank Zappa
David Gilmour
Jimi Hendrix
Jimmy Page
Robert Fripp
(wait, that’s all people who play long guitar solos)

Graham Maby (Joe Jackson’s band)
Rob Wright (No Means No)
Lou Barlow
Mike Watt
Paul McCartney

John Bonham
Bill Stevenson
John Wright (No Means No)
Mitch Mitchell
Ringo Starr

Also people who I watched play in high school: James Fenton of the Treacherous Jaywalkers, Steve Tounsend of Mustard, Joey Waronker of a lot of things. Steven Brent’s my songwriting guru.

I’ve been in a fair number bands in my life: Semi-Gloss, Odes, Deformo, a version of the King of France, Cosmo Air, Walt Mink for one practice session, the Delores Haze (aka Eva Haze), Caustic, JZ Barrell, Montag, S.G.D.--i.e. bands most people probably haven’t heard of. Played in a noise band that never left the practice space. What was the name of that practice space on Avenue A.? Damn, I need to remember things like that. $10 an hour. I spent a lot of hours there.

Also played in a band in Paris called Spill with a Norwegian fashion designer, my roommate the web designer, and a comparative literature student. Sounds ridiculous and we were kind of a mess. We had one show at an underground-sort of dance club. I spent many nights in places filled with terrible music. The French are very bad at rock n roll. I spent many other nights in NYC with the comparative literature student, drunk and girl-crazy. Undersexed, drinking whiskey. Which reminds me, I have been very damn depressed in my life, lonely and self-loathing. I haven’t felt that way in a while, when it was once a way of life. Since I’ve been married, I’ve forgotten what it’s like. Like when S. was pregnant, it was all we could think about. After Olivia was born, the pregnancy could have been a decade before. Memory lane, down.

December 21, 2005

American Pastoral

I just finished a book and needed something new to read. I picked up both Everything is Illuminated and Fortress of Solitude and couldn’t get it very far. I was going to write a post with this sentence: I hate books. I was feeling low. 90% of books are off limits to me. People say that if a book doesn’t grab them in the first 50 pages, they set it down. Me, if the book doesn’t grab me in the first three pages, I give up. If a book takes too long to get the point of where it’s going to take me, I get impatient. Same goes with people really. You want a person to be upfront about who they are, to be honest. Too many books seem to write around their subject, they don’t get to the point. Show don’t tell gone overboard.

Not that the two above books suffer from this entirely, but they didn’t speak to me. Then I picked up American Pastoral by Philip Roth. I started it in the past, liked it, then stopped reading because…I don’t remember why. Likely, I wasn’t ready for it yet. The same might go for the Lethem or Foer down the line. Yesterday, those books felt flashy and overly precocious. Philip Roth gets to the point immediately, even in the first sentence: "The Swede." It’s hyper-intelligent, but that’s because he is, not because he’s trying to be. I’ve found my new book to read.

In other news, the Bush spy probe is driving me fucking nuts. The replacements at Andrew Sullivan are really irritating. In regards to the Bush illegal spying issue, he begins, "While more legally-minded types bicker over the legitimacy of the Bush wiretapping…" The use of the word "bicker" annoys me--as if this issue is nothing more than something for the TV pundits to talk about until the next news day. Pundits are like local newscasters--talking about horrible human events as if they’re discussing puppets. Bush broke the fucking law. The surveillance goes beyond Muslim extremists. And there’s no immediate outrage from Republicans. It doesn’t make sense.

It’s a mystery--why bother with illegal wiretaps when congress would have likely given them the wiretaps legally. Intelligence gathering was actually fine pre 9-11, it’s just that the intelligence was ignored. And wire-tapping wasn’t the problem. It’s another mystery why the NY Times covered up this story before the election. Why the hell would the Times not want John Kerry to get elected?

This whole thing is making me feel down about the great stupidity of the American people. There should be immediate outrage about this, but there won’t be. It seems Bush can do anything he wants and it’s forgotten until the next round of Sunday news shows. Even breaking the law. The "Impeachment" word is finally being mentioned now. If the pundits start talking about impeachment being necessary and inevitable, there will be a change in public opinion--which is not exactly to the public’s credit, but it’s something. Not like that’s going to happen. The Democrats don’t have enough votes--even against something criminal. It’s a new cold war where Republicans or Democrats can never admit fault or defeat, and that’s dangerous. Hell of a fucking first year for the fucking President.

December 20, 2005

A Year's Subscription

I don’t know what to do with myself. I could work on fiction but my head’s not clear and it would probably exhaust me. I’ve run out of movies to watch. Yesterday I watched "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." I’m not being cynical--there’s nothing I wanted more yesterday than to vegetate and watch a movie, but it was nearly unintelligible. I couldn’t follow it. I’ve never read a Harry Potter book. Someone please explain to me why a series of books about child wizards is OK fare for adults. I’m sure they’re thoughtful and entertaining but: they’re children’s books.

I’ve been watching a lot of movies. It’s Academy DVD time. Here are some one word reviews.

In Her Shoes: Bad
Elizabethtown: Bad
Narnia: Violent
Shopgirl: Dull
Squid and the Whale: Bleak
Broken Flowers: Detached
Hustle and Flow: Ruled
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Enjoyable
Match Point: Pretentious
Good Night, and Good Luck: School

Man, I’ve seen a lot of movies lately. These are just the ones I can remember. That’s what happens when they’re all free. I’d be better off if I never sat through "In Her Shoes." "Narnia" started off as a good kids' movie, but then it becomes really violent when it gets to the war. The main character in "Elizabethtown" is called a "failure and a fiasco" because he designs a poorly-selling shoe after being given too much creative freedom. It’s almost like Cameron Crowe made a bad movie on purpose to mimic his character. I actually liked Jim Jarmusch’s "Broken Flowers" all right. Bill Murray has played the detached rich guy one too many times: Rushmore, Royal Tennenbaums, Lost in Translation. I’m sure this has been mentioned in many reviews. Woody Allen always writes about fantastically sophisticated people--but it’s always balanced out by his neurotic schlubiness. In "Match Point," everyone is just too beautiful, young, sophisticated, and rich to be true. More thoughtful than his last several movies though.

I think I’ve reached my opinion threshold for 2005.

December 19, 2005


I’m sick. I think I might have bronchitis. "It’s so poor and Jewish." Lenny Bruce

When I breath in there’s a "curly" sound. I’ve had bronchitis once before. When I was a kid, my family took a trip to Hawaii. I was sick inside with bronchitis the entire time. I lost a lot of weight. My dad said that I looked like I came from Auschwitz. Nice.

December 16, 2005

Blog Review

Thanks to the Weblog Review for the nice review.

December 15, 2005


Job interview today. The guy who interviewed me knows about this blog so maybe I shouldn’t write about my proclivity for working naked, but this blog’s all about being honest. The interview went well so I can write such a thing. I’ve been half-employed for too long. I’ll be writing e-mail copy for an internet marketing company. This is very good news if it goes down.

One of the most numbing jobs I’ve had in my life was grading 4th grade standardized tests. It sounds like it could have been interesting but I really don’t like jobs where you get exactly an hour for lunch, if that, and two ten minute breaks, and you’re not allowed to move in between. We had to ask to go to the bathroom. It took them two hours to explain to us what should have taken five minutes. Adults shouldn’t be treated this way. At 10:00, for the first break, everyone would be watching the seconds and then run for the door. You can see people from these types of jobs sometimes, huddled together smoking with a look in their eyes like they’ve been staring at a clock for six hours. I’ve had more than one job like this, as have most people. Phone polling was another--but that was better, even when people hung up on you. This job was like taking a standardized test for eight hours, every day.

I’ve never appreciated music, listening or playing, so much as the drive to and from that job. Sometimes, during the breaks I’d go sit in the car and listen to music--I was listening to Husker Du’s "New Day Rising" and Lou Barlow’s "Winning Losers" a lot. The job was just so deadening, it made music sound so alive. I wish I could respond to music that way all the time, but feeling dead I can live without. This job prospect seems laid back. He said he was glad that I’m a writer, that my head’s somewhere else as well. Basically telling me that I don’t have to devote my whole soul to the job. So long as I get the work done, he says, he’s fine with it, which is refreshing. I want to possibly work in an office again, after being isolated at home alone. I can actually write for a living.

After that I got a job working as an editor at a trade magazine for industrial construction workers. I don’t really want to revisit that time. Let’s just say that for a few months in Wilmington, NC, I worked for Satan. A cocaine-addicted redneck who beat his wife, worked alongside his wife, and had prostitutes go into his office for hours at a time. They’d come out sniffing and rubbing their noses. His wife had this terrible scar running from her mouth to her ear, no doubt from when he hit her. They got in trouble for leaving their kids in the car in a hot parking lot, more than once. He had so destroyed his nasal passages from cocaine that he’d make this demonic snorting noise throughout the day. That’s when you knew he was back in the office--when he was gone, it was calm. When you heard the snorting noise, it was like kids thinking, oh no, dad’s drunk again. People called him "The Monster." Jesus, it was bad.

Olivia was just born during this time. There weren’t a lot of jobs to be had in Wilmington, for anyone, which is why we moved back to L.A.--also to be close to the grandparents. It worked out pretty well up front, we both got jobs almost immediately. The last few months have been harder.

I need to get a steady job--for them, and for myself of course. With the "Golden Calf" movie being developed, various things getting published, and a new job, 06 is going to start off all right.

December 14, 2005


This is good: GoodSearch.


This is a recent picture, taken at LACMA. I'm a lucky dog.


December 13, 2005

Book Tour

We recently developed a bunch of disposable cameras we had laying around. Some of them were ten years old and half-exposed. Turns out the expiration date on a disposable camera actually means something because a lot of the pictures came out muddy or with a ghost-like red ring around the picture.

I couldn’t find the picture I took on September 11. I went onto the fire escape after the first plane hit and took a picture with a disposable camera. I felt guilty about it--people are dying in there--and came back inside. The picture didn’t come out, which may be for the best.

What did come out was the one and only picture I have from the book tour for Oscar Caliber Gun. I toured with John Hall, of King Missile: "Jesus Was Way Cool" and "Detachable Penis" fame. Also toured with a poet named Matt Kohn. I recently found his blogspot blog, which I’m assuming is him, unless there’s another documentary filmmaker living in Brooklyn named Matt Kohn. We toured the east coast, south, and midwest in a small red car.

book tour

That’s it, that’s all the photographic evidence I have. Glad to have at least that. It was a very fun tour--reading at coffee houses, colleges, some rock clubs which didn’t work so well because people were never quiet. John Hall was always a huge hit. It was harder to read from a novel. Personally, I always zone out at readings of fiction. I forget to listen, and then when I try to join back in, I’ve lost the thread. Instead, I asked people to call out page numbers and read a random page. People seemed to like this. Usually, people would call out "69." That wasn’t the sex scene. I read the live porn scene at a party--page 67--and people were quiet for it.

December 9, 2005



This is cool. I was getting fed up with my original book cover designer so I emailed another and asked if she’d be able to do a better version of the same idea. She sent this back. She’s expensive so I don’t know if she’ll design the cover, but I like having this.



The prettiest girl from my high school class is dating Jack Black and is pregnant. Here they are at the "King Kong" premier. This is strange. Happy for her though. I've been friends with her to some degree. Better friends with her sisters. Their father is Charlie Haden, bass player for Ornette Coleman. For a time, Charlie Haden was the jazz teacher at my high school, before a horrible saxophonist with frizzy red hair took over, just as I was old enough to join the band. I lost out in jazz band to be the "A" drummer to Jake Busey, Gary Busey’s son, who’s now also in movies.

Jack Black went to my high school. He was a couple of years ahead of me. When I was 15 I played drums at a party in a band with Jack Black singing. We played covers of "Iron Man," "Crazy Train" and others. He was really flamboyant and talented and an exhibitionist back then. I’ve wondered if there’s any video of that party that could make it into a "True Hollywood Story."

This is why I write about Hollywood.

Stanley Kubrick


Finished this last night. I haven’t seen "Eyes Wide Shut" since it came out and I’ve never read Raphael. Raphael paints himself as the most successful and sophisticated man on planet Earth, but who knows, he might be. It kind of reads like a blog--look at me, look at me!--but what’s more interesting than a blog about making a movie with Stanley Kubrick? It’s not every day that I finish a book in five minutes, so I wanted to write something about it.

There are a lot of criticisms on Amazon about Raphael’s self-absorption, and they’re right. It reminds me of a book I read by Elvis Costello’s bass player, Bruce Thomas--I can’t remember the name of the book. He’s an incredibly pompous ass. Throughout the book, he refers to Elvis Costello as "The Singer" as if Bruce Thomas is the focal point of the band, and he’s not just an Attraction. Frederic Raphael writes with a similar condescension. Kubrick is painted as fairly hapless, visionless, and directionless. It might be true to some degree. His major movies have been based on novels: Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Barry Lyndon, Lolita, Full Metal Jacket. Maybe he didn’t have what it took to make an epic movie out of a shorter piece. Weirdly, it sometimes feels like the Metallica documentary, "Some Kind of Monster"--collaborators trying to make something on the fly, when it really needs to flow naturally, out of inspiration.

There’s name-dropping throughout of both people and his own knowledge. Raphael writes things like "Stanley was Eurystheus to my Herakles…" I will freely admit I have no idea what the hell he’s referring to. He also writes, "Working for all those months with Stanley was like being in solitary confinement without the comfort of being alone" which is a good sentence no matter who he’s writing about. Perhaps he really is hanging out with John Schlesinger and "Marty" Scorsese. Perhaps it’s impossible to display your knowledge about certain things without seeming pretentious. Like, for instance, listing the number of Coltrane albums I own and listen to (last post). Maybe Raphael really does know and love all his Greek references. It gets harder to draw the line between pretension and information when you’re talking about high-brow stuff. Last night, as I finished this book, I was listening to Prokofiev’s piano concertos played by Martha Argerich. Seems pretentious to mention that, but it’s true and I enjoyed it. Raphael, though, goes overboard.

I recommend this to anyone who’s ever written a screenplay or thought about it to get a glimpse into what it might have been like to collaborate with Stanley Kubrick. For that alone, the book is worth it.

Tomorrow I’m meeting with someone who wants to direct OCG/The Golden Calf. See where that goes.

December 8, 2005


Just finished a first revision on the novella "On Parole" and it was really damn bad. I mentioned that I haven’t read it in five or more years, and there was sentence after sentence that made me cringe. At one time, I thought it might have been the best, most honest thing I’d ever written. A friend of mine called parts of it embarrassing, but I thought he was just being a hard-ass cause he liked to do that and our friendship was falling apart during that time. But he was right. I think I can turn it into something because the basic structure is there and I like the story but it was pretty humbling. Maybe it’s better to wait five years between the time you write something and think about publishing it.

I don’t think I’m going to try and get it published at all and instead make an e-book out of it. That way I can hunt down e-book directories which is something I like to do because, you know, I’m an internet addict.

Listening to this for the fourth time in a row:


At one point I was a complete Coltrane fanatic. My favorites being this one, Jazz, Coltrane, A Love Supreme, Live at Birdland, with Duke Ellington, Crescent, Transition, Soultrane. I put them on when I want to resurrect myself. Not surprisingly, there’s a Church of John Coltrane. Traneing In sounds like fall.

RIP John Lennon.


I was eight-years-old when it happened. My brother, a Beatles fanatic--which I wasn’t yet--woke me up to tell me about it. One thing I can claim is staying inside in kindergarten listening to "Let it Be" while the other kids splashed in a kiddie pool outside. But that might have been a dream.

I’m finishing a book that I’ll probably write about tomorrow.

December 7, 2005

A Parent

I haven’t written very much about being a father. Last year sometime I put up a picture of O. so people could see what she looked liked. I took it down a week later because it creeped me out to have a picture of her online. The Internet’s not an entirely safe place. I’m a protective father, but I don’t think overprotective. Sometimes it amazes both of us that we’ve managed to raise a child for almost three and a half years.

A few weeks ago we were about to lose our minds. She had become impossibly demanding. "Can I have some juice, daddy," she would say. I’d get her the juice, she’d finish it, then, "Can I have some cereal, can I watch a movie, can I go to the playground?" Nothing was ever enough. I think she just liked the experience of us getting her things. It cut core to our feelings of guilt as parents--that we’re never doing enough. For a time, when she got really tired, she would start throwing tantrums and calling us stupid--a word she learned because she heard us say "Stop it," and it got transformed.

So we were getting really burnt out and were about to have a nervous breakdown. A few days later, she woke up with a better grasp of language and she calmed down a lot: she couldn’t express herself clearly and it was making her frustrated. She’s gone through many of these major leaps.

Last night we went to the L.A. Festival of Lights at Griffith Park. You drive along display after display of Christmas lights. Kind of weird and cool--very strange Christmas music was being piped in. She loved it:



Afterwards we went to my brother’s house and she played like crazy with her cousin. That night, she came into our bed at 5 am because she had wet the bed. She’s potty trained but we’ve been trying to get her off of wearing diapers (pull-ups) at night. She may have to go back for a little while longer. Anyway, I wanted to get some of this stuff down because I don’t write very much about being a Dad--even though it’s most of my life. Perhaps because it is most of my life, I use this blog to exercise and explore other parts of me. She’s perfect, we are lucky.

My wife also has a blog. You get a prize if you know what it is. I’ve never linked to it because my family reads this blog and she wouldn’t be able to be as honest if she knew they were reading. She’s an ex-stripper writing about her life. I’m really proud and impressed with what she’s done. It's been very successful and a great experience for her. Email me if you want to know what it is.

December 5, 2005


Last week I was listed in the L.A. Times as a notable L.A. blog, which is really fucking cool.

Just did a link trade with Get Published or Die Tryin. It’s sort of a spin-off of Reader of Depressing Books, but Noah Cicero is a writer in his own right. One of the best blogs I’ve seen in a while.

December 1, 2005


Finished this, sort of. The indie rock opera is inspired partially by the stuff I was reading that led to the last post about UFOs and the apocalypse and other strangeness. It also gives me the opportunity to throw in songs that I’ve written over the years and have so far been homeless and can now be forced into a narrative.

Let me know if you think it’s overblown, especially the middle "bridge" part. And the first part becomes a wall of unintelligible sound, but it’s kind of supposed to. Sometimes less is more. Call this a rough draft. Here, I did this:



Someone has put two and two together about me and Shirley Shave. I have no idea what's being written there. I’m surprised this hasn’t happened more often. But then most people coming here from God’s Wife are probably looking for porn.

November 30, 2005



Just found a great post/article by Daniel Pinchbeck, the author of Breaking Open the Head (on the sidebar under Writers). You could discount everything he’s saying as hallucination, which is partly his point--the almost fearful instinct to immediately scoff at the types of things he’s talking about. It’s more interesting, and more fun, to investigate their possible truth. I mean, hell, what if UFOs are real, what if a change in consciousness is actually possible? This should be enough for people to entertain the thought.

Atheism is a form of retardation. There is no God. Really, how do you know? If you can tell me what’s happening on the other side of the galaxy, in the 8th dimension, on a molecular level, than maybe you can make an informed decision about God. The reason I got interested in UFOs, the possible scientific proof of God as seen in Quantum Physics and the like is that, oddly, there’s nothing more underground than a belief in God. I’ve written it in the past, but I haven’t thought about these issues for some time--the Daily Kos crowd, the left, scoff at spiritual issues as if God and Religion are the same thing. This is as conservative and blind as an unwavering belief in Pat Robertson’s Christianity.

I’m deeply looking forward to Pinchbeck’s new book. My hope (and belief) has been that it will rekindle some of my desire to write my weird, epic speculative fiction novel (The American Book of the Dead). Think Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus meets Philip K. Dick’s Valis meets North of Sunset. I’ve stopped working on it for practical reasons--it makes more sense for me to work on shorter pieces--both professionally and it will make me a better writer. I was, at one point, obsessed with many of the things Pinchbeck writes about here and he will likely write about in his new book. I’ve pre-ordered it. My interest in these ideas isn’t gone, just on hold. Reading Breaking Open the Head was a mind-altering experience. I hope it continues.

Weirdly, a former Canadian Defense minister came out requesting open discussions about the alien question. He really does sound like a loon, because I don’t think war with ET’s makes sense, any more than it makes sense that we’re at "war" with ants, but then what do I know. Mac Tonnies, as usual, puts it best.

(most of these links came from The Toilet Paper, a magazine started up in part by my main man and benefactor at Soft Skull, Don Goede.)

November 29, 2005

On Parole

So I’ve decided to revise an old novella, called "On Parole," that I haven’t looked at in years. The title page is dated 1999. I recently submitted it to the Bullfight Little Book prize and it got rejected, which is a good thing because almost every sentence needs to be rewritten. I shouldn’t have even submitted it. I had a good experience dusting off "My Cherry," which eventually got published. The novella’s got a beginning, middle, and ending, so why not try fixing it up. I’m thinking of submitting it to A Public Space. Beyond that, I don’t know of any lit magazines that will take something as long as a novella, around 65 pages. Does anyone know any? Most have a pretty low word count. If I don’t get it published, I’ll probably make a free downloadable e-book out of it, and I may do that anyway.

My plan was to concentrate on music, but, you know, my plans change daily. That last post was residual energy from having to write an essay for the Stanford writing program. To answer Empty Drum’s comment from the last post, North of Sunset may not be released until January. The cover’s still in turmoil and it doesn’t entirely make sense to release it at the very end of 2005. I’ve waited this long, what’s another month? The book cover designers are going to hate me, but right now it’s looking sloppy. "On Parole" will keep my anxiety occupied until NOS is released.

I’m really liking the new Malkmus record. His records always seem to get better on second listen. At first they sometimes sound sort of thrown together and arbitrary, when it’s really not the case at all. We’ve got the first solo record playing in the car and Olivia sings along with it. Very cute. In the first song on "Face the Truth" he screams "Shitpile, a human shitpile!" so I’ve got skip over that one. The life of a father/rock music listener.

Check out I’m climbing the charts! #3. It’s cool because I haven’t even obsessively clicked the link myself. If you click the song, I may just make #1.

The Mets got Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado. Weird. They may actually be good next year. Up things are looking.

November 28, 2005


Fuckin A, I’ve started reading again. This is actually momentous news because I’ve been down and out of it. This weekend at the library I got Men and Cartoons, stories by Jonathan Lethem, so I could get an overall sense of his writing, and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated. (I will soon stop itemizing things that I have borrowed or bought.) I wanted to see what the hoopla is about with these two Jonathans.

I had an idea to write about the awfulness of the writing and how I will never belong. I’m glad I waited. I am fairly tired of being critical of every last living thing. It keeps me from reading--if it’s not something I wish I had written myself, I don’t care. That disqualifies a lot of books. The Lethem is nothing to love, nothing to hate. It breezes along. It’s friendly writing, like someone who’s nice to have around because he never makes you feel bad.

I think often about Bukowski’s introduction to John Fante’s Ask the Dust where he talks about the gutlessness of the popular literary authors of the time--I always figured he was talking about writers like John Updike. And then he read Fante who wrote with no bullshit, no intellectual posturing, all honesty, and Bukowski’s world ripped open. An aside: I read an interview with Raymond Carver who said that Bukowski was a hero to him. Cool to see someone who’s taken very seriously taking someone seriously who’s not taken very seriously…I do feel the same way about the literary stars of today--all proportions kept with Bukowski. Then again, some of this is jealousy. I was going to quote sentences from the two books that bother me, like the use of the word "spleen" in the first paragraph of Illuminated, but why bother.

My whole bent to this point has been to be a "challenging" writer. It’s likely that a novel about a porn star who joins a religious cult is not going to be the toast of the mainstream literary world. Ladies who come to the 92nd St. Y in NYC won’t get it. The novel is in need of a major revision so I am not claiming it’s a work of genius that has been forsaken (after it’s revised it will, of course, be a work of genius.) I worry about the novel that’s about to come out--the lack of realism. Murder happens throughout and it has no great moral weight. It’s used to exaggerate real-life tendencies: i.e. it’s satire. I wonder if it’s hard to take this kind of satire seriously. To be a popular literary author it’s most common to write about the large implications of small actions. I like that Lethem has a speculative fiction bent. I recently read the submission guidelines to a small press that wants experimental writing, but "no science fiction or horror." This is sort of a limited view of experimentation. I know what they mean--they don’t want any straight genre writing, but still.

Philip K. Dick was never taken seriously. Robert Sawyer, to take the first example that came to me, has thousands of adoring readers. And that’s the idea, to have readers, to get a response. I’ve never been able to finish a book by Sawyer, but that’s another story. I used to have a desire to be taken seriously by the literati. Who exactly did I want to impress? This was another way of thinking that I wanted to make an impact--that if it was great, people would respond to it. It’s a bigger world than that--it’s possible to have your own successful and satisfying corner without being widely known. And besides, "Swimming in the mainstream is a lame, lame dream." So sang Henry Rollins, who ended up in Apple computer ads.

Next year may just stack up well. Reviews of North of Sunset will hopefully start coming in. Just learned the French translation of my first novel is done and will come out in March. "Gentleman Reptile" is coming out in February. I’m going to reveal that I’m Shirley Shave in 2006, when there’s some distance from the Best Sex Writing 2005. So I feel like a writer again. Reading has helped that along, much like listening to new music made me feel like a songwriter--I can keep up with these guys. The future of words and music doesn’t suck.

I think too much about being a writer.

Saw Capote last night. Good. Henry and June is on the way. Never seen it. It’s author biopic week at the Tree house.

I don’t have as much fun as Gaijin.

November 22, 2005

More Music and Books

I love the Beverly Hills library. Got more music. Steve Malkmus’ new record, "Face the Truth," good, Modest Mouse, "Building Nothing out of Something," also good, Brian Eno, "Another Green World," yes good, Sam Prekop, not as good as Sea and Cake. Been in a more musical mood. Recorded the "overture" to the indie rock opera. Pretty bombastic but I’ve been enjoying its bombast. I’ll put it up after I mix it. Also got a stack of kids’ books for Olivia. She loves it there. A great place to go with her. She rules.

Reading Lorrie Moore, for the first time. More proof that I have been culturally out of it. It’s OK. Kind of mild, with good one-liners. There’s a reason it hasn’t been thrust in my face over the years, "You have to read this"--it never loses its mind. But maybe I’m being premature.

Still waiting for the book to be done. I finally had the book cover designed by a designer, for not too much money. It’s taking them a while. Anything over three seconds is too long. But at least the book will look like an actual novel and not sad crap. I’ve got an increasingly infertile mind waiting for this to finally be done. I want to write "The End" on this project already and put it behind me. It’s out of my control, which is a hated feeling.

I’m an internet addict. I’ve been checking my email incessantly to see if the book cover has come in. I’ve been dealing with the ridiculous subject of license plate fonts. For a time the title plate looked like this, which isn’t quite accurate:

New North_of_Sunset

Looks a lot better, but still not right. I’m a demented perfectionist and probably getting on the designer’s nerves, and I might even be wrong. There's no commercially available font for a California license plate. I went to and found images of each letter…my head has been swimming in fonts and images for the book cover.

Not much more to say. This is where my mind’s at.

November 17, 2005

A Life in Letters


Reading: Fitzgerald’s letters, bought for two dollars, like new, in the music haul. Actually, trying to read it to will myself out of the place I’ve been for the past couple months. A confession: I have been a mess these past few months. Getting fired, waiting for the book to be released, watching more TV than reading.

Haven’t been able to pick up a book. I go through these phases. Only want to read a book if it’s a revelation. Only a few books have hit me that way--but I want that fix again. Hoping the Fitzgerald letters will take that place and wake me back up. Great so far.

I am applying to graduate school at the Stanford writing program. Sort of flies in the face of my plan to become a rock star but I guess that’ll have to wait. Need some way to help support my family. They give you $20,000 and maybe I’ll be able to get teaching jobs in the future. The likelihood that I get accepted is slim. Plan #6459 has begun.

November 15, 2005

I Bought Music

I bought music for the first time in around three years. I needed to binge--makes me feel part of the music buying and playing public. Here’s my review. Some of these CDs will show my rock n’ roll ignorance and how out of the loop I have been. Whatever, I yam what I yam.

Todd Rundgren, "A Wizard, A True Star"
If the Beach Boys sound like a "psychedelic barbershop quartet," so said Jimi Hendrix, then this record is like AM radio on LSD. That’s just crazy enough to work, sometimes.

Neutral Milk Hotel, "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea"
I love "On Avery Island" and it took me a while to get to this record. I like Avery more. I toured with Neutral Milk Hotel once, when I was playing drums for Odes, also on Merge records--fronted by Rebecca Odes who was in Love Child with my brother. NMH were great, but too damn loud. I thought the same thing about the Flaming Lips, who I’ve seen once, sometimes in the late nineties, opening for Beck, I think. They were so loud you couldn’t hear a thing. Seemed to act counter to the music.

Sparklehorse, "Good Morning Spider"
I stayed away from Sparklehorse cause the band name sounded like a bunch of pretty indie-rock boys. My jealousy is blinding. Didn’t know it was basically a one-man band, which interests me.

Nirvana, "Sliver, the Best of the Box"
I’m too cheap to buy the box set. Great stuff on this. Especially, "Opinion," a song I have on an expensive, stupidly named bootleg called "Outcesticide." I play and sing it with lyrics I half wrote myself, until his "Journals" which included the lyrics. Also, "Do Re Mi," is great, recorded two weeks before he died. I noticed that he has a lot of songs with one word choruses. Didn’t notice that before.

How come nobody ever tells me to buy records like this? Also a songwriter with a drum machine. The first song is a perfect song.

Jim O’Rourke, "Eureka"
Thanks, Jim O’Rourke! My daughter picked up the CD with the picture of the rabbit sucking off the fat man and asked, "What’s the rabbit doing? What’s the rabbit doing?’ Sort of feels like a Brian Eno record, cept in the 90s and it doesn’t sound like Brian Eno.

The Kinks, "Preservation Act 1"
I’ve been going through a Kinks-fanatic period. Songs aren’t as good as Village Green or Arthur or Everybody’s in Showbiz, but the story’s better. Been working on my indie rock opera more and more so I like/need to listen to these ambitious/over-serious records.

Lou Barlow, "Emoh"
So earnest as to sometimes be uncomfortable. Sounds sort of like he listened to Beck’s "Sea Change" and wanted to make a more adult record with a deeper voice that doesn’t sound entirely like his old self. But it’s still LOU BARLOW.

Stephen Malkmus
Shows just how behind I’ve been, five years behind. Didn’t like it so much on first listen. Now do a lot. Like cleaner Pavement, but truth be told, the intentional sloppiness of Pavement sometimes bugged me. The last song, "Deado" might be the most beautiful song he’s ever recorded. A song to listen to over and over again, which I have.

Guided by Voices, "Under the Bushes, Under the Stars"
I wanted another GBV record. I remember listening to it with an ex-girlfriend. I like "Bee Thousand" and "Alien Lanes" more. There’s a pattern here. The records I didn’t own aren’t as good as the ones I already did.

The King of France
My friend’s band. Very great. Somewhere in the archives I wrote about recording with him in Vermont. He’s been singing songs in promos for MTV’s "Real World." I don’t have MTV so I haven’t seen them. Feel-good songs. My own songs ain’t. Hear songs HERE.

Believe it or not, all this didn’t cost me a lot of money. The Amazon Marketplace is an amazing thing. I’m expecting a few more: Roxy Music, "For Your Pleasure," Neil Young, "On the Beach," Broken Social Scene. I think I’m done for a while. Feels very good to be connected again and hear new music.

I have never heard the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Franz Ferdinand.

November 12, 2005

Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend has a blog. It’s been around a few months but I’m just coming to it:

The Boy Who Heard Music

November 10, 2005

Grandmother 2


My parents brought back another painting of my grandmother’s from New Jersey. This painting is hanging over my desk. Anyone know what this painting is? My dad think it’s a reproduction of an impressionist painting. My art history knowledge is non-existent.

I’m pretty tired of the "naked grandmother" searches coming in after the first grandmother post.

November 8, 2005

I Didn't Know

I like this picture. Recording in North Carolina:


New song. Actually, a fairly old song that I wrote for my wife, then girlfriend. I didn’t get around to recording it decently until last week, for our anniversary. Bittersweet, again, but that’s what comes outta me.

I Didn't Know

I have it my mind to do a lot of recording now. Once the novel is out of the way, which is imminent (hopefully) I’m going to concentrate on recording. Been getting the urge. I should be getting more into songwriting while I’m young. I can write fiction when I’m old and gray. Not that I’m dropping out of fiction writing, but one deep obsession at a time is enough. If I write fiction, I'll probably stick with writing stories.

I have to figure out how to make my recording more atmospheric--which is fairly hard to do with eight tracks. My recording thus far has been pretty basic, just getting the songs down. They’re like the idea of the song, not a complete recording. I’ve always had the fantasy that these were demo recordings that ONE day I’d take into the studio with a producer and make them 3-dimensional. Might never happen, so I need to spend more time getting the songs down. I should figure out how to record on the computer, but I really don’t want another reason to stay on the computer.

Also getting the urge to want to be in the world, rather than hide from it. Working on this novel has kept me secluded, again. Music is social. Want to meet some receptive people in this damn city. These are my thoughts today. May change tomorrow.

November 7, 2005

John Fowles

John Fowles died. I recommend The Collector.

John Fowles

A stalker novel that was recommended to me and I read after I wrote my own stalker novel. The Collector is better. Other novels of his like The Magus or A Maggot are way over my head.

In other stalker news, Lindsay Lohan and Jared "I wanted to destroy something beautiful" Leto are starring in a movie about Mark David Chapman’s life. Doesn’t seem right. But that might be only because my stalker novel is based on Chapman. Still, I don’t think this is only jealousy at work. I don't trust Jared Leto after Requiem for a Dream. The Collector, on the other hand, is a good movie with Terrence "General Zod" Stamp. Don't know what Selby or Fowles thought of those movies.

Advertisements for Myself

The signed, numbered edition of my story, "Gentleman Reptile," can now be pre-ordered. You can also see an author photo of me here.

I should rename this blog "Advertisements for Myself."


November 5, 2005


While I’m going down musical memory lane. Time to embarrass someone. Or make him pleased, I’m not sure. I got hold of a tape player so I can burn songs from cassette: the demo tape of the band I was in with Empty Drum, called Montag. His real name’s Steven Brent. We were a band for about a year, and we should have put out 90s records on Matador, or Merge, or Drag City, or some other ultra-cool label but it never happened. Steve is that good a songwriter. He’s up there with Lou Barlow, Steven Malkmus, Beck, and other indie rock superstars. The band fell apart due to…reasons. We didn't work at it long enough and we only got shows at the shittiest club in downtown NYC, the Spiral.

These songs comes from a demo we recorded at Slaughterhouse studios in Northampton, Mass.--where Sebadoh recorded a lot. We lived in Northampton for one strange, difficult summer and then moved back down to NY. It’s the best example of me playing drums. I want to finally post some of Steve’s old stuff. He’s abandoned it to work on newer songs. He is a great great songwriter and his songs deserve to be heard. These songs only touch on the number and variety of songs he’s written.

A song about aliens:

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A song about leashes:

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November 4, 2005

Laming Flips

fearless freaks

It’s been rockumentary time in the Baum household. A great one, I recommend it, if you like the Flaming Lips. The Flaming Lips rule so it was good to watch. Sort of like pro-Flaming Lips propaganda. Actually, it was kind of profound to see a documentary about current heroes rather than a movie about Bob Dylan or the Beatles who seem almost like fictional characters. I've spent a lot of time believing all good things are in the past. Made me want to be a rock star again, or at least to play out live. I’ve got to do something about this.

By the way, best heavy metal record: "Peace Sells But Who’s Buying" by Megadeth.

peace sells

I’ve seen Megadeth live twice, one time opening up for Motorhead. At the Motorhead show, I was short and couldn’t see much. Some huge, biker-type guy picked me up and put me on his shoulders so I could see. That was rocking. After the Megadeth show we went to the gas station across from the Santa Monica Civic and Megadeth were there with their heavy metal girlfriends buying beer and cigarettes. That was also rocking.

November 3, 2005


Around six months ago I submitted a novella I hadn’t read in two years to the Bullfight Little Book Prize. I lost. Here are the finalists.


November 2, 2005

Punk Rock

Proof that I was in a punk rock band. Here’s a song by my high school punk rock band, Caustic.

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"Gnarled fingers search for release." I didn’t write this song. I’m playing drums. I don’t think I can move my arms that fast anymore. This was recorded the summer after high school.

I designed the 7-inch. It was before design programs so I had to do a lot of cutting and pasting with glue sticks and scratch-on lettering. Remember scratch-on lettering? It was a pain. Here’s the Caustic 7-inch.


That’s a picture from Vietnam. The pressing of the record sounds much worse than the original tape. The cymbals are all distorted. It was a cheap place so what can you do. Caustic played one show--in our high school parking lot at lunchtime.


There’s a reason I know my heavy metal. When I was 15 I hung around mostly with a crowd of heavy metal delinquents. They listened to a lot of Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, and then moved on to Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Metallica, Venom, Slayer, and more! The leader of the group was a guy named Aeon--not Ian, like Aeons of time, he always had to say. He had a delinquent mom who let us smoke pot in the house. He was a kind of king--he could do anything he wanted. It was like he had his own house.

We started drifting apart because Aeon was slowly losing his mind. One night when I wasn’t there, he dropped acid and lost it completely. The next day I saw him he was wearing a lot of rings, bracelets, and necklaces, a striped shirt, and singing along with The Doors: a different person. Soon after, he’d be in the back of history class while we learned about the civil war and he’d make sounds of bombs dropping and exploding until the teacher kicked him out. The administration had him sent to a mental hospital, where I visited him a few times. He was surrounded by girls with eating disorders and suicidals. I actually kind of liked it there--you were allowed to be a freak. They pumped him so full of drugs--both uppers and downers--that they made him much, much worse. He was never the same again.

It was like he was trying to live up to the expectations of being a lunatic. He was acting the part, and eventually it became his personality. It does take a certain degree of lunacy to act like a lunatic all the time. He was always an extremely gifted and intelligent guy. He was a drummer, which was one of the major things we shared. I’d get calls from him through the years. He’d call me from Juvy Hall and say he got put in there for dumping a bunch of dead leaves on a female neighbor’s doorstep. He wanted me to break him out. I don’t know, Aeon, I’d say. Eventually, he started getting disability from the government and his mom kept him around to pay the rent. I haven’t heard from him in around ten years. Sometimes I look at homeless people and wonder if it’s him.

This was my best friend in high school. A year later I discovered punk rock and withdrew.

November 1, 2005

Some Kind of Monster

some kind of monster

This movie rules. But it’s also kind of pathetic. You could laugh at it and all the "Spinal Tap" parallels, and there are a crazy lot of them, but these are real people and they’re overcome by a weird amount of insecurity. Which is what makes the documentary interesting. I mean, these guys made "Ride the Lightning," "Master of Puppets" (Pastor of Muppets), "And Justice for All" and "Garage Days," they’ve sold 90 million records, and they’re insecure like they’re 19-year-olds just starting out. There’s no pride about what they’ve accomplished--only hysteria about what’s in front of them.

It’s sort of like watching "Let it Be"--the camera acting like a magnifying glass showing just how much these guys hate each other. The main moment I remember from "Let it Be" is Paul McCartney saying, "I think we can be the next Stravinsky" and John Lennon cowering under a table. The difference between "Let it Be" and "Some Kind of Monster" is that The Beatles were at their peak--they were recording "Don’t Let Me Down," "Let it Be" and the rest. There’s not one song in "Some Kind of Monster" that comes anywhere near what they’d done before.

That’s the main thing that’s not touched on in the movie. If you aren’t familiar with the movie--the documentary follows around Metallica during the recording of a record while they’re also going through group therapy with a shrink. The shrink is a total hack shystering them for $40,000 a month, and I’m sure he doesn’t know the difference between their new songs and old songs. Watching him trying to bob his head along with the music is one of the real amusements. It’s not really mentioned that the reason they’re freaking out so heavily is because they can’t write songs anymore.

For some reason the movie really stuck with me. It’s kind of heartening to have it more together than people who have accomplished everything they set out to do. I’ve written here before how rock stars seem to lose their talent after a while. If you’re in Metallica--40-years-old and wildly rich, it’s gotta scare the shit out of you if the band is over. You can only go on so many vacations for the rest of your life. Being that rich and comfortable seems to kill something important. Also, Metallica wrote their best songs when they were raging drunks. I kind of lost interest with "Smell the Glove"--I mean, "The Black Album." When they cleaned out, their songs started getting boring. That’s not a great message to live by. All in all: great rockumentary.

October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween


Happy Anniversary, Samantha. Three years. That’s right, we got married on Halloween. Our daughter was three months old and I said, "You wanna get married today?" We went to the courthouse, filled out our paperwork and got married at the local jail. It was easy to do in a small town like Wilmington, NC. Some insane, rail-thin woman was there to complain about her boyfriend keying her car. Prostitutes were being brought in by the cops. We asked some strangers to be witnesses. We went upstairs to the jail courtyard and we were wed.

One of the women who was acting as a witness gave us her ring to use in the ceremony. She was crying throughout. When it was over she gave us a hundred dollar bill and told us to keep the ring….It was actually a very romantic experience. Weird and fucked up but that’s our style. Both of us thought that getting married was a sort of formality because we already had Olivia. But the ceremony was powerful and spiritual and meaningful. Only drawback is we didn’t have any brown wedding cake.

So Happy Anniversary, Sam. We have some very hard years behind us. Things are looking up. And Happy Halloween.

October 30, 2005

My Space

Is anyone else on MySpace? I set up a MySpace page to force people to listen to my songs. It’s here: (plays a song right away).

My brother also has a page. He gave me the idea. You can hear a great song of his here.

October 29, 2005


I’ve added a Govt. section on the sidebar. I go to these sites so often, especially recently, that I should link to them. I wish I could conjure up the energy to write a long post about Fitzgerald, but I don’t have it. David Brooks pisses the shit out of me. Saying that the Democrats are paranoid--Libby wasn’t part of a massive conspiracy leading up to the war, he’s just one man who made a mistake. Really? This kind of negation of the obvious makes me believe more in a conspiracy. Libby was a protégé of Wolfowitz. They covered up information in order to go to war. It’s as if those crimes aren’t indictable as part of Fitzgerald’s investigation, they don’t matter.

Hopefully, the investigation will continue, though I was surprised to hear the Lehrer News Hour pundits all think the investigation is over--by reading Fitzgerald’s body language. Everyone on Daily Kos was reading his body language and saying he’s got a lot more on the administration that he’s not divulging. Sometimes reading Kos can give you a skewed vision of mainstream reality--like leading up to the 2004 election. All that hope sometimes seems like truth.

I’m not a very good at writing about politics. I link to Sullivan, Kos, et al. because they write better about it, and care more about it, than I do. I like Andrew Sullivan because he gives shit to both sides and he gets interesting email. The Daily Kos is sometimes too cliquish, too one-minded--I’ve got your back, Senator Obama! And I don’t know how anyone can write the phrase "Troll Rating" without laughing.

October 27, 2005


Congratulations, White Sox. Screw Barbara Bush.

And Harriet Miers. And Karl Rove.

Book’s about to be released, hopefully next week. It’s all I can think about. I want to start the next wave.

Amusing discussion of ridiculous band names at Metafilter. I never thought Marilyn Manson was such a clever name because there was already Elvis Hitler in the eighties.

I am listening to Sebadoh.

October 24, 2005

Jonathan Lethem

If anyone’s wondering, my daughter’s out of daycare so I don’t have much time in front of the computer--which is probably a good thing. Since she’s turned three, she’s stopped taking her afternoon nap, which was when I was able to work.

In the meantime, here’s some Tree Porn.

And some more tree porn: There was a recent interview with Jonathan Lethem that made me feel like an idiot. I haven’t read Jonathan Lethem yet because…I haven’t gotten around to it yet. He waxed on about Philip Roth and said things like this:

American writing, its roots in Poe, Twain, Melville, and extended through Faulkner and, for gawd’s sake, everyone else—is encompassing, courageous, omnivorous. It gobbles contradiction, keeps its eyes open, engages with the culture at every possible level. But boundaries being crossed make the inhabitants of the increasingly isolated castle of the status quo all the more anxious. If we’re free to use these methods, allowed to talk about everything we know, if we are allowed to describe the world of advertising, the world of capitalism, the world of pop culture, the actual world where the elements described as of high- and low-brow are in a constant inextricable mingling—if we let down our guard, where will our status emblems be? What credentials will we burnish? How will we know we are different from the rabble outside the gates?

Again, it’s sheerly class anxiety that is expressed in these attacks. And, as well, a fundamental discomfort with the creative act, with the innately polymorphous, the innately acquisitive, curious, exuberant and engaged tendencies in the creative act itself.

The interview made me feel stupid--that he could spout like this off the top of his head. As if he’s read every book ever written.

Books I’ve read by Philip Roth:

Goodbye, Columbus
Portnoy’s Complaint
When She Was Good
The Ghost Writer
Sabbath’s Theater
The Professor of Desire
The Plot Against America

Maybe I’m not a complete idiot. Maybe Jonathan Lethem is very practiced at talking this way because he’s had hundreds of interviews and discussions at high-brow cocktail parties. Probably. Now I feel better.

(I found the Lethem interview at the Ash Thomas blog--because I’m a site referral addict. Someone clicked on "Ash" in Technorati, for whatever reason, and I found the blog. I’m sure this interview is on dozens of other litblogs. I also saw it on Mumpsimus.)

October 18, 2005


I’ve been getting more spam-like email from writers. Which is actually kind of flattering. I guess they get my email address from this blog. Someone from the L.A. Times sent me a link to a story. One writer is sending me a review copy of his book--first time for that. Another sent me a link to his book on Amazon. It seems like he’s doing pretty well. His book’s being translated into ten languages and the movie rights were bought by the producer of "Chicago," so I don’t know what he needs with my little 100-hit-a-day blog. He asked, so here it is: The Town that Forgot How to Breathe. The book looks interesting.

I don’t get a lot of strange referrals coming here like Banality Fair. Most of the stuff is on topic. And for some reason I don’t get any hideous porn spam like Okay Kabuki. Mostly I get offers for mortgages, money scams, and Viagra. The weirdest referrals I get are people coming here looking for "Tree porn."

October 17, 2005

TomKat 2

My wife had fun with our digital camera program:

down with xenu


October 16, 2005


I’ve been looking for something to blog and then something drops in my lap. I took my daughter to La Cienega park on Saturday. We were sitting watching a soccer game when a group of paparazzi started swarming around a black SUV. Out came Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes as they made their way to watch the soccer game.

In the novel I’m putting out, I write about a celebrity who is driven fairly insane by the constant attention of the paparazzi and celebrity itself. And it does seem kind of insane. The look in the eyes of the paparazzi as if they're running for their lives to get war footage. Dozens of them poised with their telephoto lenses while Tom Cruise just sits there. Really, I wouldn’t wish that on an enemy. Having your picture taken every time you take a trip to the park. That’s my version of a nightmare. Maybe the paparazzi are waiting for a bird to shit on him or a ball to hit him in the head or something. It takes a kind of psychosis to want to be followed by photographers all the time.


I was glad to see I got something right in the novel. Though I was surprised that the paparazzi were good-looking, both male and female, like aspiring actors. The paparazzi photographer in North of Sunset is more of a loser.

I walked around to the other side of the park. Crazy that I took a picture of Tom Cruise. Here’s what they were after:


The back of Tom Cruise’s and Katie Holmes’ heads. Fascinating.

October 14, 2005

Open Thread

I’m having blog writer’s block. Someone please write an interesting comment.

October 11, 2005



Does anyone know how to use Photoshop and is feeling generous? I’ve been trying to clean up this image…and failing. It needs to be 1704 x 460 pixels and white instead of gray. After obsessing incessantly it still looks crappy.

I think I may go with this one instead:


Not as thematically cool as the one with the sun, but it’ll be easier to clean up. I've been married to the despeckle and blur commands. A little bit late in the game to be dealing with this, but I’m no graphic designer so this is taking me a while.

October 10, 2005


Turns out my grandfather was staunchly in favor of drug legalization. My wife discovered this online:
To the Editor: The article by Dupont and Voth and the editorial by Dr. Musto fail to address the question of crime related to the drug trade, that is, violent acts committed to obtain money for the purchase of drugs. If addicts were given drugs from the huge stores of seized cocaine and heroin and were given sterile syringes and needles, the profit motive would disappear, the crime rate would be reduced, and the rate of transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus and other pathogens by injection would be decreased. Legalization could be aided by appropriate education of younger persons to prevent initial use of drugs.

Rock on, Otto. Weird too because my dad wrote a novel called Paradise County about drug legalization being tested in a small Midwestern town. The novel wasn't published--my father calls this the "Baum curse." Somehow I doubt that my dad and stern Dr. Baum talked too much about drug legalization.

October 9, 2005


Thanks to Brooklyn Copeland for the write up. Nice that she can describe my songs as "sweet." Sometimes I think the problem with my songwriting is that it is overly depressing…I read somewhere that Americans don’t like people who are talented in more than one field. So it looks like I’m stuck being a rock star.

October 7, 2005

Bob Dylan

Finally saw Scorsese’s Bob Dylan documentary last night. Listening to "Live 1966" right now. I found it inspiring…to wanna be a rock star. I don’t think about being successful with my songwriting very often. I’m more obsessed with being a successful writer. An ex-girlfriend once told me that if she had a choice between being a rock star and a fiction star, she would choose rock star. I chose writing star. These are the stupid conversations I sometimes have.

Anyway, now I want to be a rock star, instead of scrounging for my next job and having three people hear my songs at a time.

People have said I look like Bob Dylan. Just look:


That’s me hanging out in an apartment.

The documentary was also somewhat dispiriting, in the sense that it focused a lot on his malaise during the 66 tour--people’s booing and the inane questions at press conferences. It didn’t show the other half--that this was the most creatively explosive time of his life. It had to be fun too. I didn’t realize that he went electric at Newport well after "Like a Rolling Stone" came out. I always figured that it was his electric coming-out party. But really the booing was done out of self-righteousness rather than surprise. My parents were at that show at Newport. They didn’t boo--they’re not the type to care if someone stops playing folk music. They also saw the Beatles at Shea Stadium. Cool.

Another revelation was that Dylan’s drummer was this guy:


He’s been in hundreds of movies playing white trash/rednecks/bikers. I thought Levon Helm was the drummer, along with the rest of The Band. I read a biography of the band once, Across the Great Divide. The main thing I remember about Levon Helm is that he has a gigantic cock. That must mean something.

October 6, 2005

Laguna Beach


My parents took Olivia for a day and a night and my wife and I took a short vacation to Laguna Beach, CA, home of resorts and bad nature art. Walks on the beach. A romantic dinner. A balcony overlooking the ocean. Made believe we were rich people. It was nice.

October 3, 2005

Free Books

Here’s my ploy to win free books:

If you want to be in the running, go here.

October 1, 2005


I got another copy of my novel to go through the final reading. I spent hours fixing the images and the cover looked fine in the "Print Ready" PDF. It still looks screwed up. This is really annoying. I’d love for something to be easy.

September 30, 2005

Book of Job

I had the idea that I would rail against my job now that I’m no longer working for them. I’ve never written about the job because I was afraid it would come back at me and I’d get fired like Dooce. I got fired anyway. It doesn’t make sense to go off on the job because I need them as a reference. And it wasn’t the worst job in the world. I just got burnt out on it. I was one of these people, in addition to some other freelance work. It was an interesting enough job because I could research a new topic every week--wine cellars, mortgages, video games, whatever. Paragraphs that looked like this:
Some of the better tobacco varieties come from a blend of two different plants. Two good base tobaccos are Virginia and Burley. There are also spicier tobaccos, such as Iranian tobacco. Smoking a pure Iranian tobacco might overwhelm the tastebuds. Iranian tobacco is more often used like you would use a spice in the kitchen--as an accent, a small amount at a time.

Four paragraphs a page, 10-100 pages a site. I’ve written hundreds of these pages. Really it isn’t so different from writing ad copy. Sort of embarrassing. I was starting to hate it, which is likely why I got laid off. This is probably because I haven’t had a vacation in three years and I just needed a break. I feel liberated since I lost the job, though I probably shouldn't. I felt like I was lying every day. Really, there are worse jobs. The job helped feed my kid for two years so I can’t be ungrateful.

So I’ve been looking for new work. In my free time, I’ve also been looking into how to get people to read my book once it comes out, which is sort of depressing. It’s difficult to get people to take print-on-demand books seriously. I don’t blame them--reviewers get hundreds of books from actual presses, so they couldn’t possibly handle the load of POD books as well. At some point, POD books might get some clout, like blogs, but they don’t currently. I’ve been looking into POD-friendly sites, many of which are romance or new age book reviewers. It’s an uphill battle. I am obsessed though to try to get someone to read this novel.

September 28, 2005


One of the more amazing things to come out of my grandfather’s recent passing was the discovery of some letters that my grandmother wrote to my grandfather in 1938. My grandmother, Peggy, my father’s mother, was always a kind of mystery. She was an admitted agoraphobe who was addicted to amphetamines for much of her life--prescribed by my grandfather, a doctor. She said the pills didn’t make her speedy but just brought her to a normal level. My grandfather was a commanding, opinionated presence and Peggy always hung silently in the background, an old woman all her life.

In these letters she reveals that she wanted to be a writer--a complete revelation to my father, who’s a writer, and never knew this. He was judged harshly for becoming a writer rather than a doctor like my grandfather. My father dropped out of medical school to write his first novel. The letters are written over only a month--they include a short story, a character portrait of my grandfather, her thoughts on being a writer, and some hints of the anxieties she would feel deeply throughout her life.

To me, the letters read something like The Bell Jar--a woman of intense intellectual spirit and optimism in the early pages, yet you know that the story is going to end up badly. It seems she censored the writer inside her. She mentions how she’s terrified of passing on her anxieties to her children, and she may just have repressed herself into oblivion. But also, my grandfather didn’t seem to help her much. Actually, there’s a theme throughout where she seems to be testing the waters with my grandfather: "This is what I’m like. Is that OK?" In some way, they read like blog entries--an obsessively honest self-examination with the slim hope that it might have an audience. The letters don’t reflect very well on my grandfather who comes across as domineering, censoring the writerly, artistic side of Peggy instead of encouraging it. Scoffing at her insecurity.

The letters are nicely written--kind of like Thomas Wolfe. A lot of three-syllable adjectives that are sort of turgid but still very precise. She had such an intellectual fire that nobody knew she had. I’m proud to have this woman in my bloodstream.

Later in life, she started painting--she had to do something with that creative energy. I’ve always wanted to post her paintings. I’ve hung them up in many places I’ve lived through the years. These paintings are in my living room.

Here’s New York City, from New Jersey. All of my grandparents lived in New Jersey. Both my parents grew up in South Orange, NJ, Philip Roth territory.


I think this is Picasso in his studio. She painted a lot from photographs:


This one is my favorite. I’ve always wanted to use it for a book cover--a book I have yet to write. Maybe if I ever get a collection of stories together. I even have a title for the book: "Suffer Fools." A nod to Richard Yates’ Eleven Kinds of Loneliness.


September 27, 2005


the stuff

We’ve been watching horror movies lately, via Netflix. I loved the movie "The Stuff" when I was a kid and I wanted to see it again. It kinda rules. A product of mysterious white, marshmallow-like stuff starts brainwashing people. Excellent 80s-style commercials throughout: "Can’t get enough of The Stuff!"

After that we continued our Larry Cohen festival and got "It’s Alive." Kind of slow and plodding but also hypnotic. Great low-budget art. Bernard Herrmann’s score is incredible. Imagine the score for "Taxi Driver" if "Taxi Driver" was about killer babies.

The movie that scared the shit out of me when I was a kid was "The Changeling."


I think I had nightmares for more than a year. It’s about a boy who’s drowned by his father in the attic bathtub and then starts haunting a house. When I saw it, I was the same age as the boy. There’s a scene where the boy shows up in a pool of water underneath the floorboards of a woman’s house. I thought that the boy might be living under the hardwood floors of our living room. I cried horribly and had to sleep in my parents' room. I don’t know why I saw the movie--caught it on cable, I think. A mistake. We rented it recently. A pretty good horror movie, but it creeped me out in that visceral way that made me feel eight years old again.

I am nerd. I have been interested in the 3 new alien TV shows. I watched the premiere of "Threshold" and liked it. I mean, it’s got Data and the midget (?) from "The Station Agent." Anything about aliens and the end of the world speaks to me. I was excited and then caught another episode which wasn’t so good. It seems like something that needs to be a mini-series, it needs to be resolved. I caught some of "Surface" which seems like a monster movie. I haven’t seen "Invasion" and I don’t think I’m going to--that’s "Law and Order" time.

September 26, 2005

None the Rest

I finally got to record something. Another depressing relationship song. A while back I was obsessed with Elvis Costello, who’s written his share of depressing relationship songs. This song was inspired by the acoustic version of "Deportee" which is a bonus track on "Goodbye Cruel World," a not-so-good record. The recording of "Deportee" on the actual record is lame bad pop which shows that a great song can be obliterated in the performance. You can hear snippets of both on the Amazon page. I once heard a live recording of Paul McCartney playing "Lady Madonna" and he made it sound like a bad song.

I’m not so obsessed with Elvis Costello anymore. The records I come back to are "Blood and Chocolate" and "Trust." At one time, I wasn’t listening to anything else. I love the acoustic bonus tracks on "My Aim is True": "Wave a White Flag," "Cheap Reward," etc. which are just him and a guitar at around 20 years old. It’s a better window into his songwriting. Maybe I’ll record a bad rendition of "Our Little Angel" off "King of America." One of the few songs of his I know how to play.

Here’s None the Rest

I like this line, "On that day like none the rest, they said, ‘Fuck it, I’m done with this test of your urgency and lack of faith in anyone with poor taste.’"

September 22, 2005

Sex Writing

sex writing

This is the most unscrupulous thing I’ve done as a writer. Violet Blue, sex editor/educator, made a comment on one of Shirley Shave's very first posts asking if she wanted to be included in an anthology of sex essays, a collection of non-fiction. At the time, I thought it was a cool and funny thing to do. The blog was just starting out and I didn't think it would take off like it did. Shirley Shave had her own email address so I wrote back--as Shirley--Great, thanks. I wrote to some other people as well which is how the site started getting a lot of traffic. Someone called it a form of performance art, which is a generous way of putting it. I tried not to write so much in the emails. The more I wrote, the more I was crossing a line.

I struggled with getting published in the book. I was being dishonest. It could compromise the book. But I wanted readers, or else I wouldn’t have started the blog in the first place. People who have been reading this blog for a while know that I haven’t had the greatest luck as a writer: read The Opportunist. That’s why I went through with it. I can’t say that I’m not proud that it’s out. The book looks great. It’s the first thing I’ve had published in book form since my first novel. Shirley has a chapter called "A Beginning: from ‘God’s Wife.’" I don’t think revealing this will make people doubt that the other pieces in the book are non-fiction. The writing is strong, it more than makes up for Shirley. I hope it will be an interesting footnote to a great collection.

Having Shirley in a collection of non-fiction actually makes some twisted sense. The book is written like a non-fictional memoir in the first person which is why it worked well as a blog. While I was writing the novel, I had the idea of crediting it to "Shirley Shave with Henry Baum" like a fake autobiography. I think that would only work if I was already a successful writer. Otherwise, it would confuse people. This also wouldn’t entirely have made sense given the third part of the book. After L.A. she moves to New York and falls apart. The book then takes a new direction when she joins a religious cult. I don’t think people would have liked, or believed, seeing her go in this direction. It’s partly why I stopped the blog. Readers seemed to like the blog most when she was confident and in control of things. At the end of the book she becomes a kind of sex Goddess with a commune of her own.

Either this is a great literary swindle or I’m going to hell. Whichever, please check out the Best Sex Writing 2005.

September 21, 2005

Shirley Shave


All right, fuck it. I’m going to piss somebody off by doing this, but I lost a job this week, so I need to do something. I still have another job so I’m not fucked, and actually I feel somewhat liberated. I’ve been working till 10:30 or later every night, exhausting myself (more on the job later). Some people who came to Ash Tree first might be surprised that I have another blog. I posted a novel I wrote about a porn star as a blog. God’s Wife is actually older than Ash Tree, and then I realized I wanted to write about my own self. "God’s Wife" is the novel I’ve written about here that didn’t get published and nearly broke me of my faith in publishing. I never mentioned the novel by the title because I didn’t want to give myself away. Click here to read:

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