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:


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

December 12, 2007


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:


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.

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