December 19, 2007

Jim O'Rourke w/ Sonic Youth

I had a whole Jim O’Rourke fanboy post written but never posted it, for whatever reason. I was seriously obsessed with him for a while a couple of months ago, reading everything I could. He even wrote back to me on Myspace. That is cool, even if it wasn’t really him—a fake Jim O’Rourke wrote to me! That’s the kind of fanboy I became. That post’ll have to come later. Today, surfing around, bored, trying not to work, I found this of him playing with Sonic Youth, a great performance from one of my favorite Sonic Youth records, nicely symphonic:

December 17, 2007

Steve Martin

steve martin

Got and read this book this past weekend, an early Christmas gift. Made me regret a post I wrote earlier. I’m still in the top ten for the search “Gern Blanston,” so people will read that little anecdote I wrote about him. In the acknowledgements he thanks “The Internet,” so I have the supreme delusion that he read my blog post, saw how some were appreciating his earlier work and decided to reevaluate it. Yep, I feed on delusions such as that. The book does make it seem like he hasn’t even thought about those early routines in 30 years. He writes about them as if remembering them again, though someone like me has a lot of that stuff memorized.

I don’t know why Steve Martin’s early humor hits me the way it does, more than any other comic, but the memoir proves that he isn’t just a major talent, but a major brain as well. I haven’t really dug his New Yorker stuff, seeing it as him trying to be sophisticated, trying to be Woody Allen, who went from “earlier, funnier movies” (from Stardust Memories) to more thoughtful, less spastic stuff. But it’s less natural, more like he was negating who he really was, trying to disown it. Which is true, to a point, but this memoir shows that he was an intellectual all along, and the reason he’s so good is because he took it seriously. He’s a real writer at work, but also a musician, using his own weird cadence—I’m not talking about the banjo, but the way he speaks. Makes sense, though, that he’s also a musician, as is Woody Allen. Comedy’s all about……………………………………timing. It’ll be interesting to see if his movies get more funny, now that he seems to not be disowning who he was when he was at his funniest.

I devoured the book in a night. Sucks when I do that because these days books are few and far between. I realize I still want to write fiction, but I just can’t read it right now. I took back to the library “After Many a Summer Dies the Swan,” a look at literary life in Los Angeles by Aldous Huxley, which should interest the hell out of me, but I couldn’t get into it. There’s a distance in fiction I can’t seem to get around. People show a different honesty when writing about their real lives (when they do it well). Even when they’re embellishing themselves, it’s how they want to appear personally, not how they want to appear artistically: different. So I’ve set aside a pile of journals, autobiographies, and letters collections to get me reading again.

After reading the Steve Martin book, I also dusted off the typewriter. My wife bought it for me a few years ago, $10 at a Goodwill. I thanked her, poked at it, but never really had the urge. One of my least favorite chores in life is to plug in barely-readable long-hand into the computer. I can’t bear typing straight to a screen. So I’m getting into typewriting, something I’ve never really done. I’m a much better typist now than I used to be. I calculated recently that I’ve been writing 60,000+ words a month for non-fiction related work, that’s a novel a month. I can type better now, and it’s created a certain work ethic for writing.

On that typewriter, I started getting down my own autobiography, which could be presumptuous, but I’m wondering how much my life story has a real narrative to tell. When reading a famous, successful person’s memoir, it all appears to be leading to some point. I’m not there yet, but if I ever do become successful as I’d like, there’s a lot in there that makes sense: Hollywood high school, parents working in the industry, being a musician, etc. I’ve always felt that I had a shit-poor memory for my life, which is why I make up mostly-outlandish stories in fiction. I found though in the four pages I wrote, before the ribbon gave out, I remember more than I’ve let on. Thankfully, you can buy any typewriter ribbon that’s ever been made. I don’t know why exactly, who uses a typewriter?

That’s my Ash Tree-style review of Steve Martin’s comedy memoir. If you love those years of Steve Martin, read it. It’s also a good portrait of the sixties and seventies. Really, it’s the portrait of a writer who became a rockstar.

December 13, 2007

TGC Cover

The book cover designer for The Golden Calf has been decided. It’s really coming together. I went through the artists at Black Market Culture and Another Sky’s Invision collection and was most into the work of Keith Rosson. The guy in this painting is a good representation of the novel:

rosson

Go to Keith Rosson’s site and poke around his zine covers, flyers, paintings, say hello. Good stuff there.

December 12, 2007

NBCC

Interesting vitriol about self-publishing spewed in the comments about The National Book Critics Circle's survey of reviewers : “60.5 percent think it's okay for a newspaper book section or magazine to ignore self-published books that authors submit to them, e.g., iUniverse type books.”

They write a lot so I don’t have to.

December 11, 2007

The Golden Calf

By the way, good news on the publishing front. I haven’t wanted to mention it because I wasn’t 100% sure yet, never am. My first novel, Oscar Caliber Gun, now called The Golden Calf, is going to be reprinted by Another Sky Press – the same press that put out the Falling from the Sky anthology.

The way they do things: the book is free for a download. If you want it printed, you can buy it at cost or add an extra donation. Like how Radiohead put out their last record. They are cool, good people, support them by clicking here, reading/buying:

another sky press

So I said I was dour about fiction writing a couple posts back. I was lying, or at least it was an impermanent thought – much why I want to come back here to blog, I make those negative thoughts less important by getting them out into the open. Since then I've gotten back to work on my book.

Getting published is also a salve. Anyone who tells you it’s all about the writing and not the publication is a saintly freak, or a bad writer, a person who trumps themselves up before finishing anything. Wait, I do that. Anyway, I'm happy.

The Guardian

Interesting post on a British blog written by a San Diego publisher/writer about L.A. fiction. Led me to some of Tony O’Neill’s recent blogs. Good stuff about Hubert Selby and Frederick Exley.

I could have written this as a comment on the L.A. post, but I didn’t. There’s still a major hangup about Hollywood fiction, as if because there’s some intellectual weightlessness surrounding L.A., any writing about the topic is going to be equally slim and glib. I’ve gotten this reaction from publishers, notably Soft Skull’s new honcho, who said he couldn’t get into “L.A. stories.” Maybe that was his way of brushing me off, but he said it. Even the person who wrote that Guardian blog piece told me he couldn’t get into my novel because he doesn’t like “genre fiction.” People who get my novel see it as more than a book about murder and even more than about this city. I keep imploring to people, Hollywood is the true heart of the West, the beast that’s taking over the globe. Writing about Hollywood is way more than provincial. But New York’s got a hangup about writing about Hollywood, much like the movie business doesn’t like to make movies skewering itself.

Yes, I’m back blogging.

December 10, 2007

Modern Sheila

This weekend, the family went to Santee Alley, a place in downtown L.A. where they sell counterfeit designer products, like a Prada bag for $30. I won’t tell you what we got. We’re always on the lookout for cheap, knock-off toys that always have terrible translations. We were really close to buying “Benign Girl,” a sweet, sleazy-looking Barbie rip-off. Nothing will ever match Modern Sheila, the best dollar store toy you will ever see. My wife explains here.

December 6, 2007

Philip Lee Roth

So I’ve been losing my head a little bit. A lot. Better now actually, but I go through these phases where I am increasingly apocalyptic. Wondering the point of it all when the earth’s going to melt. Especially wondering the point of writing fiction in this “climate.” There’s an extremely fascinating post at Reality Sandwich about what an artist is supposed to do with so many real-world problems coming to a head. Echoes many of my own sentiments.

Is writing overly graphic or depressing work just contributing to the malaise? Yes, I think, which is why I have no interest in seeing a movie like “No Country For Old Men,” which attempts to sicken people with fear. Yes, that is a clear reflection of the current zeitgeist, but adding more grist for the mill, and, in effect, turning it into entertainment, is counter productive. It helps, I think, George Bush, so that every time you read or see a little tidbit scaring you half to death, you’re reminded that once fear was entertaining. Also that humanity isn’t worth saving. That movie is further proof that Cormac McCarthy is a sadist, of both his characters and his audience.

It was striking me on a by-second basis how stupid and misguided humanity is and the only way we’re going to save ourselves is a complete restructuring of how we operate. We’re still going to baseball games and movies like there’s no problem. I’ve read Pinchbeck call these “Weapons of Mass Distraction,” and it’s true, we’re being distracted until the game’s finally over. Incredible and baffling that we are living as we are, when so much proof shows that we should be doing otherwise. But I’m a prick: I don’t recycle because I think what the fuck’s it matter, one bottle isn’t going to do any good, we’ve got to change the entire human system. And that’s not going to happen, short of aliens giving as free energy technology, or a way to suck CO2 out of the air. Yes, I do hold on to this hope. I lost half my audience right there.

Then my wife calmed me down, saying, “Everybody dies, you can’t stop that. And you can’t stop the earth from dying as well.” Which is also true, and I realized that my despair for the “earth” was really just projected despair for my own self: anger and frustration that I’m sick (kidney problems) and I have to spend many hours of my time and creative muscle paying the bills. I’m obviously not a completely healthy person and I don’t know if I have decades in front of me and I have a lot I still want to do, so I rail at humanity’s sickness, when mostly what I’m concerned about is my own.

I’ve been souring on fiction. The industry, the output. I still love writing, but the thought of being a part of some literary culture does not appeal to me as it once did. Mainly because I look at other writing that’s successful and it moves me not at all. I have a theory that there’s one book that you should be reading at any one time, and that book will find you. Otherwise, for me, it’s like reading hieroglyphics. I pick up book after book and it doesn’t seem urgent enough. That’s no reason to quit writing, but it’s not exactly inspiring either. So I started working on a screenplay for a few reasons.

Mainly, movies reach more people. Skip back to that Reality Sandwich post. I still have this megalomaniacal desire to reach a lot of people, to change minds. Pinchbeck, for all his success, has sold something like 40,000 copies of 2012. I read somewhere else that Mark Danielewski’s most recent sold something like 20,000. That’s a major success in publishing...for a certain kind of writing. Pretty depressing, if you ask me. Am I in it for the love of art and pure self-expression? I wish that I could say I was. With the world as fucked-up as it is, maybe I can reach more people, the way people used to with fiction, through movies.

Also, I need to finally make some money as a writer, hopefully giving me more time to write fiction. It’s way easier to sell something to Hollywood than to New York. Hollywood pays more and buys stuff that it doesn’t get made into a movie. Publishers never buy something that they don’t print. It took me six weeks to write the script, it takes a year to write a novel, at least, and then there’s the whole wall that comes with trying to sell it. God, I wish the writer’s strike would end so the script could be sent out.

I feel I have to justify this because everything I’ve written comes from the point of view of a Hollywood-hating motherfucker. I don’t hate movies, whatsoever. I hate celebrity, there’s a wide gulf of difference. So I’m thinking screenwriting, I’m thinking music, fiction isn’t exciting me as much. I should just roll with my inspiration, and not feel despair about what I’m neglecting. That said, I managed to finish a story yesterday and send it out.

What’s the last book I read? This one:

crazyfromtheheat

David Lee Roth is a super-genius, and one of the least self-deprecating people on Planet Earth. Inspiring.

December 5, 2007

Calling Occupants

We interrupt this hiatus to bring you what is my new favorite song. Really. You must see and hear it to believe it:



Last weekend we watched Todd Haynes' “Karen Carpenter Superstar,” made with Barbie Dolls. It was actually moving. I haven’t seen his Bob Dylan movie yet, makes me want to.

November 26, 2007

New/Improved

Welcome to the new and improved Ash Tree. Does this mean I’m back at blogging? Possibly. Eventually. Meantime, check out the menu up top, pages for Music, Fiction, and even Contact if you want to be my Myspace friend, or write to me. Took some time putting this all together. It’ll work until I get henrybaum.com together, if I ever do. A lot to write here, but not yet. Thanks to I Guess I'm Floating, who I stole this menu idea from.

October 7, 2007

NoS

New link to North of Sunset on the right. You can now read a fair amount of the novel at Google Books. You can also see how clich├ęd I’ve been. Like I used the phrase, “She caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye,” which has been in 6 other novels in the last 20 years, probably a lot more than that.

…I’ll be blogging more soon. Gotta finish up something I’m working on.

Meanwhile, North of Sunset got a very nice review at Odyssey Reviews. Might be the last one for a long while. I'm moving on. Nice to end with a good one.

October 3, 2007

Wonder

My hero.

September 21, 2007

RW Hedges

I haven’t sold a lot of books. But those books I have sold have led to some very great correspondences. I’ve met a lot of people through Myspace. Anyone who thinks it’s a place for teenagers or pathetic self-promotion is wrong. It’s been great. Case in point is RW Hedges. He bought a book and we started writing back and forth. I sent him a link to a song and then he started sending me links to the record he was recording. I’m naturally cynical so I didn’t have great hopes, until I played it, and I thought, hey wait…holy shit…this is great. I was proud to know the man. Last week, he sent me a copy of his upcoming CD, “Almanac,” and I’ve been listening to it nonstop. I don’t write this because he bought my book, I can tell the difference.

RW Hedges has one of the great rock and roll voices, and there aren’t many of them. Reminds me of Ray Davies. Not the actual sound of Ray Davies’ voice, but the feeling, like this seems like a good-hearted person you want to know. Jonathan Richman’s also in there, before he became too cute. But I don’t like comparing people to other people; part of the reason I’m uncomfortable writing about music. And what makes a good rock and roll voice is that it’s entirely unique, which RW Hedges is. Every vocal melody is good, also rare. The music’s kind of liquid. A lot’s going on at once, but you can’t necessarily pick everything apart, really the best sort of orchestration.

I read somewhere that a band should never sound like its record collection. Which is ridiculous. The Beatles sounded like their record collection. Also something entirely new. Same goes for this record. It’s 2007 by way of 66-68. RW Hedges’ record is as good as the Kink’s “Village Green” or “Arthur,” while also having more post-indie rock melancholy, and not sounding at all like retread. It’s its own thing.

You read it here first. Not that this blog’s going to make much of an impact. Thom Yorke’s sending it to his record company (somehow) so RW Hedges is going to be heard, and should be.

I don’t know, I’m just real fucking happy that writing a book has got me in touch with such a good songwriter. Life-affirming, art-affirming. Hardly made a dime, but I’ve made these relationships. Have a listen.

Opening song, Clarissa

#4, these vocals: Love Lies Bleeding

I love this song. Different than the rest of the CD. It’s sort of like the record’s “Tomorrow Never Knows,” except it’s second to last: Swanage Song

More on Myspace.

And a video for "Abe's Dream":

Work

Started my new job. It’s why no posting, after I made something of a resolution to take this up again. Pretty intense working in an office. Basically doing the same work, copywriting, but with co-workers, after being alone inside, just me and a stereo for going-on years. Got to get my socializing chops back up. Nice people, but I’ve never been very good at small talk. But it does make me feel a part of the human race a bit more. Working on the 3rd St. Promenade. Looks like this:

3rd st. promenade

Full of hot-bodied shoppers and buskers when I go to take my coffee break. Feel both more a part of the human race and never so much an alien. Started a screenplay to help remember who I am. It's about dreams.

September 16, 2007

Bukowski

Nice article about Bukowski in Time Magazine.

September 14, 2007

Little Children

I took my daughter to a playground inside the local mall yesterday. She was out of school for Rosh Hashanah. I sat there, coffee in hand, watching her play. A woman came up to me and asked me, accusingly, if I “had a child here,” implying that I was just spectating the children play, basically accusing me of looking like a child molester. “Yes,” I said. “Why, do I look suspicious?” She replied, nervously, “Oh, I was just asking,” and walked quickly off. Made me feel like shit. Full disclosure: thirty seconds before she said that, I was thinking to myself, thankfully her and her irritating children were leaving. So maybe she picked up on that. And perhaps I shouldn’t have been wearing my Hustler Barely Legal t-shirt. But really—made me feel terrible for the rest of the day.

September 13, 2007

Help George Tabb

Fellow Soft Skull writer (though I’m not on the site anymore due to horribly horrible advice from a literary agent, which I took) George Tabb is having trouble with his health after living downtown following the Sept. 11th attacks.

Check out Help George Tabb and this:



and this:

September 12, 2007

Job

I got me a new job. Full-time. At an office, with people. All this time I’ve been working at home. Made sense when my daughter was at a Jewish daycare, an obscure holiday taking her out every other week. Her next preschool let out at 3:45 so I’d have to begin walking over there at 3:30. Never having a full workday. Now I do. She’s in school from 8-6. Sounds like a heavy load, but she complains about having to go home. She loves it there. Evolved into a kid overnight.

So, good news. My wife also got a new job recently, pays a lot more than she was making. It’s been hard financially these past years. Haven’t ever divulged that. We were close to divorce, at least fought a lot. It’s true. It’s been fucking hard, really. Now, better.

In other good news, this story from yesterday seems like the best environmental news to hit in a long time: Radio frequencies help burn salt water

Maybe the apocalypse isn’t upon us.

September 11, 2007

Back

So my computer crashed. Didn’t think it could happen to a Mac, didn’t think it couldn’t happen to me; I was wrong. I lost two months of my novel, some recordings, and the copywriting work I’ve done in the last four months. I can handle it. I can rebuild. A blank slate. It was good to detox from the computer and realize what I take for granted and abuse. Don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Thought I’d revamp this blog with a new template, however basic, might make me get energized for it again. A work in progress. Want to get into recording again, a lot, and post it here.

My daughter’s in kindergarten now, a milestone. Meeting new parents, many changes. She’s there for more hours a day, which gives me more time to make real money and hopefully more time to work on non-mortgage-related prose. Been revamping my resume this week. Looking back, I’ve done a lot of writing in the past five years. Before my copywriting samples, it says this: This is just a small sample of the web content I have written. Each site may have needed 50-100 similar pages for each assignment. I’ve written about mortgages, HR management tools, fishing products, health care products, building a wine cellar, saltwater fishtanks, search engine optimization, affiliate marketing, poker, football, credit cards, online education, electronics, plastic surgery, travel…literally hundreds of topics.

That’s no joke. A blank slate in many ways. Looking forward.

August 9, 2007

My God

Youtube

More Youtube memory lane. My God, I love Youtube. It’s exploded in the last six months. A while back I plugged in XTC, Minutemen, and other stuff and there was nothing there. Now, everything.

I’ve been an XTC freak in my life. Still am. Great stuff there, especially the Melbourne show 1980.



I’ve also been an Adrian Belew freak. Alice in Chains based every song they wrote on this one:



Recently gotten into the instrumental band Do Make Say Think. Darker than Tortoise but not as depressing as Godspeed You Black Emperor. One of their better songs, from this record.



Here’s an entire Tortoise concert. Yeah, it’s been the month of Youtube around here.

August 6, 2007

Reader View

A nice review of North of Sunset on Reader Views. Buy it already.

August 1, 2007

Armageddon

A great short documentary about rapture-ready Christians. Boy won't their faces be red when their skin's melting off.



(via Posthuman Blues)

July 27, 2007

Mix Tape

Because nothing’s more interesting than a blog post with Youtube links.

The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society:


Citizen Nilsson:


Lou Barlow on Fox:


Roxy Music are creepy:


Attractions:


Mercury Rev are Supertramp:


Henry Rollins is Jim Morrison:


Radiohead are good:

July 23, 2007

You Kill Me

While I'm on the topic of NoMeansNo. My mom just produced a movie called You Kill Me. Go see it.

you kill me

Always reminded me of this NoMeansNo record cover. Horribly reproduced here:

nomeansno you kill me

NoMeansNo!

Where in the hell was Youtube when I was 16-20? Spent a long time the other night typing in long-loved hardcore bands. I would have loved this back then.



NoMeansNo is the only band I still listen to from then. John Wright, the drummer, is Godlike. I had no idea he was singing while playing that stuff. So he’s hyper Godlike. So’s his brother, Rob, the bassist. I love how they look like your friend’s dad. They always did. Singing “Sex Mad!” Or looking like Bill Gates. Take that Gang of Four:



Favorite song, Dark Ages:



The Fall:



Nice to see so many comments saying how much they love this band. I listened to them ALONE. Saw them once, 1990 in Portland, OR. Tried to see them in L.A. when I was 17. Turned away because it was 18 and over. Sent them an indignant little hate mail letter.

Man, I love this band.

July 17, 2007

The Road II

More thoughts on The Road.

July 16, 2007

Impeachment

This is the most convincing argument for impeachment I have seen. Caught it on TV on Friday night. Impeachment isn’t just to try a criminal act, but to rein in king-like tendencies of a President, as most exhibited by George Bush. It would have been nice to see someone on the anti-impeachment side, but it’s good to see some people with conviction talk about the political process.



Whole thing here.

Meanwhile, Kossacks are ripping into Senator Feingold over impeachment, as they should. This response says it well.

Also, this rules:

July 12, 2007

Sky

There's a nice review of the Falling from the Sky anthology at Dogmatika. Nice new Dogmatika site too. And thanks, Susan, for linking to my Road review.

July 6, 2007

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I haven’t written a review in a while, mostly because I got sick of having opinions, or at least broadcasting them. But I took notes while reading this book and I’ve got a lot to say about it.

I began by liking this book. As it got to page 100 or so, I fell. The book combines two of my major pet peeves: non-stop suffering in which there is no reprieve, a real problem in new indie movies, in which people spend 100% of the time meditating on their suffering. Granted, the world the man and his son are living through is terrible, but it still follows the same path of scene after scene being a total nightmare. Which leads to pet peeve number two: children in peril. Put these two things together and it is far too easy to make the reader feel harrowed, to make them feel bad.

The book is beautifully written and the images vivid, it does exactly what it sets out to do, powerfully. The quote from the back is dead on: “It is as if you must keep reading in order for the characters to stay alive.” I had the same experience. But what it does is fairly sadistic to the reader. I do not understand the impulse to so fetishize fear and suffering. Here’s page 87-88:

He’d put a handful of dried raisins in a cloth in his pocket and at noon they sat on the dead grass by the side of road and ate them. The boy looked at him. That’s all there is, isn’t it? he said.

Yes.

Are we going to die now?

No.

What are we going to do?

We’re going to drink some water. Then we’re going to keep going down the road.

Okay.


Skip to 13 pages later, page 101:

Why do you think we’re going to die?

We don’t have anything to eat.

We’ll find something.

Okay.

How long do you think people can go without food?

I don’t know.

But how long do you think?

Maybe a few days.

And then what? You fall over dead?

Yes.


Now imagine these scenes played out 200 times. With a child. There’s no way to not feel this deeply. And, for me, to feel manipulated. And then, finally, we come to this part (slight spoiler warning). On page 110, the man and son go into a house and break into the basement:

Huddled against the back wall were naked people, male and female, all trying to hide, shielding their faces with their hands. On the mattress a man lay with his legs gone to the hip and the stumps of them blackened and burnt. The smell was hideous.

Jesus, he whispered.

Then one by one they blinked in the pitiful light. Help us, they whispered. Please help us.


It was at this point I realized what this novel is: literary torture porn. Or a zombie novel for people who read the New York Review of Books. The only people left walk around with makeshift clubs, cannibalizing whoever they can find. Yes, it’s a zombie novel. Pandering and cheap, too easy for someone who takes such great pains with language. This end-of-the-world scenario was much better, for me, in Earth Abides, in which a man walks alone through the country after humanity has been decimated. But it’s without the comic book savagery of The Road. The people he meets retain who they were, rather than being transformed into monsters. Alas, Babylon, about the survivors of a nuclear holocaust in a small Florida town, is also much more measured. Some people turn violent, but not all.

The scene in the basement is like something from a slasher movie—or 28 Weeks Later which also attempts to make you feel bad about humanity. By the way, read The Day of the Triffids, which 28 Days Later rips off completely. The scene in the basement is when the book, for me, jumped the shark. It’s like the scene in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds when the characters get trapped by the alien machines and find that the machines are eating human bodies to live. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does! It’s strange—this time last year I was obsessed with Law and Order. I turned it on recently—SVU—and the show begins with a young mother coming into her baby’s room to find the crib empty. The baby has been stolen. She frantically searches the room. I turned it off. Honestly, I don’t know what purpose these images serve except to make you feel doomed.

Opinions, still got em. Yeah, I'm writing my own apocalyptic novel, which would suggest jealousy. I’m happy the book is successful, as it maybe creates a market for books about the apocalypse. And the book did not leave me with nothing. Do I fear the apocalypse more? Yes. If it's possible after reading articles like this one (though it does make me feel like my novel's on the right track). Do I appreciate my relationship with my daughter more? Possibly. But thank god for the Illuminatus Trilogy, at least RAW knows how to laugh while he’s crying.

June 27, 2007

Roads

I want to link to this L.A. Times article about my high school film teacher, Jim Hosney. The article’s no joke: really the best teacher I’ve ever had. Informed everything I’ve read and written, seeing how everything in books or movies has more than one meaning. That article says a lot about where I came from, what formed me—both on the Hollywood side, and the better film-freak side. Watching “Taxi Driver” and Godard at 15, it was a good education.

I need to put a link out to Booksprice.com . A representative recently wrote to me telling me that they’d send me a free copy of The Road if I wrote about the site, or even if I didn’t. I didn’t quite believe it, but lo and behold a new copy of The Road arrived in the mail today. Along with a subscription to The New Yorker. My dad said he read a good review by David Denby of a terrible movie and he couldn’t take it anymore, and he forwarded the rest of the issues to my address. Also says a lot about where I came from.

Been reading other apocalyptic novels as well. Really recommend Alas, Babylon and Earth Abides. Lucifer’s Hammer, a comet novel by Larry Niven, is depressing and bad. The other day, while walking to pick up my daughter from school, I found a box of books by the curb with a bunch of trash—all science fiction, all pretty good taste, including a great copy of RA Wilson’s Illuminatus Trilogy. Exactly what I needed and I felt right with the universe.

I’ve had a lot to blog about lately but I just, just haven’t needed it. Health problems leveling off. Really terrifying for a while there, sad. But my condition is stable. On an awful diet, but also manageable. Have to lower my potassium, which means cutting out healthy food like tomatoes and potatoes and beans, making a vegetarian diet that much harder. I can deal with it. I’ve eaten enough burritos in my life. I've lost ten pounds, which I needed to.

Mostly, I’ve been working on my novel, 100 pages in the last month. The first real writing I’ve done since I started this blog. I’ve always been writing something, but not WRITING. It’s always feast or famine with me.

May 18, 2007

Another Dentist

You can now read the PDF for the Falling from the Sky anthology online, including my story, Camera Shy.

Falling from the Sky PDF

After you read it, donate here or buy the printed book.

Last night I finished the rough draft on a story about a dentist who visits a psychic. Help me think of a title. In the running:

1. Dentist
2. Whitening
3. Wisdom Teeth
4. Root Canal

C’mon, there have to be some other good dental terms out there.

May 11, 2007

Rabbit

A couple new reviews of North of Sunset:

Bookreview.com: “A must read Hollywood thriller.”

Front Street Reviews: “A natural to be made into a movie, maybe along the lines of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

Reality Sandwich

Daniel Pinchbeck's got a new group blog: Reality Sandwich.

May 7, 2007

Dear World/Come on, Peace/Silver Lining

Finished a song, in three parts. I put this down for a while, while I got back into the novel. It’s part of the concept record, which I’m not calling a rock opera anymore. It’s not a rock opera—it isn’t told from different character’s points of view, like Tommy: The Acid Queen, Cousin Kevin, Tommy, etc. And not like my own novel, which trades off between two characters. But it still parallels what’s going on in the book: WW III.

Oh my dear world will you leave us alone
We’re independent of what has gone wrong
We need the time to work out our lives
If we do not we will hate you in time
That might be wrong but that's the way it is
We’re in a prison of others’ ideas
They need the time to work out their lives
If they are wrong do we deserve to die

Come on peace, you arrive today, on the way
What a relief, we will pass away

What’s beneath the silver lining, is it peace or is it dying?

This is a remake of something I posted here earlier, all on acoustic guitar. Pretty much the catalyst for me trying to figure out a better way to record. Don’t tell me you like the acoustic version better b/c I don’t want to hear it.

Dear World/Come on, Peace/Silver Lining

April 26, 2007

Sunset

hugh grant

Michael stopped. He stared at the group who were paused with eyes wide, an expression like they were waiting for him to break or fly. He shouldn’t have said anything – he knew this – but he didn’t, he couldn’t, stop:

“Am I tired of being famous? When I look at you people I get real tired of being famous.”

A flash of a camera and a FREEZE FRAME. Imagine a movie: Michael Sennet’s face caught in a demonic pause – I get real tired of being famous – hair that’s usually pressed and straight is sticking to his sweaty forehead, eyes wide and swirling with a kind of anxious anger, hand made into a fist but he can’t swing it because that would only make things worse, so the feeling of that fist flows through his blood and stays there.

April 19, 2007

sic(k)

I have found out that I’m a lot more sick than I had thought. I mentioned in a much earlier post that I’ve had problems with my kidneys. In my twenties, the problem was pretty much stable so I chose to ignore it. The results of my biopsy were inconclusive and it was easier to believe that the problem wasn’t so bad. Going to the doctor every six months to hear the same thing again was deflating, a reminder twice a day that I was sick. It was so disheartening to be 25 and have the constitution of an old man.

I went to the doctor last week and found out that my kidneys have deteriorated pretty significantly, 26% capacity. It could vacillate closer 30% but not much more. Doctor told me that most healthy people lose 1% of their kidney function every year in their forties, so I’m looking at a pretty big drop-off. Basically, I’m dying faster than most people my age.

Now that I’m a father, I’m much more eager to take care of myself. It’s also less insulting to me that I should live like an old man—avoiding salt, cholesterol, and healing slowly. I can live with it. I want to. I’ve also got a hell of a lot more to live for than when I was 25, lost, self-hating, and immature.

I really feel like I’ve made myself sick. In the past few years, I’ve been insanely caught up in all the world’s ills and how we’re heading to collapse and, in many ways, deserve it. I really think this mental toxic build-up is partly responsible for this. Too much toxic feeling has been entering my body, overloading it. Not that I’m going to drop my novel—about WW III—but I think I do have to change the way I think, along with what I eat, how I exercise, etc.

Meanwhile I’ve been watching the horror in Virginia and it ties into this. I’ve been immersing myself, like I don’t have a choice, like I might learn something. I had the same response after reading about that young guy who killed his neighbor, a ten-year-old girl, about a year ago. He had a blogspot blog and it was a horribly eerie thing to read, like something I might have written myself at a certain time. He wasn’t totally empty, a moron—on the sidebar were interesting links, he had interesting taste in music, showing that he was somewhat alive. Cho is the same way—his plays are deranged but he wasn’t illiterate. It takes some positive energy to create something, doesn’t it?

My first novel was about a celebrity stalker who begins by stalking a girl on a college campus. She doesn’t respond to his letters to her and so he gets angrier:

I would care for you like you've never been cared for before. I know the pains of the world so I know how to avoid them. I could have been your shelter. But you ignored me. If only you knew what you were ignoring. One day I'm going to be great and you'll regret you ever let me go. I'm the one. Do you have so much better to do? I've seen your friends. They're not very interesting, like most people here. They care only about themselves. And what do they care about? Frail, vile, boring people like themselves. Maybe like you…But remember, I've got the upper hand. I know who you are but you don't know me. I'm the one and you didn't realize it. You're too petty. Maybe the best way to get back is to get revenge.


Later he stalks and tries to kill Tim Griffith, movie star, a veiled version of Tom Cruise:

I will show the world what a false man you are. I will make you suffer like the rest of us. I am going to ruin you. Afterwards, you will be a broken man. That will be your real lesson. I will teach you like a ruler on the back of the hand. And then my job will be done.


None of this is so far off from Cho railing against the rich and the privileged who ignored him at Virginia Tech. I have felt this way before—felt that I was glorifying something that should be shunned. At the same time, it’s a book. And it’s a book about ideas—the idea that celebrity represents vanity, superficiality and shouldn’t be so adored, which it shouldn’t. The book’s not just about hate, but how love doesn’t exist as much as it should. I would never in my life make murder a reality. But I can't deny that the book came from a similar place, a lonely, less-attractive kid railing against the rich and comfortable. And if I wrote the book while I was in college—which I did, actually, just not for a class—they would have singled me out as a potential shooter.

My natural state of being is just to point out the shit in the world. I’ve justified it in the past: at least it fuels writing, even if it’s not healthy. Like I watched a news report about VT in which the anchor sounded so excited to be talking to a guy who was trapped in a classroom watching his classmates die—you could hear the glee in her voice. The guy is bruised for life and she is happy about her scoop. Fuck her, I think.

The other morning I open up my Yahoo homepage and there’s a story that David Mamet is going to direct Ford commercials. Fuck him, I think. Does he really need the money? There are so many “fuck that” moments in my day to day. Ways that the world is crumbling. I just see the world as full of so much pollution, and, to get esoteric, bad thoughts are as bad for the atmosphere as a smoke stack. I believe that, just as I believe that all of my negativity hasn’t been so great on my body.

The new novel ends on a positive note, even if the road there is brutal, sort of how I see my life going. This news about my illness does have a positive flipside. There are things I appreciate more now. Much like when my daughter was born—it was a slap in the face telling me, this is what it is to be alive. I don’t want to waste any more time.

All in all, though, it’s been a fucked up week, meditating about death: my own, innocent student’s, and the world’s. I really need to start thinking differently. Like Travis Bickle says, “Too much abuse has gone on for too long.”

April 14, 2007

Podler

A nice review of North of Sunset by a new POD reviewer, PODler. Since my agent’s not sending the novel out anymore, I’m trying to promote it again. Took some time off from sending the book out. The new edition of the book is out to a bunch of reviewers.

I also reread the book for the first time in a year. I was scared of looking at it again. But I needed to see if it’s still something I want people to read, something that represents me. I was glad to like it. There’s some stuff I’d change, but nothing that makes me want to hurt myself. So, you know, buy it.

April 12, 2007

Anthology

Some things: I’m going to be in this anthology, a book put out by 3 Am Magazine about New York, Paris, and London. My story’s about New York, called “Thirteen Mississippi.” I asked the editor if my wife could submit a story and they accepted it. First time we’ll be in print together. First time she’ll be in print. More info later. I also asked my agent if he could take a look at her memoir and he agreed, which is fucking cool, so hard to send blind queries to agents.

Blogs I’ve been reading:

Urban Outlaw, editor of another anthology I’m going to be in this year
Philip K. Dick blog
Empty Drum, dedicated spammer
Strange Attractor, strange attractions

RIP, Vonnegut.

April 3, 2007

Earth

Thought while reading a book about alien abductions in which they often lament the destruction of the earth: Hating people for being ignorant or destructive is like hating the earth for being polluted.

March 30, 2007

Hollywood Apocalypse

Brush fire erupts in Hollywood Hills


SoCal Fire

capt.sge.ksw84.300307225728.photo00.photo.default-512x341

SoCal Fire

capt.87815b79bb127ee01b4a3fb532532105

Books

Last two books I read.

illuminati

Awesome, as if James Joyce wrote the Da Vinci Code. To be honest, I like RAW more when he’s more DVC than JJ. Like in the Illuminatus Trilogy, I’ll be reading and thinking it’s the most entertaining novel ever written, then it will completely switch and go on a tangent which leaves me more lost. That’s because I’m a lightweight when it comes to experiment. Masks is more streamlined. I think RA Wilson’s going to be taken a lot more seriously as a writer at some point, maybe not as much as PK Dick, but along those lines.

Also:

dmt

I recommend this book to the skeptic in your family (like mine) who might be immediately turned off by the ravings of McKenna, Leary, or even Pinchbeck. Methodical, almost to a fault, about doing psychedelic research in a hospital/university setting. The cover speaks to the Alex Grey crowd, but the research is much more sober than that. Which makes it even more mind-blowing. Not quite as much as doing DMT (which I haven’t done. My wife has though: she saw many Buddhas.) But easier to come by than a hit of DMT.

These two books suggest I’ve turned into a deranged hippie. To further prove my nuttiness, this the is the pile of books I got from the library this week. I just cannot shed this stuff from my system, still fascinates me 5 years after I became interested in it.

The Seat of the Soul, Gary Zukov
From Elsewhere: the subculture of those who claim to be of non-earthly origins, Scott Mandelker (terrible, too credulous, the book Channeling by John Klimo is good)
Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier, Brad Steiger and Sherry Steiger
The Illuminati Papers, Robert Anton Wilson
The Nature of Personal Reality: A Seth Book, Jane Roberts (not gonna read it, saw her Oversoul 7 books, channeled novels, looks more interesting)
Magic, Mystery, and Science: The Occult in Western Civilization, Dan Burton and David Grandy
Lectures on Ancient Philosophy, Manly P. Hall
H.P. Blavatsky and the Secret Doctrine, Edited by Virginia Hanson
Belonging to the Universe, Fritjof Capra and David Steindl-Rast
Gurdjieff, Edited by Jacob Needleman and George Baker

I think it’s very cool that Oprah picked Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for her book club. Especially since I’ve got my own apocalyptic novel that I’m about to send out.

March 29, 2007

Dream's End

Watch me go toe to toe with some conspiracy theorists at Dream’s End.

March 27, 2007

Largehearted Boy

Check out my book notes for North of Sunset on Largehearted Boy—songs behind the novel. The story behind that: Susan Tomaselli on 3 AM linked to Nick Antosca’s Book Notes. I got jealous, as I usually do, and wrote up my own. Thankfully he also liked the book. To anyone coming from there, please check out the mp3s on the sidebar.

March 26, 2007

Self Help

We’ve been doing a lot of self-help around here lately. My wife had a huge hang-up about our couch, thought it was the epicenter of sloth in our house. Turns out she was right because we got a new couch and our apartment doesn’t seem so dead. Rearranged some other stuff to, got rid of some clutter, which really does do a lot for the head.

I also read the first self-help book I’ve ever read in my life, 100 pages of it at least. It was actually helpful:

feeling good

The most basic thing he hammers over and over is the problem with overgeneralization. Making absolute statements. Like the other week I was walking to pick up my daughter at preschool, as I do every day. As I crossed the crosswalk a schmuck in a convertible Porsche took a left turn right behind me so I could feel the wind, then revved his engine, speeding away, basically saying to me, “Fuck you for walking.” My first instinct is to think, Man people are materialistic, soul-raping pricks, no wonder the earth is dying. But no, not everyone is materialistic, and that guy’s probably not all bad, might be nice to his mother, might be having a bad day, there’s layers of meaning to everything and my interpretation is only based on half the story. Even if, as a writer, I need to believe my fictions to be true—still wrong, an overgeneralization.

Sounds incredibly simplistic, but overgeneralization is something I fall into. It’s not just psychobabble, it’s an actual useful bit of psychiatry. My main problem is crazed criticism of other people, a projection of self-hatred—none of which is accurate. So the book did some good.

More self-help. A couple of weeks ago there was an author night for graduates of my high school. People in the last 25 years who’ve published a book. I haven’t seen a lot of them in 15 years. Never been to a class reunion. Click that link to see where I’m coming from. I was worried that everyone, and I, would regress to high school years. Stupid of me, people are adults. The reading went over very well. People liked it—a section of NoS in which a paparazzi photographer talks about how much he hated high school:

Hollywood was like high school all over again. A place where the pretty and comfortable persevered, and the ugly watched. There was a certain youthful pride that existed in Hollywood, a center-of-the-world, sun-drenched, almost chosen, pride. Just like teenagers who thought nothing could hurt them. The main difference between Hollywood and high school was that in Hollywood they didn’t just think they were in the center of the world, they were in the center of the world.


High school’s defined me in a number of ways, and a number of ways it shouldn’t anymore. It was like 10 years of therapy in a night.

Then today I received a letter that my agent is not sending out my novel anymore. Believe it or not, I’m sort of relieved. It’s no longer a crutch, a reason to think “Life will be better when…” I can be more active, writing and otherwise. I could also be a lot more active if I got a $500,000 book deal. Life is complicated.

March 23, 2007

Revolutionary Road

They’ve cast Revolutionary Road, favorite novel, the reason I wanted to write, along with Richard Yates' Eleven Kinds of Loneliness. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as Frank and April Wheeler. Neither really makes sense, but then maybe no one would. DiCaprio’s too boyish, Kate Winslet made two very horrible movies last year, The Holiday and Little Children, and she’s not blonde enough. I’d go with Edward Norton and Naomi Watts, part of Maugham’s Painted Veil, which was all right. No, I wouldn’t. Impossible to cast. Also fairly unnecessary as a movie. So much is in the prose, not the plot—people building up hope and having that hope unfulfilled, basically the plot behind every Yates story. It’ll still be interesting though, especially considering they were in Titanic together, about people being trapped together. Spoiler: this time she dies.

Weird that this novel that I read privately like a Bible, in that old Vintage paperback, which probably wasn’t read by a lot of people, is now going to be read by a huge number of people. The movie will probably win Oscars, weirder still. 20 years after he died. Yates is poised to become the next Fitzgerald, which is exactly what he wanted.

March 22, 2007

Masks

After the post yesterday saying I didn’t need fiction anymore, I spent last night reading Robert Anton Wilson’s Masks of the Illuminati. So either I’m full of shit or once I write something I don’t need to believe it anymore.

Speaking of fiction, the new Scarecrow is out. They promised a review of NoS, not there. Good reading though.

Speaking of UFOs, France opens UFO files.

And here’s a way to go to Mars, via Posthuman Blues.

March 21, 2007

Rakeback

I almost feel like I want to start blogging regularly again. In between writing about rakeback and affiliate marketing and everything else I have to write for paying work. So long as I work on my novel, I feel like I’ve earned the right to write here. Been artistically schizophrenic again, back to book after a music obsession. Always know it’s there, the ability to record songs better than I have in the past, despite what fuckheads have written.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not entirely interested in reading fiction anymore. Daniel Pinchbeck said something similar recently:

When I was in my twenties, literature was my ruling passion, and my heroes were writers like Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Virginia Woolf and Henry Miller. I longed to emulate the passionate intensity of their prose, and the “negative capability” which infused their characters with recognizable life. When I passed through the crucible of my own transformational process, I lost interest in novels and discovered a new pantheon of intellectual heroes. These days, I find the same level of electrical engagement that I used to find in novels in the works of thinkers whose central theme is the evolution and possible extension of human consciousness. This varied group is made up of mystics, physicists, philosophers, cosmologists and paleontologists — the roster includes Rudolf Steiner, Carl Jung, Edward Edinger, Jean Gebser, Teilhard de Chardin, F David Peat, Sri Aurobindo and Gerald Heard.


Reading and debating fiction seems like a peacetime activity, an absolute luxury. I don’t like Jonathan Lethem much either (see the link), and for the same reasons, but man there are worse things. Not to mention worse writers. We’re in the middle of a slow war—the environment is crashing and we’re the enemy. These are pretty desperate times so reading fiction seems less important to me than reading non-fiction about the mixture of science and spirituality—most of the stuff I read. Stuff that’s actually fundamentally usable. Back in the abduction, UFO, new physics, DMT research, etc. saddle again. I sometimes feel unfaithful if I’m not reading fiction. There’s just so much I haven’t read. But it’s really not as fun or enlightening to me right now. I’ve finally admitted it.

That said, I’ve got three novels waiting for me that I’m looking forward to. Anti-Christ: A Satirical End of Days by Matthew Moses, want to read that for the title alone, Fires by Nick Antosca, and The Greatest Show on Earth by Daniel Scott Buck. And I have no interest in writing anything but fiction because it’s what I know how to do. And I still have the feeling that fiction can have a different impact on people than a non-fiction polemic about how we need to change our ways.

The Beverly Hills library has become the ultimate place to write. It now has a coffee house attached to it. Still strange to be writing in Beverly Hills:



Library’s nice though.

So, I’m probably back here. I like writing like this. There’s stuff that I think about that purely has its place on a blog.

Huckabees

I love watching Hollywood implode.

February 21, 2007

New Edition

Not quite the fanfare of this post, but I put out a new edition of my novel. Finally put quotes on the back and a publisher’s logo:

NOS Cover

Can’t quite read what it says there but it says:

“A page-turner and an example of an effective piece of storytelling that should be envied." Dogmatika

“Successful both as a suspenseful, engrossing thriller and as something more: a savage satire on aspects of modern American life in the vein of DeLillo‘s White Noise.” Compulsive Reader

"The best Hollywood novel I've ever read, including my own." Richard Rushfield, author of On Spec

“A satirical, yet eerily naturalistic L.A. fable.” Kim Cooper, 1947 Project

Winner of the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize

Order it here.

February 20, 2007

Out in the Woods

Finished a song. This took me forever. Never experimented with sounds like in this song before. And it’s getting increasingly hard to play drums with my fingers (middle part) on the drum machine. I dream of getting one of these:

DD55

Or these:

ALESIS DM5KIT

But we don’t have the space for it. I’m happy with how the song turned out.

Out in the Woods


February 16, 2007

Talk Radio

I was interviewed on Blog Talk Radio. Also check out Taking Over the Web.

February 12, 2007

Guardian

Good post in the Guardian about the underground U.K. lit scene. Better than anything happening in America. They’ve been a lot friendlier to me, anyway. But what the hell’s with all the question marks on my comment???

January 25, 2007

DIY

I am going to be on a panel at the:

diyconvention

FRIDAY, FEB. 9 4:30 p.m. @ The EGYPTIAN THEATRE

Getting Published – The Book Panel

Moderator: Jodi Wille, Process Media
Iris Berry, author, "Collect Calls"
Ellen Reid, Little Moose Press
Henry Baum, author, "North of Sunset"

January 18, 2007

Falling from the Sky

Help support a new anthology I’m featured in: along with Kristopher Young, Tony O’Neill and other good writers. Says there:

For any pre-order contribution above and beyond the base price of $12 we will list your name in the back of the book as a friend of the press who helped make this release possible.

We’re putting out Falling from the Sky no matter what - but there are a lot of expenses involved in releasing a book, and we’re hoping your generosity will help to defray those out-of-pocket costs. It’s really simple - the faster we recoup the sooner we can release the other great projects we have in the works. Once we recoup our direct costs, we will begin paying out 100% of contributions as royalties to those involved in the project. Our authors can optionally ‘tip-back’ part of their earnings to Another Sky Press which we hope in the long run will make us self-sufficient… but right now, we need your help.


Click the cover:

Falling from the Sky

January 11, 2007

More and More

Update on my life. I dropped out of one computer obsession only to replace it with another. I’ve spent the last few months researching computer recording. For a while I shunned computer recording for no good reason. I wanted my fiction life and music life to be separate—also I didn’t need another reason to stay on the computer. Thought recording on the computer was too impersonal. I started looking into it—got a box to plug in a mic and guitar. Got a midi controller keyboard. It totally and completely fucking rules. I can play real piano, strings, horns, synths, whatever. Amazing the amount of stuff you can do.

The recording I’ve put down here so far has been so sloppy and imperfect. I never took songwriting very seriously because I could never record it like I wanted. Figured that after I make a million dollars I’ll be able to record in a real studio w/ strings, horns. That or I’d meet some friendly, willing musician types. None of that seems to be happening. So I’ve finally made the leap into taking songwriting seriously. It’s all I’ve been thinking about.

Here’s the first thing I recorded. I hope to record a lot more in 2007. I’ll put it up here. I spent a lot of time with this song just trying to figure everything out:

More and More

Another cool thing recently is I was listed in the 2006 Underrated Writers project. Thanks go out, again, to Susan of Dogmatika.

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