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 you...how 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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April 13, 2009


Addendum to this afternoon’s tirade. If it’s not immediately apparent, I’m worried about how my new novel is going to be perceived, so the agent’s criticism cut me somewhere that was already bothering me. If North of Sunset was misread then I don’t how people are going to take The American Book. North of Sunset’s about a movie star who kills people with vanity plates – a ridiculous premise. Many people read the book and laugh. Others though have read it as “hard-boiled,” which was an early taste of how things get easily misinterpreted. And if NoS got misinterpreted, a book that’s nearly over the top satirical, I don’t what people are going to do with this one.

Tessa Dick – Philip K. Dick’s last wife, who I interviewed – offered this quote for the book: "If you read Lolita or A Clockwork Orange without drop-kicking the book out into the garden on a rainy day, this novel is for you." It’s strangely, subtly negative in its way but it at least sets up what I’m going for – the character is as much Humbert Humbert as a story about a guy who dreams reality. Like Lolita (proportions kept, of course) the book’s about the creative process and creative obsession. Yet there are still people out there who think Lolita’s about a guy who molests his stepdaughter. People are insane literalists. My book’s also about creative obsession, as well as the demise of a marriage – two things that are not blatantly apparent but a driving force behind the book, given where I was coming from when I wrote it– i.e. “the end of the world” is the guy’s personal life coming to an end, in which he concocts a fantasy to rescue himself from his damaged marriage and damaged world. And in the book, the writer ends up becoming a messianic figure, as if to counter his sense of powerlessness.

I probably shouldn’t be revealing this about the book, but what the fuck. If you read my book literally, you might be led to think it’s a book about how fantastic I think I am – you know, messiah-caliber. Which is absurd – but no less absurd than thinking North of Sunset’s not a satire. So the book’s going to be met with some criticism, I have to face that.

I also have to face the sort of narrow readership who might dig this type of book. I mean, even Robert Anton Wilson was published on obscure presses. The Daniel Pinchbeck crowd might like it, maybe, Douglas Rushkoff readers. Though it’s not too acid-soaked. There are plenty of Philip K. Dick-heads, and I’ve got a Tessa Dick quote on the book. So, yeah, maybe it’ll find a groove. It’s possible. OK, I feel better. Thank you.

How I Dislike the Publishing Industry

I thought about submitting my novel to a few agents to try my luck. As I wrote in this piece on the Self-Publishing Review, self-publishing sucks. I love the freedom it provides, but given that you’re going to have to troll the web to market a book anyway, might as well get published traditionally – with traditional distribution and the potential for reviews without having the beg for it – and do additional marketing work, instead of having to do everything yourself. Plus, some kind of advance is better than nothing. So I thought about submitting to agents; felt responsible.

I knew going in that I was in for a rough road, and this is the reason I wasn’t even going to bother. It’s a book with science fiction elements, though it’s not straight sci-fi, and I’m not a science fiction writer. I’ve written a book about a stalker and another about a movie star who becomes a serial killer. This one’s about a novelist (me in 20 years) who starts dreaming and writing things that turn out to be real. North of Sunset was criticized for being “too literary” and “too commercial,” which was sort of the idea – to straddle the line between the two. This one was going to be rejected for being “too sci-fi” and “not sci-fi enough” while also being “too literary” and “not literary enough.” In other words a kind of no man’s land, which I see as a kind of badge – it’s a land that hasn’t been done a lot. If you so easily fit into a genre, you’re doing something wrong. A book should be more about the writing than the plot.

I say this again and again: the protagonist in the book is not the lead character, it’s the writer. The plot isn’t so important as how that plot is expressed. So terms like “likeability” are retarded – is the writing likable, is the book well expressed? Plot is the most superficial part of a book – if your book is only about the plot with no subtext, you’re also doing something wrong.

So....long story short, I got back a rejection that was totally unsurprising to me. And that lack of surprise is annoying. The agent said,

Thank you so much for writing to me about your latest book. You are clearly very talented and I love finding material from self-published authors because it tends to be the kind of idiosyncratic work that I like best. But this one isn't a fit, I'm afraid. It's not the writing, which is excellent; rather, it's this kind of futuristic, Phillip K. Dick genre that doesn't work for me.

In short, I like your writing, but I don’t like the plot. Nevermind what I may be able to accomplish over my entire career. Nevermind the story I’m trying to tell over several books, the agent doesn’t like the genre. I understand not wanting to represent something that you’re not totally in love with, but too often writers are measured per book and how easily that book can sell, rather than the writer’s long-term prospects. Yes, the agent could have been looking for a way to let me down easy, but this is a common type of response: looking at plot and genre before the strength of the writing. This is like judging someone on their body and not their brain.

Another agent agreed to read the entire manuscript, so I’ll see where that goes. If not, I’m releasing it myself, confident in the knowledge that publishing is broken.

April 8, 2009

Hesed Books

I can't figure out what Hesed Books is all about, but I want to steal their logo:

April 3, 2009


The comments in this post about self-published book reviewing are entertainingly mean-spirited. Also this one about agents. Writers are mad.

April 2, 2009

Obama and the Queen

I find this profoundly weird. I still can't quite believe that Obama's actually president.

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