November 15, 2009

Apocalyptic Fiction

Now blogging at The American Book of the Dead.

June 16, 2009

Backword Books

Please check out the newly-formed book collective, Backword Books. As it says there:

Backword Books is a collective of self-published authors. We’re not quite a literary press because all of us use different services to publish (Lightning Source, Lulu, iUniverse, and CreateSpace to name a few). In short, we’re a unique collective that has yet to be done on any large scale, using a medium that is losing stigma and gaining credibility.

We all believe in our writing, and it’s been tested by those who know well: readers and reviewers. We also believe in the potential of self-publishing on the whole. In one sense, we’re refugees from an increasingly competitive landscape in traditional publishing, but we also don’t think of self-publishing as a type of defeat. Quite the opposite.

There’s strength in numbers and Backword Books hopes to create a new model for self-publishers to reach readers: a combination of self-publishing and the traditional literary press.

Update: Recently written up in Publishers Weekly. Check out the Backword Books contest - win 7 books by 7 authors. More info about us here:

June 12, 2009


There's something very perverse about the Letterman-Palin fued, and the perversion's coming from the Palin side. Todd Palin already said that Letterman shouldn't joke about "raping" his daughter, as if all sex is rape. They had to clarify that he meant "statutory rape." And then today Palin said,

I would say that you and anybody else are extremely naive to believe that very convenient excuse of David Letterman's the other day. He took a couple of days for him to think of that excuse that, oh, no, he wasn't talking about my daughter who was there with me at the (Yankees) game, the 14-year-old. Well, I think it's a weak excuse.

Most normal reasonable parents would say - well, good, he wasn't talking about having sex with my 14-year-old daughter, that's a relief. But she wants to continue the attack as if she wants him to be talking about "raping" her 14-year-old. Everyone knows who he was talking about - the daughter whose pregnancy is all over the news. The true perversion belongs to the Palins.

I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said a thousand times - that the Palins are exploiting their daughters far more than Letterman did with a joke, but he deserves all the support he can get, and the Palins need more criticism.

Perhaps this just boils down to terrible, terrible political instincts. Like Rush Limbaugh stating that the Holocaust Museum shooter is a product of the left, not the right. To any thinking person, and probably people who don't think too much, this is transparent spin and a lie, and not the kind of spin that's kind of impressive in its boldness, but a lie that borders on delusion.

I guess this is all good news, really. The right has no idea how to speak to people.

June 9, 2009

End O' the World

I believe the children are our future...What's striking about this Max Blumenthal video is not the racism against Obama, it's finding out that Jews can be this stupid.

On a related apocalyptic note, this is very awesome and soon to be released:

Update: After the shooting at the Holocaust Museum, I feel bad about the Jew quip, even if I was saying that Jews are usually smart. I'm Jewish by the way, or I would be if - you know - I ever went to temple. I'm more of a Woody Allen Jew.

In another related note, someone just sent me a self-published book - an old occult manifesto that includes Hitler's highlighting of his favorite passages. Yep.

June 1, 2009

Up Review

An unnecessary review, why spend so much time on a kid’s movie? Because people are for some reason loving this movie. And I have to say there’s something strange and sort of wrong that there were more adults at the screening for Up than parents with kids – including Ray Liotta, though he was with his kids.

I can deal with the fact that in the first ten minutes you find out the wife is barren and can’t have children – even though my daughter looked over at me and asked, “Why is she crying,” when she’s weeping in the doctor’s office. What do you answer to a six-year-old – because she can’t have children: she doesn’t yet know that people are unable to have children, and it’s not really necessary for her to know that. Certainly not within the confines of a children’s movie. You could say it’s good that these movies toughen kids up for the real world, but there is so much that is fantastical in this movie that the juxtaposition is beyond comic relief to being totally uneven. And then the wife dies.

But that’s not my problem with the movie. The movie’s about unfulfilled dreams – the wife dreams of going to an exotic locale in South America, so the husband attaches balloons to his house to fly there after she dies. Great! Imagination run wild! A fine premise. But when he gets to South America he finds that his and his wife’s childhood hero, an explorer, turns out to be a sinister villain.

So what is the lesson here? Don’t meet your heroes because they are not as good as they seem. OK, that’s a possible lesson – but it’s sandwiched onto a message of unfulfilled dreams. And the explorer also happens to be highly inventive – he’s invented a collar so dogs can speak. These dogs are also capable of flying airplanes. It’s another triumph of the imagination, except the explorer inexplicably is bent on killing the old man. It’s totally disappointing.

The movie would have been fine if maybe the old explorer gets hurt and needs to be saved somehow, rather than him dying from falling out of the sky, which is how this movie ends – a fight scene that had the kid next to me crying in fear. Why turn the explorer into a villain - the old man takes an entire lifetime to break away from the confines of his life, only to be pursued by someone who wants to kill him. It would have made a lot more sense for the old man and the explorer to commiserate somehow - to invent something together, not just become a routine chase movie, in which you're worried about an old man, a child, a flightless bird and her children, all being killed.

Why both writing a serious review? Because it was the first time my daughter left a movie and said, “I didn’t like that.” A movie cliche I would like to end right now: everything’s going great for the characters, they finally have a chance to relax – and inevitably something terrible happens. The characters don’t get five seconds to enjoy themselves. That’s why my daughter didn’t like this. I don’t want to use the word “bleak” or “dark” because that makes it sound kind of deep and she couldn’t take the imagery. It’s got talking dogs, it’s fundamentally silly, not a realistic portrait. The problem is because its bleakness is boring and frustrating and doesn’t fit the rest of the story.

All in all, I think this is an example of critics don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Because, you know, I’m right and they’re wrong. I think maybe they’re just desperate to like something, but all the positive reviews – in newspapers, IMDB, and Twitter, is kind of depressing. The movie has some problems.

May 28, 2009

Sara Jane Moore

This is fascinating...

May 21, 2009

Cheap Kindle Fiction

Yes, I'm trying to play with Google search queries, but I like how this looks:

Besides ebook uploading, I got a new job, working for Makes me very happy - an hourly job, with benefits, still working at home. No more hustling so hard to find freelance writing work. I was getting very nervous because a freelance outlet I was working for went from content writing to web design. I've seen countless web start-ups fall through, but this one's on the way up and growing. A long time coming, this sense of stability. I had a day last week where I thought the bottom could have been dropping out. Bad time to be looking for work, but I had a couple of interviews and got the job. Nicely faith restoring. Life never makes me rich, but it gives me what I need. I knock on wood.

May 20, 2009


Yesterday I was feeling particularly toxic, which was worrying me. As I’ve written about, my health isn’t so great. Last night I had a dream about beating up my ex-wife’s new boyfriend, who turned out to be very tan and sinewy (haven’t met the guy), and then hanging out with Henry Rollins and my daughter, where diamonds littered the pavement. This morning I woke up feeling fine and refreshed, even though I woke up at 6:30 and didn’t actually get a lot of sleep. I think my health has as much to do with how I input and process information as it does with potassium, protein, salt, and everything else I need to watch. That’s true for everyone, but for me toxicity is a deeper issue.

Note: The American Book of the Dead is about a writer who resurrects his faith in himself through a series of prophetic dreams.

May 19, 2009

Read North of Sunset

Uploading North of Sunset to all the ebook sites, in preparation for doing the same with The American Book of the Dead. Here it is from Scribd:

North of Sunset

Dan Baum

If you haven’t read Dan Baum’s (no relation) Twitter tale about working for and getting fired by The New Yorker, it is good reading. $90,000 a year for 30,000 words? Incredible. I should be a millionaire for the number of words I write a year – albeit nothing 1% as good or as necessary as The New Yorker (web content). But seems an absurd figure for the # of staff writers they have. A window into writing on that level:

New Yorker stories are so easy to read. Of course, the magazine does run everything through the deflavorizer, following

Samuel Johnson’s immortal advice: “Read what you have written, and when you come across a passage you think

Is particularly fine, strike it out.”


Remnick called to say he wouldn’t renew my contract come September. He said he didn’t like my work. There were those five long stories that were killed.

That’s a lot in three years, he said.

I argued that in all five cases, the quality of the work wasn’t the problem

Writers have problems at the top and the bottom.

May 18, 2009

Hollywood Novel

Thanks to Smashwords, you can now download North of Sunset in a number of formats - you set the price.

May 15, 2009

Lotsa Logic Here

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Moral Kombat
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

May 11, 2009


Potentially burning a bridge. Do I really want to criticize my current agent? Probably not, but do I really think I’m going to publish traditionally again? Probably not. If I do, it will be because a book I’ve put out myself was successful, in which case the criticism of my agent today won’t mean much. But my agent rejected my novel based on typos. She mentioned other things, but the fact that she mentioned typos at all is extremely very puzzling. Would an editor reject a book based on typos? It would be a day’s worth of work to fix.

The full criticism is:

That being said, I am afraid that I cannot accept your novel for representation at this time. There are several grammatical errors and typos that require editing, and I would also consider rewriting your introduction. Also, I fear you spell things out for your reader that would be better served being subtly hinted at. Since you possess such strong skills in character development, many of Eugene’s spoken opinions are unnecessary because you expose them in his interactions and dialogue.

I’ll accept everything else she said, but typos is just bizarre to me. Even if she was looking for some way to let me down easy, typos shouldn’t enter into the equation: because they can be fixed and fixed easily. Anyway, it’s confirmed now that I’m releasing the novel myself. I really, truly need the money of a book deal, but I really, truly don’t see how this is possible in the current state of things.

May 9, 2009

Star Trek & Me

J.J. Abram's dad was the landlord of the house I grew up in. I went to high school with writer Alex Kurtzman, a year below me:

Alex Kurtzman & Bob Orci Interview - Star Trek from on Vimeo.

Literary Worth

I wrote one of my favorite posts I’ve written for the Self-Publishing Review. One of the reasons I’m so attracted to self-publishing is that it is so maligned. The same goes for UFOs. Something with such profound implications is treated as a joke. Self-Publishing is the UFO of literature. People mock it, denigrate it, but at its core it is such a great development: all writers have the ability to reach readers. No one is without a voice, no one is locked out.

That type of free expression should be celebrated, but it is more often criticized. It is a total mystery. Self-publishing’s not perfect by any means, but its positive implications outweigh its flaws.

So I wrote a post about how writers have often not been accepted during their own time. The method of publication should not determine a book’s artistic worth. The book had the same value before and after it was accepted by the artistic establishment. To say otherwise is to say that money determines artistic value. Just wrong. I write:

On the Road was written in 1951 – but it was not published until 1957, towards the end of the decade. Jack Kerouac did most of the writing that’s part of his legacy before On the Road was ever published. Is On the Road a better book in 1957 than it was when it was initially written in 1951? I think most people would say no: publication doesn’t determine worth. The book is the book.

There is something to be said for the magic of a movement. Kerouac’s On the Road wouldn’t have meant the same if it wasn’t a literary phenomenon that represented an entire generation. An argument could be made that if Kerouac was able to self-publish via print on demand in 1951 this would have limited his artistic impact. That’s a fair point, but it says nothing about whether or not the book is more or less worthwhile once it hit it big.

In our world, crap rises to the top- the lowest common denominator is often the most successful, so to say that success equals literary worth makes no sense at all. And who knows, maybe self-publishing can be a literary movement like the Beats, giving rise to artists taking over the system. In this day and age, maybe an On the Road being released through Lulu is exactly what leads to that book’s reputation. It’s a much different environment than 1951. If that’s even a possibility then self-publishing’s got merit, which is why people should let up with the criticism.

May 8, 2009

The Wesleyan Murder

In my novel, The Golden Calf, the lead character, Ray, gets a job working as a security guard in a liberal arts college and becomes infatuated with a student named Helen. He begins writing her letters:

You don't know me. I've seen you around campus and I'd like to meet you but I don't know how to go about doing it. I'm shy in my own way. The reason I'm writing this is because I think we have something in common. We both want something out of life and we can't find it here. I thought we could meet sometime. Help each other out. Save ourselves.

Helen doesn’t answer his letters and he becomes infuriated, breaking into her room and delivering this letter:

I saw you with that boyfriend of yours. Who is he? Does he care about you? Not like me. 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. I thought you wanted to get away. I was wrong. You're just as weak. You don't even deserve my time. You're just as selfish because you won't even write me back. 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.

The murderer of the girl at Wesleyan has echoes of this. Whenever these things happen – the VA tech murders, Wesleyan – I think that I’ve justified abhorrent behavior by making it entertaining. Ray’s a fun character. Disturbing, but amusing. This isn't fun at all in reality, and the book was written during a time when school murders weren't happening every other week.

So I wrote a scene in The American Book where the father finds his daughter doing porn online. He confronts her, saying:

“This isn’t only about beauty, or intelligence, or experience, Sophia, or what I’ve written as fiction. It’s about something just being plainly wrong. Murder is illegal for a reason. I’m sure to murder someone would be a significant learning experience, but that does not make it right. The world is disintegrating—it is becoming more of a stupid, terrible, violent place and it is better to not contribute to it. I know when I was younger I liked to write about violence, even about sexuality. But that was when violence and rampant sexuality were not so common as they are today. Believe me, Sophia, you know I’m no conservative. I just think that with the world heading where it is, it is important to fight the good fight.”

The worse the world gets, the less dark fiction serves a purpose - maybe. That's an inner dialog I'm having. You know, this is nothing though. I wrote a book that is echoed by stuff that’s happened in real life. All I did was predict some people’s instincts. I don’t know what it would be like to be J.D. Salinger and have your novel actually inspire Mark David Chapman to kill John Lennon, one of the best people to ever live. I’d want to go into hiding as well. I’d want to kill myself.

So, no, I don’t want to disown my book, not at all, but it’s tough to feel like you're glorifying something that has led to the death of actual people.

May 7, 2009

District 9

The movie "District 9" may have the best viral marketing campaign ever. Check out:

And a protest video:

May 6, 2009

The Elephant in the Room and the 800 lb. Gorilla Get into a Fight

A little bit about where some of my misanthropy comes from. And some of my urgency. I’ve had one of the most fucked up years on record. Not relative to people who live in a warzone, but relative to my life. Last winter I found out that my health had deteriorated considerably. It’s something I’d known about since my early twenties, but my body was failing to a deeper degree. I have kidney disease. It’s something I’ve rarely written about here because it’s sometimes not healthy to obsess about it. But it’s a major part of my life. My kidneys are at 20% capacity, which means I'm low enough to be on the waiting list for a transplant.

Sometimes I feel like crap, sometimes I feel normal – though I have a feeling my version of normal is a healthy person’s version of toxic. Think about how you feel after eating junk food, drinking too much, and not sleeping: like that. Cold on the inside, bad. So I’m on medication everyday. And I’m on a stupidly difficult diet. It’s not just that I can’t eat a lot of protein or cholesterol or salt, I also can’t eat potassium, which is in a lot of healthy food: spinach, tomatoes, chocolate, bananas, potatoes. Almost everything has potassium in it and I can only eat so much a day. Hear that Brian Spaeth? Baked potatoes are my enemy. Potassium Chloride is what they give people on death row to stop their heart.

Hearing about my health was just a total blow to my worldview. I’d spent years upon years struggling as a writer, struggling through a difficult marriage, living by the faith that at some point I'd see some reward and some leisure, only to find that my body was falling apart. It felt like a deeply unfair epilogue.

This sense of my body falling apart has been core to my writing. As my body deteriorates, so too is the world. I didn’t write an apocalyptic novel by accident. Everything around me and in me seemed to be fading. I didn’t make the lead character sick, though he is autobiographical to some extent – me in 20 years time, but more me right now. But I didn’t want to make him sick because it would make him less universal. But anyone who reads the book should know where I’m coming from. I think about life and death a lot. Figuring out what might happen after you die – a key component of The American Book of the Dead – hits me somewhere deep.

I did make the character in the novel struggling in a marriage, however. Which is what happened. My wife and I separated last June. I take care of my daughter every other week. I’ve been going to incredibly depressing “transplant classes” surrounded by people who are 70 and over. Learning how to be a father and mother both, living on my own again, without much of a support network as I face this extraordinarily difficult time.

Meanwhile, my writing career is stagnant. At a point last year, around the time of diagnosis, I was thinking about never writing again. I’d given it my shot – nothing was going to happen. I thought something had died in me. Thankfully it hadn’t – and a positive result of the separation is that I worked on and finished my novel. Starting the Self-Publishing Review in December was in a way to will myself back into the publishing game – to care about industry stuff again, which I once followed.

But my anger about the state of publishing, and the vitriol I display against agents, is because I feel an incredible sense of urgency more than I even did in the past about not wasting the rest of my days writing for other people and being able to have more freedom to write for myself. And I think I’ve got a unique perspective – writer, songwriter, chronically ill. At least when writing about life and death and sickness, I’ve got some credibility. It’s why I've written songs like this one to my daughter with the lyrics:

When you hear this song remember
All that I wanted to say
Like your soul, it is infinite
And I won’t ever go away
I will never go away

I have to live my life feeling like maybe my daughter won’t be able to watch me watch her grow up. No, my life’s not over, and people with kidney disease lead very productive lives. But I feel sicker one day and think oh, shit, now it begins. I feel a pain in my arm and wonder if my heart’s going to fail. I’m like a hypochondriac who’s actually sick.

I’m convinced that because I’m more physically toxic, I tend to get more emotionally toxic as well. I get very misanthropic about the state of things – but strangely enough this misanthropy is justified by how people treat each other. But greater than that, I see people’s devaluing of writing, as targeted in that agent post, as part of the overall fabric of devaluing life, devaluing the earth, devaluing intelligence, and so on. Humans are brutal. And perhaps because my health is poor it may give me a skewed sense of the health of everything else. Or perhaps I'm right.

So I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. It gives a perspective on where I’m coming from. And when The American Book’s released, I can’t point to it and let people know what my life was like while I was writing the book.

Watch Hugo the Hippo

I wrote a post a while back about "Hugo the Hippo," a movie my dad wrote. He also wrote the book. Back then there weren't any Youtubes of the movie. Now there are many. Revel in the weirdness. That's Jimmie Osmond singing:

Commenters say things like:

"This film is so freaky!! I used to watch it when I was younger and It still scares me..."


"this film made me cry for weeks"

You can hear and download all the songs as well. Check out Zing Zong - like something from "Hair" and "Jesus Christ Superstar." Andrew Lloyd Webber isn't all bad.

May 5, 2009

Samantha Brown is Not Naked

I'm getting tired of the number of "Samantha Brown naked" referrals I get to this blog, based on this post a long time ago and an off-hand comment. Never seen Samantha Brown on TV with clothes or without. But for all perverts, here's a picture of Samantha Brown looking at you as if you're naked:

King Kong Theory

I like this quote from this interview on Dogmatika:

Anger is not depression, anger is working with desire and humour. Anger is destructive, but very active.

I’d never heard of the film or the book written by Virginie Despentes, King Kong Theory:

Gives an account of how Despentes became notorious: reviled and admired in equal measure for her rape-revenge novel turned film, "Baise-Moi", she is the poster girl for modern female rebellion. This book describes the ways her ideas have been shaped by her experiences of rape, prostitution and working in the porn industry.

The movie has porn-like scenes of rape, mixed with intense violence. Frankly, I don’t know if I care to ever see the movie or anything like it. I’m becoming increasingly a pansy when it comes to darkness in film and lit. Me, who’s written books about killing a celebrity, a porn star who joins a suicide cult, a serial killer, and recently, human extinction. Why I like her quote is people have totally misinterpreted the anger in my first novel (or even the last post) – not understanding there’s a kind of humor, and even joy, in certain types of anger. Basically, it’s another form of passion.

I like where she's coming from, I just don't know if I like where she's going. Her movie seems to only exist to disturb. A reviewer on IMDB says,

“Somehow, everything was so much overdone that I couldn't take this film seriously anymore. There was so much sex and violence that I got the strong impression that the film was trying very, very hard to be offensive, as if it was aiming at superlatives in ugliness, rather than in telling a convincing tale about two women caught in a spiral of crime.”

Life is shit. Daily, there are people murdering their entire family because of unemployment, driving a car into a group of strangers, stoning a girl to death because she’s been raped, etc. Why then is putting these types of images into a fictional film at all necessary. It’s understandable if art starts to reflect how degraded we’ve become, but really all this does is add to the degradation. Even if it takes a moral position – this behavior is bad – so what? Does anybody need to be taught that rape and murder are bad?

It’s tough, because it’s a conservative position. It’s not much different than people’s reactions to Stravinsky – too dissonant. Why, that’s just noise! But at what point does extraordinary violence in movies actually do harm? Imagine a world where you have snuff-film type violence, porn-style sex, on free TV. The taboos have been broken.

The problem is not the taboos. Porn could be on TV (this is actually in my science fiction novel, a porn sitcom comes on TV called “Stick it to Me”), which could be seen as a kind of progress: sex is natural and shouldn’t be hidden away. But that’s in an ideal world, where people would take rape and violence on TV as a justification. Adding more desensitizing images on public TV isn’t necessarily a sign of progress because people are too stupid to process the information. It’s an argument for censorship - saving people from themselves. There's an inevitable slippery slope when you start doing that, but the first instinct is not necessarily corrupt.

So, I don’t know. The world is likely going to have many more tragedies. Depicting these tragedies in art doesn’t necessarily transcend those tragedies. Just reminds you that life can be shit, nothing more. I’m not sure the use of that. I love transgressive art – it’s what I aim for. But with the world potentially coming to an end – for real – unredeemebly bleak work seems fairly redundant. I’m more interested in maybe finding some way to drive us out of this mess and not have art devolve right along with everything else.

Storming the Gatekeepers

On Nathan Bransford’s blog comes one of the worst blog entries ever penned by an agent. It perfectly summarizes the vast stupidity rampant in the gatekeepers of publishing. I’ve written screeds before about how agents themselves aren’t that talented. They can’t necessarily recognize talent because they don’t really care about writing as art. They care about writing as money.

He begins:

One of the more unique aspects of writing is the way people associate themselves and their identities with their words on the page. People don't just spend time in the evening reflecting on the capricious vicissitudes of life and/or zombie killers from another planet. It somehow becomes more than that.

You can see this in the way people talk about writing: some people compare it to oxygen, i.e. something that they can't live without. They don't say, "I like to write, it's fun, I enjoy it." They say, unequivocally, "I am a writer. It's who I am."

I'm going to be honest here and say that while I don't judge people when they define themselves as writer, whatever their publication status, I find it a little unsettling when they make it an overly intrinsic part of their identity.

First of all, people just don't tend to define themselves by their hobbies. You don't hear anyone shout to the rafters, "I AM STAMP COLLECTOR!" or "I AM A CONNOISSEUR OF REALITY TELEVISION!" And until you're making a living at it, writing is a hobby. It's something you do in your spare time. (Right?)

Let’s put aside the phrase “overly intrinsic” for a moment, which is kind of like saying “darkly opaque.” But how on earth is a person who thinks writing is a hobby supposed to separate good writing from crap? Writing is a vocation. Great art is an expression of a person’s soul – and an expression of the audience’s soul as well. To say you can achieve that in a mere hobby is seriously not understanding what it takes to create art. And if you don’t understand that writing’s a hell of a lot deeper than a hobby, you’re never going to be able to recognize writing that has any longevity.

Have I created a great work of art? I can’t say I have, but I know what it is to believe in writing like it’s a religion. I know that I write to reach beyond myself, not to pass the time. And if you’re not trying to do that, chances are you’re not writing something worth reading. It also implies that writing only becomes a vocation when you make a living at it. This is gatekeeper-think: that the gate is more important than the process.

Do I take rejection too close to heart? Absolutely. This entry is anger-filled in a way that I wouldn’t be if I’d been readily accepted by the publishing establishment. But I have such limited faith in that happening that ideas like this go very deep under my skin. I don't like seeing the system die. This is regressive thinking: it’s just art. Art matters. To say otherwise is actually kind of tragic.

Unsurprisingly, the entry has a bunch of cheerleaders. One of the curious things about the popular agent blogs is that they’re populated by people who write commercial fiction:

I think of my writing as a product, so I don't take it so personally when I et rejected. when you're producing widgets off an assembly line, it's hard to get all choked up when when of 'em doesn't sell, because you know there's another one about to fall off the line.

That’s a real comment, not a parody of a comment. The entry is an embarrassment, but I’m glad that it was written. It makes me believe more and more that I shouldn’t put my literary future in the hands of people who don’t understand what drives me as a writer.

I’m sure there are agents out there who understand that agents like this are lightweights, who understand that writing’s deeply important. But these are the agents that are the most vocal online and have the biggest fan club. Hopefully the old school agents aren't a dying breed.

May 4, 2009

Transcendent Man

This looks fairly awesome.

May 1, 2009

Floyd the Barber

Other lyrics you probably haven't paid attention to. "Floyd the Barber" by Nirvana:

Bell on door clangs, come on in
Floyd observes my hairy chin
Sit down chair don't be afraid
Steamed hot towel on my face

I was Shaved
I was Shaved
I was Shaved

Barney ties me to the chair
I can't see I'm really scared
Floyd breathes hard I hear a zip
Pee pee pressed against my lips

I was Shamed
I was Shamed
I was Shamed

I sense others in the room
Opey, Aunt Bee, I presume
They take turns and cut me up
I died smothered in Aunt Bee's muff.

I was Shaved
I was Shaved
I was Shaved

April 30, 2009

Taj Mahal

Is better.

ZZ Top

Don't suck though. Not a good sign to see a confederate flag being waved in Germany. They already had their beards (1980):


Brown Sugar

Really interesting discussion going on at Stuff White People Do (found via Kristen Tsetsi) about the lyrics to the Rolling Stones song “Brown Sugar” – something I’d never really paid attention to. Pretty shocking:

Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
Sold in a market down in New Orleans
Scarred old slaver knows he's doing alright
Hear him with the women just around midnight

Brown sugar how come you taste so good?
Brown sugar just like a young girl should

Drums beating, cold English blood runs hot
Lady of the house wonderin' where it's gonna stop
House boy knows that he's doing alright
You shoulda heard him just around midnight

Brown sugar how come you taste so good, now?
Brown sugar just like a young girl should, now

Ah, get along, brown sugar how come you taste so good, baby?
Ah, got me feelin' now, brown sugar just like a black girl should

I bet your mama was a tent show queen
Had all the boyfriends at sweet sixteen
I'm no schoolboy but I know what I like
You shoulda heard me just around midnight

Brown sugar how come you taste so good, baby?
Ah, brown sugar just like a young girl should, yeah

I said yeah, yeah, yeah, woo
How come come you taste so good?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, woo
Just like a...just like a black girl should
Yeah, yeah, yeah, woo

Some claim this is outright racism, some say it’s literary license – just because you write from the point of view of fictional character doesn’t mean you endorse that character. Only this song is sung with no melancholy at all, it’s a celebration. Most people hear the song and think it’s a song about loving black women. That’s all I thought it was about. It’s sort of like finding out that Nabokov literally had a thing for 12-year-old girls. No, Mick Jagger never enslaved anyone, but he certainly had his way with many teenage girls, with a kind of unfettered freedom. Yeah, rock n roll’s supposed to be shocking, and in the 70’s Elvis’s swiveling hips wasn’t doing it anymore, but this may cross the line into being actually dumbly offensive.

Someone there also brings up that “Brown Sugar” is a euphemism for heroin. The Stones were junkies and heroin enslaves its addicts, so that has to be thrown in there as well. Another poster brings up "Sail Away" by Randy Newman, which does a much better job with the satire. Though you could also get offended.

In America you'll get food to eat
Won't have to run through the jungle
And scuff up your feet
You'll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day
It's great to be an American

Ain't no lions or tigers
Ain't no mamba snake
Just the sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake
Ev'rybody is as happy as a man can be
Climb aboard, little wog
Sail away with me

Sail away
Sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay
Sail away
Sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay

In America every man is free
To take care of his home and his family
You'll be as happy as a monkey in a monkey tree
You're all gonna be an American

Sail away
Sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay
Sail away
Sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay

The difference? Sung with melancholy, unlike “Brown Sugar.”

The other day I was listening to the best of ZZ Top. My car only has a tape player and recently I uncovered all these tapes from high school and I listened to ZZ Top then – pre-MTV ZZ Top. I was pretty startled by the song, “Francine,” which when I was 15 meant nothing to me. It starts:

Got a girl, her name's Francine,
finest thing you ever seen.
And I love her, she's all that I want.
And I need her, she's all that I need.

That’s fine, no problem with that. But it ends:

My Francine just turned thirteen,
she's my angelic teenage queen.
And I love her, she's all that I want.
And I need her, she's all that I need.

These are guys who sing songs like “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers” so it’s not quite surprising. But I dunno, since I’ve had a daughter I’ve become more and more PC with little tolerance for stuff like this. Keep ZZ Top the hell away from my daughter.

April 29, 2009


This video annoys me a lot:

Amusingly, the guy is proving his own theory of closed-mindedness by making blanket generalizations about what open-mindedness to supernatural phenomena signifies. He lumps together all advocates of supernatural phenomena as being like his retarded neighbor who sees evidence of a moving lampshade as evidence of a ghost – thereby discounting the more serious-minded research into supernatural phenomena that does exist. This is the problem with the UFO issue in that it has been overtaken by morons who’ll believe anything, overshadowing those researchers who take the subject very seriously.

I’ll agree with him that people are making retarded claims without evidence and that holding too emphatically to these ideas is a closed-minded sort of fundamentalism. But his examples of people who “believe” seem more than a little condescending and don’t take into account the actual evidence gathered together by scientifically-minded smart people. It conveniently discounts actual evidence. That’s very, I don’t know, closed-minded. Given the guy’s stance in the video, he probably doesn’t want to believe, which is the case with a lot of skeptics.

Thousands upon thousands of people have witnessed UFOs – including pilots, doctors, politicians, etc. Even if half a percent of those are true, it’s something. The video brings up a court of law, where this type of evidence wouldn’t hold water. Actually, witnesses have sent people to jail for less testimony than there is about UFOs. It tragically devalues people’s sense of perception to discount what so many have seen. The government’s explanations for these sightings is so strangely off-base (swamp gas, Venus) that it just adds more confusion. If it doesn’t exist, why have such a stupid explanation?

Open mindedness is basically just believing things are possible, even without mountains of direct evidence. Not believing these things exist, believing they’re possible. To do otherwise sucks some of the magic out of life. A world where UFOs exist is way cooler than a world without them. Denying yourself that possibility is sort of sad and sort of boring. It's a lot more fun to dream.

Well made video though.

April 28, 2009

Rilke on Torture

An epigraph in The Heaven Virus by Cliff Pickover, read last night. Dick Cheney has this quote framed on the wall in his office. I imagine.

For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us

—Rainer Maria Rilke, “Duino Elegies”

There’s more power to bringing someone to the edge of death than actually killing them, because then they’re safe. That’s not what Rilke is saying, but that’s how someone like Cheney would read it. Reminds me of this quote:

The job of the interrogator is to safely help the terrorist do his duty to Allah, so he then feels liberated to speak freely.

Torture is liberating.

April 27, 2009

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

I linked the Beatles "Piggies" in the last post, which has these lyrics:

In their sties with all their backing
They don't care what goes on around
In their eyes there's something lacking
What they need's a damn good whacking.

If you didn't know, Manson used "damn good whacking" to justify the murders, among other songs, but that was a big one.

I don't know why I haven't put this together before, but "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" was recorded July 9, 1969, the summer of the Manson murders. The song has this lyric:

Rose and Valerie, screaming from the gallery
Say he must go free (Maxwell must go free)
The judge does not agree and he tells them
So, oh, oh, oh

Which is very much like the Manson courtroom, with Manson Family members holding vigil. The trial didn't start until 1970, while Abbey Road was released in September 1969. Still, releasing a whimsical song about a serial killer, after a lunatic was inspired by "The White Album," seems like something the Beatles might have wanted to stay away from. Eerie, though, that the song was recorded that summer. This cartoon animates just how demented the song is:

The Swine Flu

Man, if this happened during the Bush Administration, I would have been extremely paranoid that this was a plot to halt immigration from Mexico. Now Obama’s in power so I can be more reasonable. But there’s something very mysterious about this. How often do you think about SARS and the bird flu? For a moment, it was the next terrifying thing. Now it’s an afterthought. Too many of these crying wolf situations and people are going to stop caring. 35,000 people die from the flu every year. So the dozens who have died from this do not seem like something to fear. More people will die from car accidents today. Certainly, this is a bad strain of the flu – and as someone with a health problems (been meaning to write a long post about that) and a daughter in a school of 500 – it is worrisome. But the story behind this is not the flu itself but the strange and immediate media frenzy, as if that’s the real disease we should be worried about.

On some level, people like to be afraid. It’s fun, it makes life seem larger than life, so long as you’re not dying. It triggers adrenaline and endorphins. It’s why people like going to horror movies. So the media plays into that. But the idea that the media triggers fear to up the ratings seems insufficient to me. Because it’s so dangerous for our general well-being: it will keep people from traveling, hurting the already-suffering travel business, it’ll increase the distance between people, make people more suspicious of each other. Why the media would want this is really a mystery.

I can understand Drudge rolling with this story. He seems to actively want to halt progress. He’s a really dark force in this country; truly. Huffington Post, the liberal Drudge, but more reasonable and more varied, has been just as bad, screaming terrifying headlines. It will just trigger hysteria and hostility, not vigilance.

Found at Gotcha Media, this ain’t new:

Why does this always happen? I guess Occam’s Razor is the reason: follow the money. This will lead to increased viewership and lines around the block waiting to get a shot or buy over the counter products. Ironically, the thing that may have led to swine flu – factory farming – is the same instinct that fuels media hysteria: money. Maybe one day we’ll look to sustainability over profit. Right now, this is a swine flu on many levels: spread by pigs of industry.

April 25, 2009

Confessions of a Superhero

Saw this last night – free on the Sundance Channel on On Demand, so check it out if you've got it. A story about the people who dress up as movie characters around the Mann's Chinese Theater for tips. Tragically sad in some places, and sometimes verges on condescending – like when it shows the footage from the B-movie roles of the Hulk and Batman, you can just hear the mocking laughter that would erupt from the hipster audience. The filmmaker got a lot of access to the four main people (Superman, Batman, Hulk, and Wonder Woman), including access to Batman’s sessions with a shrink, in which he confesses to Soprano’s style murder that may or may not be real (probably not). It’s generally sympathetic and a great portrait of people who are cast aside by the Hollywood machine. Don’t understand some of the reviews on IMDB, which are somewhat lukewarm. I found it totally riveting.

Other scenes on Youtube, including a press interview with the cast, for geeks of the movie.

Update: the full movie can be watched on Hulu - something which I haven't really explored, mostly because I already spend too much of my time on the computer.

April 23, 2009

Inner Paths to Outer Space

This book looks very much up my alley, like insanely. Rick Strassman, who contributed to this book, wrote one of the most fascinating books on psychedelic research ever written, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, about his government-funded research into the psychedelic compound, DMT (which occurs naturally in our brains). Amazing sober-minded research. From a (horribly formatted, though it reads like strange prose poetry) interview on Reality Sandwich:

Something that comes up time and time again in people's experiences in your book, DMT - The Spirit Molecule, is that when volunteers are being injected with DMT, they experience UFO's, alternate technologies, and really sci-fi kind of material, so I can see how that would definitely speak to people who are interested in science fiction. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about what those kinds of experiences were like for people and what they were encountering.

I had taken about 1000 pages of notes by the beside of the volunteers - 400 DMT sessions that we gave them over the space of about 5 years - and in reviewing people's accounts of their experiences, probably half, maybe more, reported having the experience of being in some sort of contact, some sort of relationship, more or less passive, more or less active, with these free standing, discretely demarcated, sentient sort of beings. I ended up calling them "beings" rather than "entities" or "aliens" or any of that sort of thing because it seemed like the most neutral term to use, but they were described in various shapes and forms and guises. Sometimes they were humanoid, sometimes they were insectoid, sometimes they were reptilian, and sometimes plant-like. They were more or less aware of the volunteers. Oftentimes they seemed to be expecting the volunteers and were glad to see them, and then began interacting with them.

Other times they seemed surprised and angry that the volunteers' consciousness, at the very least, had intruded upon the sphere of activity of that particular being. Sometimes the volunteers were treated or experimented on. Sometimes they experienced some type of sexual intercourse with the beings. Some were told scenarios of the future. Others were marked somehow or another for future reference in a way. Others showered light and love onto them. Others were guides to lead them to some other place, like through a tunnel leading to a typical near death or mystical experience. So it was the whole gamut of what you might expect.

Some of the motifs were pretty classical science fiction - kind of flying toward a space station or a space ship, or automatons or robots were busily doing their business. Sometimes they would see very hard to describe hybrid entities - machine/animal, even furniture kinds of conglomerates of beings.

If I ran the world, this is the kind of research that would lead the local and national news. Screw the billion-dollar space program, funnel research into substances where you can travel to other universes without leaving your chair and possibly prove the nature of reality. The backwardness of our priorities is mesmerizing, but at least there are some people who address such an important subject with a critical, scientific eye.

Strassman’s Cottonwood Research is a great development in serious-minded psychedelic research and if I had the money I’d donate. It’d be great if an insane eccentric millionaire could fund that project – sort of like the guy in “Contact” who funds the space project. Think of it: going into outer space without moving, researching our potential psychic evolution and place in the universe, nothing’s more important.

Update: Bought it.

April 22, 2009

Shepherd Smith

...says the truth and then sees his career die before his eyes.

The Craigslist Killer

This student is a hero of observation. She says about the Craigslist Killer:

But Markoff's former medical school lab partner at Boston University said she is not surprised that he's a suspect in the case because he had profound mood swings and often appeared "disturbed."

Markoff would appear warm and friendly one day, then be brooding and depressed the next day, Tiffany Montgomery told The Boston Globe. She was so troubled that she considered alerting school counselors that he might be suicidal.

He spoke only when someone else initiated a conversation, and although he seemed nice, he was also "strange in a dark way," she said.

Meanwhile, everyone else is saying how perfectly normal he is, which is probably more a comment on their powers of observation than a comment on him. And “wouldn’t harm a fly” should never, ever be used again in defense of a murderer.

The whole thing is eerily like an episode of “Law and Order” or “Criminal Minds.” Watching those shows, you’re led to wonder just what these ridiculous cases would look like in real life. And now here’s a case that’s straight from TV, as if fiction is blending into reality.

To tie this into my daily ranting about literary agents. The dumbest note I ever got from an agent was regarding the paragraph below. This particular agent – actually a young guy working for the agent – asked to read the manuscript then sent it back with red marks on every other sentence, most incredibly misguided. I’ve saved this manuscript over the years so one day I can have vindication and publicly ridicule the agent. Actually, I can’t remember the agency, but I’ll still have the vindication. Here's the paragraph from North of Sunset:

Even if there were witnesses, which for these crimes there weren’t many, they very often steered him wrong. Witlesses he called them – sometimes they confirmed what he already thought, that people weren’t very thoughtful or observant. At least not as observant as him. Most people who lived next door to a murderer usually said later, “I’m surprised. He seemed nice, kept to himself.” Didn’t they notice that his eyeballs shook when he walked? That he often came home with bags of knives?

The note on this paragraph: “How can the neighbors see what’s in the bag?” Truly stupid and contributes daily to my distrust of the publishing industry.

April 21, 2009

Lit Agents

I just left a comment on The Talent Killers: How literary agents are destroying literature, and what publishers can do to stop them that's not nearly as mean as my first draft:

I have no problem with her calling out genre fiction. When I read that, I saw it as certain types of straight genre - not Lethem, Atwood, or the more serious-minded purveyors of the medium. But plain old genre writing that does nothing unique or new with the medium. It's strange to see the genre writers get so offended by this. Someone on Janet Reid's blog called Mary a snob like the people in the art community who thumb their noses at Thomas Kincade. THOMAS KINCADE. All writing/art/music isn't equal, and perhaps the viceral reaction some genre writers have to this is they know their writing isn't all that ambitious.

I'm also struck by how mean people are - correcting her grammar, calling her uncharismatic. Or people saying how she’s sabotaging her writing career. In what universe is a rant on the web going to hurt her chances with every agent working today? If anything, it’ll get her positive attention for striking a chord with people. There’s really a wealth of strange internet hostility happening here.

The problem is that the agents aren’t much more talented than their list of writers. There are probably as many genius agents as there are genius writers – i.e. not that many. It’s not that they’re sabotaging better writing, it’s that they have no idea about what makes better writing. I've seen some of Janet Reid's list. Nothing all that great - it's OK, not offensively bad, but unchallenging, which means it’ll be palatable to more people. Surprised too by quality of writers attracted to Bransford's blog. People who take Twilight seriously. I’m a snob. I think Twilight is for teenagers. Because it is.

What it might come down to is not the agenting system, or editors not taking a leap, but the interest of the reading public. They're the ones setting the tone, shelling out the money. It's not as though if Borders put Dostoevsky and Kafka out front, that’s what people would buy. They’d ask, “Where’s the Koontz?” The “Fast and Furious” is the #1 movie for a reason, because people have horrible taste. That’s not entirely the fault of the publishing industry. It’s what people like to read and there’s a dwindling number of people who even read mainstream fiction.

The system is flawed. It's not dead, but it has problems. Good books get published. Weirder books have less of a chance, but worse - writers are gauged on a book by book level, rather than factoring in their entire career. An agent who guages a writer only on one book has a limited idea of what it is to write. Writing is a life-long vocation – and rejecting a writer based on one book is myopic, short-sighted, basically everything wrong with our current system. Not just publishing, but everything: looking five minutes ahead, not towards the future. It’s why the economy fell apart – and publishing’s short-sightedness is not unrelated.

A writer's best work may be three novels away, but if his next book doesn't sell, he's done. People keep saying, "Maybe you need to write a better book." There’s so much blaming the writer for a broken system. In this climate, please define “better.” It doesn’t always equate with “good.” Meanwhile, publishers complain that no one reads books anymore. If you oversaturate the market with less-than-inspiring work, people are going to stop paying attention.

That’s a long way of saying: yes.


Because I’m an avowed conspiracy theorist, I believe there’s got to be more to the torture story than merely “trying to get information.” When you’re waterboarding someone 183 times, there’s something else happening. What is the conversation that ensues on waterboard 163? They drag the guy out of his cell. He’s taken to the waterboarding room and knows what’s going to happen. The hundredth time he probably doesn’t fight it – it’s become routine. He knows he’s not going to die, but he knows it’s going to be terrible. What could he possibly give up after waterboard 150 that he didn’t give up during waterboard 128? This really seems like pure sadism at work – or possibly practicing the technique to be used on other people. Or seeing the effect of multiple bouts of torture on the human psyche – i.e. experimentation, nothing to do with gaining information.

Or, and here I get crazy, messing around with the power of life and death in an occultic way, as if torturing somebody becomes a kind of prayer to a demonic force, or studying what happens to the brain when on the brink of death, studying near death experiences. Some other reason than just getting information about terrorism. They had an insane license to experiment like during the Holocaust, so they went with it. This is what leads to conspiracy theory, this is what leads to David Icke-style paranoia, because waterboarding someone 183 times is so purposeless on its surface, there’s got to be a deeper cause. “To gain information” seems like the least likely reason.

Even the idea that torture was used to justify the Iraq war makes little sense. If the Bush Administration was this intent on going to war in Iraq, why would they need a false confession to justify the invasion? Would a prisoner need to utter the words, "There's a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda"? If the Administration was this intent on war, they could just manufacture that someone made the link - i.e. false evidence of a confession. I think there's more plain sadism at work.

The detractors who say torture isn’t such a big deal are showing their true intentions. They’ve lost all credibility. I’ve liked Peggy Noonan in the past, even if I disagree with her, same with Bill Bennet, because even when they’re maddening, they’re still articulate. But Peggy Noonan saying, basically, “Sometimes you just need to look the other way” is a kind of career ender. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take what she says seriously again. Even Rush Limbaugh used to be kind of threatening – because he’s such an unrepentant asshole with a loyal audience – but rationalizing torture to this degree strips him of his power. If this was torture under Democratic leadership, there would be calls for impeachment. Everybody who is defending or rationalizing torture has lost the credibility to have another opinion, because obviously they’re not coming from a place of sincerity. They’re blind and professional liars.

Cut Ups

Cut-Ups from Matti Niinimäki on Vimeo.

(via Posthuman Blues)

April 20, 2009

Auction for Soldiers

Kristen Tsetsi, who wrote my favorite novel I've read for the Self-Publishing Review, is auctioning the novel to raise money for Soldiers' Angels. Spread the word, and the video.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

This movie probably doesn’t deserve a review, but it’s about my two main topics: UFO’s and the apocalypse. The interesting thing about this movie is it follows the premise of my own novel, as I outline in this depressing post, that the only way (possibly) to save the planet is to kill off the people who are killing it. And that’s different than the premise of the original "Day the Earth Stood Still" – which is killing off the human race before they can take their warfare into space via an atomic rocket.

So DTESS #1 is about the cold war and stopping our childish ways so we can progress as a species. DTESS #2 is about global warming and how we need to curb what we’re doing to the environment if we hope to survive. #2 could have added the fear of the other element, because there are so many parallels between paranoia about Russia and terrorism, though I’ll admit people might’ve believed that the Russians could land here in a spaceship. No one’s going to believe that Al Qaeda has any type of advanced technology.

So they went with global warming instead. SPOILER: in the first movie the day the earth stood still is a warning about what the alien race can achieve with its technology – shut all electricity down for a half hour – so people will pay attention to what Klaatu has to say. In the second movie, it’s the movie’s last image: all electricity shuts down permanently because that’s the only way to save the planet. That’s an interesting update.

The movie was criticized because the CGI was bad. There’s really not that much CGI till the end, which makes it more interesting than another “Independence Day,” which is what I’d been expecting. The thing that bugs me is that Keanu Reeves comes to understand that humans are A-OK and shouldn’t be destroyed by witnessing Jennifer Connely and her son for a couple of days. A son who keeps fucking things up, by the way. Is that Will Smith’s kid? Checking...yes. As if an advanced alien race wouldn’t have boned up on the human race before deciding to destroy it. He meets with a guy and they talk for five minutes - in a McDonald's - about how humans suck but are worth saving. Why exactly was the guy on earth for 70 years if not to shed some light on what humans are capable of. The entire climax of the movie rests on Keanu Reeves having a sudden change of heart, which isn’t in the first movie and has very little logic in the second.

Why bother: this is a basically-stupid B-movie that doesn’t really deserve this much attention here, but I find the subject of alien life and the apocalypse more interesting than most everything else, so I’m going on. So much potential there, annoying to see it wasted.

And this is how much the internet rules. You can watch the 1951 version in its entirety online (starts immediately).

A Very Special Different Strokes

I was raised by "Different Strokes":

...which led me to this, by the same guy. I was also raised by "The Empire Strikes Back":

...which wouldn't be so hilarious to me if I hadn't recently discovered Parry Gripp:

Susan Boyle

I wish I could have something of what the world is smoking. It’s a nice story and I don’t think it’s a bad message to say: ugly people are people too! Because the next time someone comes around who’s less attractive, they’ll be given a fairer shake. We are so backwards in our conception of beauty that it takes moments like this to break the stupid ice.

My problem is this: Andrew Lloyd Webber is crap. You get the best actor on earth to read a Hallmark card and it’s still a Hallmark card. No matter how great her performance is, the song is an aural lobotomy. Which is why the whole American Idol phenomenon is baffling to me. I’m not protesting it out of self-righteousness – I really authentically don’t care about watching bad songs being performed, no matter how well they’re done. Sucks sometimes being a curmudgeon because millions of people are driven to tears, lauding her as an angel, I watch it and think: OK, there's that.

I get it – the world’s in a dour place right now and people were desperate for a feel good story. Sort of like the Beatles who arrived in America shortly after Kennedy was assassinated. But Andrew Lloyd Webber isn’t the Beatles by a long shot. It'd be nice sometimes if I wasn’t so critical and could just lay back and enjoy it.

April 17, 2009

Dead on Time

This is the best Queen song ever. At one point in my life I could play this on guitar. Not anymore. That is all.

Apocalypse Sandwich

What amazing irony that a day after people are screaming about an imagined “tyranny” that is the by-product of the Bush administration, there is evidence of actual despot-style tyranny in the torture memos. As always, Andrew Sullivan has the most cogent takedown of the torture memos – really the best blogger writing.

Lest you think that I think Obama’s above criticism, there’s an interesting post at Reality Sandwich that echoes some of my own thoughts: that Obama’s a great and hopeful figure, but also merely fixing a system that is intrinsically damaging:

Because the president we elected -- out of so much hope for a definitive break with what came before -- is not who he seems. It's true that unlike the previous inhabitant of the White House (remember him?), Barack Obama is sane, intelligent, and mature. He's responsive to what others think. He hopes to institute real change in education, health care, the environment.

But even with his great charisma and silver tongue, he's a proper soldier for the system which is ravishing the planet. As he said in his inauguration speech in January, already aware of the huge financial mess he was inheriting, "We will not apologize for our way of life."

What do these words mean? They mean that the mall-i-zation of the planet will continue. They mean that the commercialization of all of life will not stop. They mean that our massive so-called footprint will never be substantially downsized.

All Obama’s doing is stopping the bleeding – I always thought this way, even when I was obsessed with the election and seeing him elected. When I say obsessed, I mean I was glued to every single detail to an insane degree. But Obama’s tasked with rescuing a system that’s killing the planet. It’s better to have him in power so that the degradation of this country occurs more gradually, but he may do it without the sweeping change that’s needed.

Right now we at least have someone bent on saving the system rather than someone actively trying to destroy it. The irony is the very far left wants to see the system destroyed as well, and if McCain/Palin were in power, that’s very well what could have happened. So it’s complicated, but better to have someone in charge of the country who represents the country’s better instincts, than the idiot cowboy instincts of the past administration.

I do think that Obama’s a progressive – a pragmatic progressive. The uptick of 20,000 soldiers in Afghanistan shows his military mettle so that he can get other things passed. A left wing agenda cannot happen overnight or else there would be revolt from moderates – and right now Obama has moderates – so he has to do this as death by a thousand cuts. That doesn’t justify increased military action, but it at least explains it. The question is if he’ll ever go far enough with progressive legislation, and chances are probably not because too much has to be done in eight years.

The other question is if progressive legislation will even work. The world’s a drastic fucking mess. Even if we were able to solve the world hunger crisis, find a cure for cancer, or other utopian scenarios, this would only hurt the planet’s ecology even further by ballooning an already-problematic population problem. One of the tragedies I write about in The American Book of the Dead is that depopulation is necessary to save the planet and save the human species. In a demented way, the Bush Administration’s apocalyptic policies, which had no regard for the long-term prospects of human life, make sense if we’re talking about needing to totally rearrange our current civilization. Bush almost killed capitalism – something that has been raping the planet. Obama’s mainly trying to make sure the current one survives, and if this system survives, the human race may not.

The apocalypse, in some sense, needs to happen because it’s going to come anyway via environmental collapse. As the Cheney character says in my novel, it’s “burning away the forest to save the trees.’” Killing off the population before that population kills us off via overuse of resources. I don’t believe this needs to happen – or at least I hope to not believe it – but the logic does make sense. Hopefully there’s enough time left that slow progress can fix what ails us. At the very least, it’s comforting to have someone who’s not willfully destructive at the helm, and can speak a clear sentence, rather than people who had such a limited regard for human life.

April 16, 2009

The Tea Baggers

You know, I’m not saying anything that’s not blatantly obvious, but I’ll lend my piece. This is the core message behind the teabaggers – not taxation.

This could be the kind of thing that around December 2009 we can look back and laugh about the crazy, stupid things that happened during the year, but many of these people are a lot more scary than that – Columbine kind of scary. These “revolts” have arisen because of a sense of powerlessness, and they’re the minority, but it takes no power to wield a weapon. And people who believe something so contrary to logic – that this is Obama’s fault – are capable of much worse leaps than holding an offensive sign.

Andrew Sullivan has the best takedown of the Tea Party Tantrum.

And this guy's a hero:

April 14, 2009

Conspiracy Theory

One of the weirder things to have happened recently is that the right wing has recently adopted the exact same rhetoric of the left under George Bush – with no sense of perspective of what was done when their team was in power. They throw out words like “tyranny,” without regard for the warrrantless wiretapping, war under false pretenses, etc. etc. under the Bush administration. I mean, do you remember this? It was like the Bush administration was taunting conspiracy theorists.

Now, I’m a conspiracy minded person. My novel, The American Book of the Dead, came out of some devout paranoia that sprung a leak after 9-11. I’ve entertained 9-11 truth theories and think Dick Cheney is capable of anything. Still, it was disappointing to me to see the conspiracy minded so seamlessly switch from Bush to Obama. RA Wilson called conspiracy theorists, “adrenaline addicts,” and it seems a pretty obvious example of that: these people want to fear those in power. It actually gives some sense of order to think that there’s a discernible enemy. But thinking Obama is equal to Bush is, how to put this: very stupid. I do have to admit, though, that if Bush released a report on left-wing extremism that said something like:

Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use. Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment.

...then people at the Daily Kos would be equally incensed that Bush was targeting “liberals” and not just extremists – as this quote from the report is not really about extreme ideology. Many reasonable Republicans don’t like “social programs,” so it’s understandable if they feel targeted – especially if they want to feel targeted. But the turnaround to see conservatives say “Big Brother is Watching You,” without irony after the Bush Administration kind of diminishes their credibility. On Drudge right now:

Ridiculous. What’s troubling though is that the loony right is much more powerful than the loony left. Timothy McVeigh killed hundreds of people. The Weather Underground, not as much. And the right fringe is actually in power. Michelle Bachmann is often called crazy, but this quote is really...crazy. The woman is actually in a place of power and makes it onto talk shows. She says,

I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums.

I mean that’s scary paranoid. It’s OK for David Icke, Alex Jones, et al. to say this, but intensely strange to be coming from a congressperson. And very dangerous. Even Glenn Beck can get away with it because he’s – basically – an entertainer. A fuckwit and also dangerous, but this quote from Michelle Bachmann is on another level. She’s empty enough to not know or care about the impact this could have, but all of the talk of “socialism” and Palin-led hysteria from the election is going to have a very long echo. Something awful is probably going to happen. Maybe I'd be this paranoid too if my people weren't in power, but Obama seems eminently more reasonable than Dick Cheney.

You know, I didn’t really have to write any of this – it was all said very well by the Daily Show, so watch it:

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