January 31, 2006

Heavy Metal!

Speaking of pointless 15 second heavy metal instrumentals.

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January 30, 2006


Yesterday, I went through a bunch of old recordings. I have all these short instrumental things that I do when I’m bored. I probably couldn’t remember how to play them if I tried and they’ll probably never have a home. So I’m posting them. Because I can.


The Playground

I had a nice, bonding week with Olivia, Liv, Livvy, Livvy Liv, Chick, Chicker, Sweet, Sweeter. I finally found a good park to take her to. We might be half-broke but our neighborhood borders Beverly Hills. Most of our neighborhood parks are filled with nannies and rich wives. The parks are big too. I learned that if the park has too much space, people are inclined to be distant from each other. The park I went to is pretty small, it feels part of a community.

It’s still an L.A. park so one day I had a three hour conversation with this person, while our kids played together. He was on "Hill Street Blues" and other TV shows. More interestingly, he was an NFL running back for the Minnesota Vikings in the 70s and played in two Superbowls. I may rail against celebrity, but really I’m a starfucker. It just interests me--someone who’s been on that large a stage. The man was handed a ball by Fran Tarkenton in front of 70,000 people to be tackled by 300 pound men. Every play is like a bar fight, but they just get up and go back to the huddle. He said that the adrenaline is running so high that you feel nothing until the game is over. Interesting guy--spitting tobacco, railing against Nicole Richie for being a talentless drug addict, how NFL players today are all showboaters. I feel sort of wrong about immediately blogging this. We had a decent conversation and writing about it seems like a breach of confidence.

On Friday, the park became overwhelmed by uptight parents. People are waiting too long to have kids. Older parents are so professional about their kids, like the kids are a project. No one at the park seems to be our age. I’m a young 33 and my wife is in her twenties. The moms talk in this false higher register: "Hudson, Bradley, Jackson, do you want to play with Madison?!" I’m not the first to note that people are naming their kids with last names, like they’re trying to create a new repressed aristocracy. They sound like pets’ names. I don’t know what these kids are going to turn out like but they’re already sort of neurotic at 2 and 3. The parents are always on top of them telling them how great they are that every time they go down the slide, they’re looking around for their parents for validation. I heard more than one parent say to their kids, "Now, honey, let’s not be silly" when the kid went down the slide two at a time. The kids were smiling and laughing but the parents were nervous that it was dangerous. It is a sort of tragedy if "silly" comes to mean "scary." And not even unsafe, but scary to the parents’ overbearing sense of well being.

Criticizing other parents is one of the great pastimes of being a parent. Which is probably why they’re so uptight. They act like they’re always being assessed--i.e. they’re more worried about how they look than being with their kids. They are never being themselves. I’m generalizing, but I’m right.

On Saturday at the park, this person was there, who my wife tells me is in the tabloids a lot because she’s a lesbian who’s adopted a child. There she was with her partner and baby. Also this person. TV people, not anyone crazy superstar famous. I can recognize a celebrity by the back of the head. My grandfather once said that celebrities had no affect on him whatsoever--they’re just like anybody else. I think this is impossible and I think he was lying.

January 29, 2006

Retro Babe 2

Another nice post about Ash Tree at Retro Babe. Thanks go out to Ian. Myspace has been an incredibly great way to get people to hear my songs. I fleshed out (barely) my personal Myspace page: myspace.com/henrybaum. Add me as a friend if you’ve got a Myspace page and you’ve ever liked this blog.

Je suis du bon côté

je suis

All right, this fucking rules. The French edition of my novel is now up on the Hachette Littératures site. They didn’t like either English title (The Golden Calf, Oscar Caliber Gun) so they came up with something else. I don’t know what it means. I put it through the Google translation engine and it came up with "I am good side," which I’m figuring is something like "I’m from the Good Side"--it comes from Ray’s stalker letters to the celebrity Tim Griffith. I’m going to go contact my translator.

January 23, 2006

Ear Farm

Thanks to Ear Farm for the cool post about Ash Tree. I wish I could shed some of the Cobain from my voice, but it’s there, especially on the early songs. He was formative. Go to Ear Farm, link to Ear Farm.

Ear Farm was nominated for a 2006 Bloggie. I wasn’t. The Man Who Couldn’t Blog was also nominated, and deserves it, especially since he links to me now. I’d say vote for them both, but they’re nominated for the same category, best kept secret.


After every post I write here, I expect to get a negative comment saying, "You self-indulgent, self-obsessed egomaniac." But I never do. So thank you. I will protect myself by writing: Do not cut and paste that sentence in the comments. I guess every blog is self-indulgent, self-obsessed and egomaniacal. But I think I take this one step further by selling myself a bit more, consciously or unconsciously. So every time I hit publish, I think someone’s going to hit back. Hasn’t happened yet. People don’t care that much.

I can be an asshole. I also can’t be unapologetic. Bukowski was unapologetic. He was also an alcoholic. I feel unapologetic when I’m drinking. Not when I’m sober. I could never be an alcoholic because I can’t really drink hard more than two days in a row. My body can’t take it.

My daughter’s off from daycare this week for winter break so there probably won’t be much blogging. I’ll be with her in the parks of L.A. Look for me. I have brown hair.

Since reading the Dylan book, I’ve been listening to a lot of Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, the stuff I have. Someone should make a CD counterpart to the Chronicles book. I went to the library and got "Classic Folk Songs" from Smithsonian Folkways. It has a lot of the stuff he references, like Dave Von Ronk, who I’ve never heard. The book brought some of my musical enthusiasm back to life.

From the library I also got:

Glamorama, Bret Easton Ellis
The Fermata, Nicholson Baker
If Beale Street Could Talk, James Baldwin
The White Album, Joan Didion

Got the Ellis because we recently rented "American Psycho." Seemed too campy, as if she (the director) was afraid the humor of the novel wouldn’t translate to a movie so she made Patrick Bateman completely ridiculous. I thought Christian Bale’s version of Bruce Wayne in "Batman Begins" was a better version of Patrick Bateman. I doubt I’ll read Glamorama. I’m more interested in his new one but it was checked out.

I got the Didion because I heard that Didion is to Brett Ellis as Fante is to Bukowski. I have not read Joan Didion, stupid as that sounds. Wanted some fiction, but the essays are amazing.

Nicholson Baker, just because.

Reading James Baldwin makes me want to be a better person.

I’m selling myself again.

January 20, 2006


From "The Truth" from Lout Rampage by Dan Clowes.

dan clowes

Punchline: "The truth is that people are fucking morons!"

January 19, 2006


bob dylan

Just finished this. Really, indispensably good. He sort of paints himself as a superhero, but then he was. Was he really that intense about songs he heard, people he met? If so then I am really apathetic. It might be how he sees it through the lens of memory, which is impressive in itself. And I’m not sure if Bono has the "soul of an ancient poet," but I’ve never been to dinner with him. Reads like another On the Road, except this time from the point of view of a songwriter, especially the parts written about his young self. It’s harder to feel a connection when he mourns the loss of his yacht. The man is a real writer. Not a pop-star, not half a poet, a writer. The book is like getting a letter from Bob Dylan. That should recommend it.

The book’s mostly about his appreciation of artists, which can be inspiring, but maybe impossible. Here’s an excerpt: "We went to a Jim Carrey movie that night. Just by moving his hands, the man can explode your soul. Jimmy breathes laughter." Not really an excerpt. He just has such a deep appreciation for all things, it almost seems like an act. When he starts talking about Mickey Rourke being such a great actor, it’s sort of ridiculous: didn’t the man not like anything? Maybe I’m jealous. I’m about 80% cynicism and 20% appreciation. Which is actually a real problem and I need to change it. In Chronicles, he expresses his devout appreciation of so many things, which may be a healthier way to live than being sucked down by all the monstrous crap, but nothing seems to bring him down. Maybe that’s core to what made him such a success, so prolific. This could be immaturity talking, but you’re defined by what you don’t like as much as what you love. Maybe he didn’t want to criticize anyone eternally in print. Sometimes though it feels like half the story: there’s no angst here.

Me, I write about the crap in the world, how it’s falling apart, so I tend to see it all around me. I’ve also been jealous of Kerouac and Henry Miller who embrace life, a lust for all things. I don’t if these are different times or what--we actually are facing extinction. Global warming, insane apocalypsists of every religion, television like a dead blanket over everything (I’m starting to write like him). Though Miller, Kerouac, and Bob Dylan all lived through World War II. They knew fear. Maybe I’m wrong, but 9-11 was a major kick in the balls to the entire American idea like nothing before it. I grew up on punk rock which screams: everything sucks. Everything falls apart. A different kind of formative music than folk that was more about storytelling, an appreciation of people’s stories. One of these days I feel like I’m going to get a good mental slap in the face--maybe by a person that I have yet to meet--who tells me, why are you wallowing in all this unnecessary shit. Maybe I need to smoke some pot.

The book made me think about my own life. His success was so organic. For anyone who’s read this blog over the long haul--maybe 5 people--it would be weird if I got successful now. I’ve spent entry after entry complaining about my lack of success. It would be strange if it happened now--33 years old, after I’ve settled down and had a kid. I still want to sell a lot of books, go on rock tours through America and Europe, but it would be a much different experience than someone 22 years old and coming up. Even if I look years younger than I am.

Empty Drum, a long while back, made a comment that some post I wrote brought out my humanity. I feel I have to live up to it somehow, but to be honest, I hate people. I find people, music, art, mostly disappointing, which is a nice way of putting it. I put myself into the same category of "people." I don’t want to. I’d love to look at life as a great playground. Dylan writes about Robert Johnson: "Neither forlorn or hopeless or shackled--nothing hinders him." It ain’t me. For a person like Bob Dylan, it’s much easier to appreciate the world when the world is appreciating you. I still feel really fucking horribly guilty about what I wrote about my daughter a couple of posts ago--my impatience. It’s true though, so I should get it down. In January 2006, I’ve been going through a bad phase in regards to her which is now lifting. She is radiant. She actually makes people gasp when they see her. Not just her external beauty but her inner light. But I had a kid before I was fully formed as a person and an artist. So I haven’t had the space to work out ideas and it gets to me sometimes. Not getting work is also driving me up the fucking wall.

Not sure what this has to do with Chronicles exactly. Reading about someone’s pure success and love for life brought about some thoughts about how I look at my own life. Not comparing myself to Bob Dylan, but he’s a Jewboy who writes songs and books. There’s no way I couldn’t have gotten something from this book.

January 18, 2006


A step closer to hell I take. Feeling my dishonesty. Also pride. From a Salon review of the Best Sex Writing 2005.

"Another not to be missed is "A Beginning," a rawer, more transgressive piece in which porn star Shirley Shave documents how she got into the "industry" by responding to a seemingly innocuous classified ad during a less-than-tranquil phase of her life. "Nothing violent inspired me to get involved in porn," she writes, tersely explaining that the pull can be more universal than is typically assumed. "I just had the gun of boredom and poverty to my head."

January 17, 2006



Cool. Cover’s done for Gentleman Reptile, due out in February. Readings are set for Portland, OR, L.A. and maybe Berkeley in March. There’s now an Amazon page for the story.

There’s no actual Chinese food consumption in the story but I’m thinking it refers to the tagline they wrote for it:

What do you do when your worst nightmare comes true? You talk it out.

Disaster. Despair. Disgust. Conversation.

...people discuss things over Chinese food. Or maybe because it's about a person consuming himself. Any case, good to see.


A good quote by Wayne Coyne, F.L. It describes why I’m putting music up online. I have faith that my songs are going to connect with someone out there. I have to keep plugging away, like I’m on tour. Except I don’t have to drive four hours to play for nine people. This blog is like a demo tape. I have hope that I’ll be able to cross-pollinate music and fiction. No wonder that I’m so attached to this blog. It’s a way to get the word out about my novel, it’s the only venue for my songwriting, and it’s a therapist.

From his lips:

You know, it’s funny. So many people ask, doesn’t the music scene suck now? I don’t think it does at all! I think it’s wonderful! The internet has created so much great opportunity. A band can make an album, and put it out there, you don’t even have to wait to be signed. You put it out there, and you don’t know, one person can hear it, or millions! For music, these are the best times that have ever existed! You can sit on your computer, you can see pictures of the musicians. Even on ‘Fearless Freaks’, we did a lot of the editing on the computer ourselves. We live in great times!

(via Indieblogheaven)

January 16, 2006


S. and Olivia got back to L.A. safely. A good trip. Olivia was adored by the Ohio family, S. felt welcomed. Me, I got hit with a wall of exhaustion after they got home. S. said she had a similar experience after we got back from Laguna a couple months ago. We had some breathing room and we felt like we’d built up some strength. As soon as we got home, Olivia was saying, "Get me some juice. Get me some juice." "How do you ask?" "Please." It felt like we had never left.

I feel like an asshole for writing stuff like this. Showing resentment for my child. It’s not resentment, it’s exhaustion. Before I had a kid, I would have judged this kind of talk--What, how can you not have unconditional, undying love for your child? Because being a parent is hard. Even her daycare workers say that she needs more attention than most--more proof that she’s going to be an actress. She’s an intensely intelligent, energetic child, but she takes a lot out of you.

I just read a novella by John Fante--"My Dog Stupid" from West of Rome --and he’s such a fucking asshole to his kids. Calling them "moron" throughout their lives. Bukowski, for all his fucked-up faults, was never abusing his own kids. By abuse I mean neglect. Good sentences in the Fante though, and boldly honest, but I’ve become a lightweight when it comes to mistreatment of kids in books or movies. Like there’s this scene in "Permanent Midnight" where Ben Stiller is babysitting a baby while he’s shooting up heroin into his neck. Almost unwatchable, and what parent would let their baby be part of that scene?

I’ve felt weird about some items in the last post. That whole--I’d like there to be a "general consensus" about my writing--in the previous post was fairly retarded. That sort of consensus is meaningless and only for journalists and others to have something to write about. The only thing that matters is if I write something I like and I’m able to make some money from it. It would be nice to be popular to bring in readers so I might make a living at writing. But that is well down the line, so I should be happy with what I have.

I went to a rock show on Saturday--the King of France played an in-store at Sea Level Records in Echo Park. Olivia’s first show. She knows the songs because I play the CD a lot so she was singing along and dancing. My first rock show in a long while, felt very good to see a friend play, they were great…This ties into the previous thought because if I tell anyone at the show or anywhere else that I’m releasing a novel soon, they say, "Cool." It doesn’t matter that it’s self-published. I finished a novel and I’m publishing it. A lot of people out there are trying to finish their first novel--a lot of people much older than me. So what difference does it make if it’s well-judged.

Anyway, I felt totally invigorated by my week off. And I still feel like I’m breathing better, I’ve got some space around my head. I don’t know if anyone else can tell, but I’m happier, healthier. These naked blog posts are still making me uneasy. I think I need to write something funny.

January 13, 2006

Gimme Shelter

I finally started going a little stir crazy yesterday. This week has been a window into my madness. I haven’t left the house for five days. I’ve talked on the phone a couple of times. I’m picking up the wife and daughter today at 11. I am very ready for them to come home. I sort of feel like when I was in Paris--I felt justified and elated in my exile because I couldn’t speak the language. As soon as I finished the novel ("God’s Wife") I felt totally alienated and directionless. I’ve recorded enough songs for a while and after I was done I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I discovered something this week--I might be a songwriter as much as a fiction writer. I enjoy it. Somehow though, it’s not as satisfying as writing fiction. That may be because I haven’t gotten as much feedback for it--and music needs an audience much more than fiction. There’s something even lonelier about recording music alone. Fiction is supposed to be written alone.

I even feel guilty for recording rather than using this time for starting a story. I don’t know, it’s just not what I wanted to do. My life is an endless guilt trip, even when I’m being productive.

I may also have a case of writer’s block. My desire to write is more about my ambition to find readers than it is about my will to express myself. This is because I have a kid and I have a pressing need for a career. Also, L.A. is an unliterary city--it’s just not in the air like it is in New York. That’s an excuse, but a walk through Central Park is a hell of a lot more romantic and literate than anything in this city. If I was surrounded by more prose writers, I might feel more competition to work on fiction.

I am having trouble separating my desire to write truthful self-expression from the ambition to be liked. But what is it to be liked? Most things that have been created have been both loved and hated. Someone out there has the opinion that Kerouac is a terrible writer. Someone out there has the opinion that John Updike is the best writer that ever lived. There is a general consensus though that they are both good writers. I guess I’d like to be part of a general consensus. My novel that will eventually come out will be liked by some people, but most likely it will not be taken seriously by high-literary people, the litblog co-op.

Sometimes I think, what’s the point of working so hard on fiction. I turn on the TV and there’s Kirstie Alley, looking like a he-she, dancing to "It’s Raining Men." It’s blindly, horribly dumb but it’s everywhere. Highly literary discussions seem almost pointless in the face of it--like supporting a third party. We live in a world of Hitler, child porn, religious war, and worse. In the face of that, an actress in an idiotic commercial looks saintly. Kirstie Alley has had an interesting life, despite the stupid shit she’s projecting in Weight Watcher’s commercials. What am I getting at exactly? I’m not entirely sure--maybe that I find the big, bad world stifling. Maybe that if you’re surviving and reasonably happy and not hurting anyone then you’re a success, so what does another book matter. Or maybe that’s another excuse to hide from something that’s really difficult--writing and then trying not to hate yourself even more when the result is not so great.

There’s another reason I haven’t been as inspired to write fiction. Right now, I’d much rather live my real life, meet people, learn about people, than invent people on paper--which has often been a substitution for the lack of a social life. In my seclusion, there’s so much I’m not experiencing. I’m becoming a sheltered person. This week has been good for getting some objectivity about my life. Normally, I have so many responsibilities, pressures, that I can’t get a hold on what’s actually bothering me.

This probably sounds very negative, but this was an important week for me. I didn’t solve everything--my desire to slack, and other problems, but I figured some things out. This entry and all the songs I’ve posted might just show that I’m writing for myself again.

January 12, 2006

In the Beginning...

Finished two songs from the "indie rock opera." It occurs to me that this thing isn’t much like a rock opera at all, in that different characters don’t sing to each other. Like The Who’s Tommy--"Do you think it’s all right to leave the boy with Uncle Ernie." Mainly it’s from the "I" point of view, which isn’t so different from any of my songs. Also, some of the lyrics can be obscure, so I’m thinking about including prose alongside the songs so it makes some narrative sense. Sort of like "in which our hero…" headings at the beginning of some novels.

The first third of the I.R.O., which I’m calling "A.D.," is autobiographical: guy is lonely and depressed, guy meets girl, they have a family, all is well, they move to L.A. to hide out with family because war is coming. War is declared. That’s where it stops being autobiographical (hopefully). Then UFOs land…

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you know some of the story. We moved to North Carolina and had Olivia. "Now is the Time" goes, "Made our way to Carolina, found a home and with it found a way to make our lives a better place." That song was written when S. was pregnant--I was both hopeful and terrified about having a kid.

Also recorded "In the Beginning…" It needs something else, but I’d rather move on than keep tinkering with it. The song shows up again at the end with more hopeful lyrics.

There’s a song before these two but it still needs some lyrics. Might be a lot to ask for people to listen to all these songs I’ve been recording this week, but if nothing else, I’m doing this for myself. It’s been good to get these songs recorded and behind me.

In the Beginning...

January 11, 2006

I Walk The Line

You want more melancholy (no) then you’re in luck! For whatever reason, I’ve been much more inspired to work on songs than fiction right now. I haven’t written a lot of songs that touch on being a writer. This one does somewhat. Note as/if you listen that I’ve written a novel called "God’s Wife."

The period of writing "God’s Wife" and its aftermath was pretty depressing--around age 24-28, the heart of my twenties. The reason I want to get down these morose, morose songs was because at least something came out of it: I wrote some songs. I was alone, I was depressed, I justified it by writing things.

After that stretch was over, I met my wife. She was stripping at the time and we bonded on the fact that I wrote a book about a sex worker who actually ends up working at a place where she stripped, New York Dolls. I’d never been to other strip clubs in New York until I met her--VIP, Flashdancers, Scores. The first time I went to see her--during Halloween week when she was dressed as a cowgirl--I got raging, embarrassingly drunk. It was weird seeing her dance for other men, or at least I was thinking it would be, so I drank, and drank.

It’s sounds corny, but she was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen in my life when I met her. She was dressed in a brown skirt with red trim and high heels. She looked like a forties’ vixen. When she crossed her legs, the trim of her skirt made the shape of a heart. Also corny. She was belligerent, brash--I liked her right off. I had actually been fooling around with a friend of hers at the time. When I heard about S., the redhead, I knew she was going to be something. I met her in a tiny apartment on Orchard St.

So…this song was written before I met her, before my life got some focus. Having the family away has been good for realizing where I am in my life and where I’ve been.

Believe it or not, I wasn't familiar with the Johnny Cash song "Walk the Line" when I wrote this song. It also rips off "Let it Be," though I didn’t realize at the time that I was taking from it. That’s two songs in a row that steal from the Beatles.

"I walk the line between love and life." Get up and dance!

I Walk the Line

January 10, 2006

Buy the Time

First thing finished with the family away (they arrived safely in Ohio). I’ve been in more of a mood to record than work on fiction, though I’d like to do both. It’s usually easier to record late at night after Olivia goes to sleep than it is to work on a story.

It’s been a fairly psychedelic experience being alone for the first time in 3 and a half years. Sleeping late, eating frozen food, clearing my head. I am "conveniently" out of work during this time. I applied to a slew of jobs this morning. With this done, I’d like to start a story. I’ve got an idea.

The song’s about a year old, I think. Rips off "I’m Only Sleeping." Another mish-mash of guitar parts. Melancholy as all hell but, again, I’ve felt it and I want to get all these songs down. These lyrics, the only lyrics, say a lot about where I’ve been and wanna go:

And by the time I come to change
will I forget all that I want to erase
And all the time I’ve come to waste
will I regain all I hadn’t thought to save

Here it is:

Buy the Time

January 9, 2006


Well, that was interesting. I stopped posting to the blog to see what would happen. Turns out I’m dependent on it. Which is good and bad. Good that something is important and meaningful to me, bad to be dependent on something. The jury’s still out of this blog cuts into the time and mind to write fiction. I spend enough time pointlessly watching TV or surfing the web that I have time to do both, and not blogging showed me that I was really missing something.

So this morning I went to LAX and dropped off my wife and daughter for a trip to Ohio. My wife’s grandmother just died. I think it will be good for her to see her family, despite what she wrote on her blog. It will certainly be good for Olivia, who hasn’t seen that side of the family since she was one. This is a major undertaking for S.--flying with Olivia for the first time to frozen Ohio for her grandmother’s funeral. Wish her luck. This will be the longest I’ve been away from them since Olivia was born. I’m going to miss them deeply, but I also really need this time to myself. This will be a major vacation that I need to put to good use. I sort of feel like I’m in high school when my parents would leave for the weekend and give me the run of the house.

Other things. There was a cool write-up of my brother’s old band, Love Child, at WFMU’s Beware of the Blog.

Found Myspace pages of my cousins with half-naked pictures. It was disturbing.

Just got some kick-ass computer speakers via a Target gift card. Been perusing the Hype Machine. I recommend it. It has a great flash player which makes music listening easy. Discovered this mash up of Bob Dylan and the Pixies. For all I know, this mash up is very popular. I’m not too familiar with mash ups.

I think using the computer too much makes you stupid. Like the other day I couldn’t remember the word "amphibian" or what the white part of the egg is called (note: it’s called an egg white).

I need to change some things about this blog. Like write more short fictional pieces. And not care if no one makes comments.

One of the things I have to cut down on is commenting on other people’s blogs. I have a bad habit of continually coming back to blogs where I’ve made a comment to see if there’s been a response. Because I have no willpower. I’ll be reading Vertical Insanity, Okay Kabuki, Philofaxy, K Fresh, Indiscretions, and others, but I won’t be making too many comments. I’ve even written out entire comments and then haven’t published them because I knew I’d keep checking back.

I think I’m caught up.

January 3, 2006

2006 Bloggies

I’m down and out for a couple of weeks, but I still want a prize. Vote for me or yourself or neither at the 2006 Bloggies. Probably Best Underrepresented. I voted for you.

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