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.

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