January 21, 2013
If you owned a store a hundred years ago, you probably wouldn’t have had any opportunities to forget that you owned that store. Like if you were walking down to the saloon and someone said, “hey, old timey Sam, how’s your store going? Sellin’ lots of penny candy?” It’s a safe bet that you wouldn’t have slapped your forehead and said, “My store! I forgot all about that place!’
This is more or less what happened to me last month. I forgot I had a store, then I remembered I had a store, and then I felt ashamed that I allowed that store to languish. So I’ve revamped the place. It’s a little thin right now, but I’ll have lots of new items—books, fanzines, new screenprints—up in a few weeks.
Another upside to owning a store a hundred years ago is that you wouldn’t have been made to feel like a cheesebag as a result of posting about that store on your blog.
Also, my liner notes will be part of Criterion’s definitive edition of Alex Cox’s 1984 film Repo Man, which will be released in April. I dressed like the main character for 2 years in high school: Unless I someday win a Newbery Award or the oversized key to an American city, this will be the highest professional recognition I will ever achieve.
January 9, 2013
I just remembered this afternoon that it was 2013 already and that I needed to resume this blog. It’s been a dense six months. I got a lot of work done. I still have a lot of work to do. I probably won’t be back on here full time until March. It was a weird, occasionally frustrating period to be blogless (and certainly the only half-a-year in human history when the Cro-Mags and Riot Grrrl both made the front page of the NY Times).
Back in 2000, I put some serious thought into starting a weekly fanzine newsletter that I would mail to people. In the years since, I’ve been trying to remember what I was going to fill it with. I was brimming with ideas. But what were they?
In the last six months, this blog has come to feel like that newsletter. Hopefully, I’ll have it figured out soon.
June 18, 2012
MY OWN PARTICULAR LIFE, June 18 – I’m taking a six-month break from the Internet to finish my next novel. This blog resumes in 2013. If you want to keep abreast of my freelance doings in the meantime, you’ll still be able to check my public Facebook page. So I guess it’s not a full break from the Internet. Just the part I have to keep tithing my time and effort to.
What’s that? You’re angry I won’t be providing free chuckles for six months? Well, have you read everything over here? That’s 80,781 free words. There are another 100,000+ free words on my archive. You’ve read all my stuff? Really? Have you read this or this or this or this or this? How do you know I won’t be quizzing you on all this if we ever meet in person?
June 15, 2012
SALES, June 15 – All those juicy art prints I had on tour are now online, at my store. If each of you buys just one print this weekend, I’ll have enough money to rent a Porsche Panamera S for most of next week. Isn’t that how you’d like to think of me, whipping down the PCH in an awesome car instead of hunched over my computer in Pomona???
Also, an interesting review of my book went online this week. It’s written by Jan Galligan, an Albany, NY artist I’ve known for thirty-eight years. A portrait of me and Jan’s son from 1981 hangs above my dresser today (it’s visible in the 2nd photo in my Fader piece). In 1985, I sold Jan a lifetime subscription to my fanzines (although not, as his review states, my complete works). It’s refreshing to read press with this kind of perspective. Probably not something I’ll get used to.
June 13, 2012
LIFE, June 13 – In a year filled with big announcements and abrupt changes, here’s another one. Jesse Pearson and I will no longer be partnering on Exploded View Quarterly. This was a mutual decision. Although we both wish the best for each other, our creative differences were insurmountable. All other factors remain the same: he’s still doing the magazine, and it’s still going to retain its unique vision. I just won’t be on the masthead.
This might sound like good-sport boilerplate from a jilted business partner. It’s not. “Creative differences” really does cover the predicament we were facing. It’s a bummer, but a bummer we identified and dealt with relatively early in the process. In the end, this is a minor speedbump for a great magazine (one I’ll probably be a frequent contributor to).
We reached this decision late last week, so something that may seem startling to readers of this blog is already old news for me. I’ve been in this position before, more than once. Many times, over the last three decades, someone has dug up some oddity from my past—my book in the early 80’s, or my fiscal snafus in the early 90’s—and treated their own discovery as a present tense revelation. This time around, I’m grateful that the gap between News For Me and News For You is only a few days.
If nothing else, this frees up more time for me to work on other large projects. It’s just a speedbump in my life as well.
June 11, 2012
ARCHIVES, June 11 – A quarter century ago today I graduated from high school. David Letterman had started his Top 10 Lists just two years earlier, and high school kids across America—emulating college kids across America—aped his format in a thousand different lunchrooms. That spring, I made top ten To Do lists for me and my pals Bob, Eddie, and Jason. We were all heading off into adulthood, and it seemed important to prioritize our strengths and weaknesses.
So there’s been some progress. I’ve made great strides on #s 3 & 7. I’m still working on #2. # 4 is a tough one.
# 9 surprises me. I’d just purchased my first vehicle, a pea-green 1974 Chevy Impala the size of a mausoleum. It cost $500, which I’d earned washing dishes my senior year. Running or immobilized, it was a welcome sanctum. If we’re going by meters, it got a respectable 48 MPG (also, what did gas cost in 1987? A nickel? ). I’m not sure what there was to complain about.
Then there’s #8. I didn’t learn to correctly spell the word “lose” until I was in my mid-20′s. The phonetics make it an easy enough thing to get wrong. But this wrong word is still kind of correct, in that I did like to loose (as in, “to let loose, free from bonds or restraint”) my temper upon the world.
I have made considerable growth in this department. But every now and then, at the DMV or in traffic, I still think, I might just loose it.
June 8, 2012
1. Wait for the cover art to kick in at 18 seconds. The guy from the Melvins was in a band with John Tesh? Huh?
2. The craftsmanship is devastating. In the entire canon of recorded music, how many other songs can claim two functional, world-class choruses? As soon as you get one unstuck from your head, you’re humming the other one. Marketing genius.
3. If Gen X spans 1960 to 1980, that means that almost half of my own generation has little to no recollection of the 1970′s. Specifically, they have no recollection of the 70′s profound ickiness, of which this track, released in ’80, is a swan song. Consider:
- There was a time when men actually named their own band “Ambrosia”, as if their music was sweet, sweet nectar.
- The whisper at 2:36. That’s the whole decade right there. Adults in the 70′s were always whispering seductively to each other. It was gross.
- All those plaintive, distant sax cries. What fills this emotional function in pop music now? Scratching? Grunts?
- When the late-inning bonus verse kicks in at 3:12, the one guy sings, “I’ll put my loving arms around you” and then, as if to underscore this point, John Tesh does so on the cover of the record.
4. Rest assured, the young woman sung to was very much NOT the only woman in Ambrosia’s life. This song is like the guy who shows up with the surprise bouquet of flowers to hide a dalliance. Good God, how many decapitated hookers did this song attempt to cover up?
June 6, 2012
LIFE, JUNE 6 – Remember those Good Citizen Karma Points I mentioned on Monday? Here’s a better opportunity to earn some. My pal Jeff Winterberg is sick, and he needs your help. Last year, Jeff was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a rare brain cancer. His family and friends have just set up a new fund-raising site to help Jeff with his staggering costs.
I wrote the intro to Winterberg’s 2004 photobook. I knew him well, when we lived back in Richmond. Jeff is the template of a Good Guy. If you throw some spare cash his way, you’ll probably get enough points to yell at a child in a movie theater.
So: do so.
June 4, 2012
CALIFORNIA, June 4 – Tomorrow is a state primary. If you don’t live in California, you can skip this blog post and read the book reviews I just posted for Friday. If you do live in California, voting tomorrow is your chance to pick up some Good Citizen Karma Points you can then squander, at a later date, by talking during a movie or yelling at a child. And if you live in California and you’re registered with the Green Party, it will almost definitely be your only chance to vote for Roseanne Barr for president.
Two interesting ballot measures come up for vote tomorrow:
PROP 28: Change In Term Limits
This one chops state legislature terms from 14 years to 12. The alleged secret of Prop 28 is its duplicity, allowing a back door increase by redefining the limit as time served in either the Senate (now just 8 years) or assembly (6 years). And currently serving legislators are exempt. It’s a rare ballot that is both supported and fought by people sick of career politicians gumming up the works in Sacramento.
The real secret of Prop 28 is that term limits are stupid. We need career politicians, just like we need career pilots, and career surgeons, and career firefighters. Job experience is an asset, no matter what the job. Democracy is not a Frank Capra film; there are no Jimmy Stewart citizen-politicians waiting to sweep into the statehouse and set things right.
So vote no on 28, even though it will functionally maintain the current, more restrictive term limits. It’s kind of confusing. How about this: vote no and then stretch your arms flamboyantly in front of your polling place and look a stranger in the eye and say “WOW, term limits are an especially pernicious form of codified anti-intellectual horseshit, am I right?” (if appropriate, do a high five).
PROP 29 – Tobacco Tax For Cancer Research Act
This adds a dollar to every pack of cigarettes sold in California. Despite the $16 billion state budget deficit, the extra cash would “fund research for cancer”. It’s not a super precise goal. What kind of research? Who conducts it? Even with the impressive array of B-movie villains fighting 29 (most major tobacco companies, the state GOP, the CA Oil Marketers Association (?) ), the vagueness and potential waste should stop anyone cold.
Then there’s the fairness issue. Cigarette taxes are regressive: they place the heaviest burden on the poor. And tobacco, unlike fried foods or gentlemen’s clubs, is a physically addictive vice. I’ve known a lot of recovered drug addicts over the years, and I’ve never heard anyone recall heroin withdrawal the way I hear my smoker pals contemplate kicking cigarettes.
Taxing broke smokers to fight Big Tobacco is counterintuitive. It’s like fighting sex traffickers by arresting prostitutes, or protesting foreign policy by slashing veteran benefits. Seriously, if you vote for this, it kind of makes you a monster.
June 1, 2012
TROUBLE IS MY BUSINESS
My pal Quinn gave me this paperback years ago, and I promptly stashed it in my car, where it became an undone chore. Every time I had an oil change or downtime in a doctor’s office, I thought, why aren’t I reading that book? Also, I’d heard from pals that Chandler’s plots are a shade beyond comprehension (something I’d already gathered from 1946′s The Big Sleep, with Bacall & Bogart).
What hadn’t been made clear to me was that Chandler’s dialogue (inner and outer) trumps plot. And envisioning all those dusty waiting rooms and rich men’s parlors made me deeply nostalgic for a Los Angeles I never knew, and which almost definitely never existed. Who today will make people in the 2080′s homesick for the L.A. of now?
THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING
After her husband collapses and dies during dinner in late 2003, Joan Didion takes an extended detour into the netherworld of grief. From this alien terrain, she reports on a newfound “fund of superstition”, a form of sporadic dementia in which her missing spouse serves as a phantom limb. Time becomes plastic, and memory seems changeable. Her focus is less on grief than on “the power of grief to derange the mind”, the many overlaps between prolonged sorrow and traumatic physical brain injury.
This was perhaps the wrong Didion book for me to start with. More than once, I flashed back to William Styron’s Darkness Visible, a similar psychic travelogue (in his case, from the Marianas Trench of depression) by a similarly gifted writer. In both books, it’s hard to ignore the odor of self-indulgence. Didion’s phrase repetition mirrors the lyrical nature of profound cognitive dissonance, but it’s also stupendously irritating. And what’s our incentive to share her experience? If we’re all going to have to learn about hallucinatory grief at least once in our lives, why should we do so any earlier than scheduled?
Is it wrong that I found this whole thing distractingly morbid and devoid of chuckles?
AMONG THE THUGS
Buford’s only written two journalistic full lengths. His second book, Heat, actually made me enjoy reading about food. The only subject I care about less than cuisine is sports, so Among The Thugs, his early 90′s account of UK soccer hooligans, seemed a nice companion read. Both books are detailed and illuminating delights with occasional soft spots (although Heat loses steam at Buford’s trip to Italy, while Thugs regains momentum in a different, much scarier Italian trip).
Turns out this is not so much about sports than it is violence – spectacular, gripping, senseless violence. An American in Britain, Buford somehow infiltrates a subculture where crowd brutality is both addiction and social mutation, like a computer virus, or herd animal behavior (at matches, fans allow themselves to be penned into enclosures). “Everyone – including the police – is powerless,” he writes, “against a large number of people who have decided not to obey any rules.” His detailed account of his own savage beating should be required reading in every undergrad writing course. It’s a model of retaining one’s presence of mind during crises.
Two complaints. Buford does little to describe and thus differentiate his real-life characters. And his account doesn’t shed any light on its own central puzzles: when and why did England get so goddamn scary? At one point, he describes an act of disfiguring violence I literally had no idea one human could inflict on another. This passage ruined my day, so if you’re really curious, find it in a bookstore and read it for yourself (page 239).