Monday, October 28, 2013

The End of the Dime Store Mystery

Unless you've been in a coma for the last twenty-four hours, you've probably heard that Lou Reed has passed away at the age of 71.

Honestly, I wasn't expecting this.  Between him, Bowie, and Iggy, Reed was the least healthy and the most self-destructive.  Because the universe is a bizarre place, I always figured he would end up being the last man standing.  Guess I was wrong.

I was introduced to Reed by my friend Jeff.  I was 18, just out of high school, and he was 30, just out of prison.  Over several late-night caffeinated diner hangouts, he turned me on to The Velvet Underground.  After I'd devoured all four albums, I made the natural progression into Reed's solo work.  It was one of those life-long gifts.  I could produce a flow-chart of the friendships that have begun through a shared appreciation of those records, to say nothing of the countless times they've been a soundtrack to the low-budget movie of my life.

One of the things I love about this kind of music is the bonds of friendship it creates.  It might not be everybody's cup of tea, but if it's yours, you'll drink it obsessively.  Then, on the rare occasions when you meet someone else who's into it, you're automatically friends because you already have so much to talk about.  I remember on the first day of Junior year, someone noticed my copy of the collected lyrics book, Pass Thru Fire.  He turned to me and said, "Any friend of Lou's is a friend of mine."  Ten years later, we live on different sides of the ocean, and the friendship continues.

I never got around to catching him live.  Even though I'd heard mixed reviews of his latter-day performances, I thought it was something I should see, for better or for worse.  He played the Parco della Musica in Rome two years ago.  Unfortunately I slacked off on buying tickets in advance, and when I got to the venue on the night of the show, the last available seats were something like €60.  At the moment, it seemed like too much.  Right now it sounds like a bargain.

At this point in my life, I can admit that not everything Reed touched turned to gold.  Occasionally, the demons that gave his work its passion got the best of him.  I can also say, without hyperbole, that everything that's happened in rock 'n roll since (or at least everything worth hearing) owes him a salute.

I considered closing this entry with a list of my favorite songs, but there are just too many.  At any rate, I'm currently listening to the self-titled Velvet Underground album.  The one without Nico.  And I'm playing it loud.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sneak Preview: The Troll


There's a sneak preview of my story 'The Troll' available on the Grey Matter Press website.  Go check it out!  Every good poisoner knows you give away the first dose for free.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bill Watterson: "Repetition is the death of magic."

Well.  Here's someone you don't hear from everyday.  Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, granted an interview with Mental Floss.  How they managed to pull that off is beyond me.  Watterson is a notorious recluse who never makes public appearances and hardly ever talks to the press.  Nevin Martell wrote an entire book about his failed attempts at landing an interview with him.  He's like an oracle that only speaks to the priests once every twenty years.

Calvin and Hobbes carries a fanbase with a strong emotional attachment.  I know it did wonders for my imagination as a kid, and if anything, its glamor has only improved with time.  Because of this, Watterson catches a lot of flack for walking away from his creation without looking back.  I'll admit I'd be first in line if he released a new direct-to-book C&H, but deep down, I know he's right.  He gives a good answer to that in the interview:

"Well, coming at a new work requires a certain amount of patience and energy, and there’s always the risk of disappointment. You can’t really blame people for preferring more of what they already know and like. The trade-off, of course, is that predictability is boring. Repetition is the death of magic."

Watterson gave us ten years of one of the most imaginative, moving, intelligent, and beautifully drawn comic strips of all time.  By quitting at the top of his game and refusing the demand for more, he saved the magic from being diluted.  Tough love at its best.

Me, Halloween '11

Thursday, October 17, 2013

We Need to Stop Being the WBC's Free Publicity Agents

A British friend of mine recently sent me this video.  She said while she knew my country was full of awesome people, she wanted to know how I could possibly cope with freaks like these.

I'd seen the video before, and in all honesty...I wasn't impressed.  Since my friend was coming at this from an outsider's perspective, I decided to share a few things to put it in context.  Here's what I said:

The Westboro Baptist Church are a sad, pathetic little cult.  That's all they are.  They have about sixty members, most of whom are related, and they're UNIVERSALLY despised.  Everyone, from your hippie, left-winger aunt, to your tin-foil hat, Fox News uncle, thinks they're the scum of the Earth.  America might be a politically divided nation, but on this issue, we all agree.

Now, having said that...

Russell Brand is a very funny guy, but what the hell was he hoping to accomplish there?  The WBC represent no one but themselves.  I have a huge bone to pick with the Religious Right and their attacks on gay rights, but trying to equate garden-variety fundamentalists with these lunatics is just absurd.  They've been denounced by every celebrity preacher from Billy Graham to Jerry Falwell.  Therefore, this interview can't be viewed as a dialogue on the American political climate.

So what's the deal?  Are we supposed to believe Brand was simply trying to reach these two fools, show them the error of their ways, and bring them a message of love?  Come on.  Everyone knows you can't reason with those people.  They've been brainwashed by Grandpa Phelps into believing in a psycho-god that exists outside of logic.  You'd have better luck talking Satan into an Easter egg hunt.

Again, I love Brand, but he brought them on his show for sensationalism.  Watching the clip, I was reminded of Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr.'s interview scene at the end of Natural Born Killers (which was itself based on Geraldo's interview with Charles Manson).  Yes, those hate-mongers are evil as shit.  It's also pretty evil to capitalize on them.

Americans love to publicly vent about the WBC.  That's understandable, because they're so easy to hate.  But we need to stop.  They don't give a fuck if the whole world hates them.  They just want to spread their demented message, and by giving them airtime and ranting about them on Facebook, that's exactly what we're helping them do.  If you hear that they're coming to your neighborhood, by all means, prepare your defenses.  Otherwise, let's turn our backs on them and let them fade into obscurity instead of giving them the attention they so badly want.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Do Randroids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Today a friend of mine shared a link to this comic bio of Ayn Rand.  It's worth a look, especially if you find her as despicable as I do.

Though I've never made it through one of her novels, I've read enough of her essays and interviews to have a pretty decent grasp of her philosophy.  One of these days, when I'm a greedy, soulless, short-sighted workaholic in need of validation, I'll get around to reading Atlas Shrugged.

Actually, in all seriousness, I do plan on tackling it someday.  If it's anywhere near what I'm expecting, I'll take it home over the holidays, borrow one of my brother's guns, shoot it, take a photo of its carcass, and make that my Facebook profile pic for as long as it took me to read it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The First Few Reviews

The first customer reviews of Dark Visions have popped up on Amazon, and so far they've all been very positive.  It got a five-star review on (which even mentioned my story), and three five-stars in one day on

Far be it from me to engage in simony, but if you've read Dark Visions and liked it, if you're so kind as to leave a review, on Amazon or wherever, it'll be good for a free drink the next time you see me.

And I swear, the paperback edition will be out soon.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Table of Contents for 'Long Distance Drunks'

Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, who put out So It Goes earlier this year, have just released the Table of Contents for their upcoming book, Long Distance Drunks: A Tribute to Charles Bukowski.  This one will contain a short story that I wrote specifically for this anthology, as well as a poem I wrote in 2006.  Further details as they come.

To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Don't you ever laugh as the hearse goes by, for you may be the next to die...

Brendan McGinley's article about Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the most hilarious and insightful thing I've read on Cracked all year.  Go read it, if you haven't already.

I won't bother gushing over how beautiful those books are.  McGinley's already said everything I could possibly say.  I would like to mention that I'm glad he gives proper credit to Stephen Gammell's illustrations for turning a collection of campfire stories into an anthology of psychological torture.  Those images traumatized my generation, and we're better off because of it.

These are the three that stand out the most in my memory.  Sweet dreams!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Man With The Beautiful Eyes

Since I got yesterday's news, I've been on a mini Bukowski kick, so I decided to dig up this video.  It's a short animated film by Jonathan Hodgson that illustrates Bukowski's poem 'The Man With The Beautiful Eyes.'  Definitely worth five minutes and forty seconds of your day.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Long Distance Drunks

With all the shit surrounding the government shutdown in the US, it was a relief and a pleasure to get some good news this morning.

Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing (who put out So It Goes back in April) are releasing a tribute to Bukowski early next year.  It's going to be called Long Distance Drunks, and it'll feature my story 'The Market-Frankford Line,' plus a poem I wrote in '06.

I'd had the idea for the story for a while.  When PMMP announced open calls for the anthology, it seemed like a good excuse as any to get it down.  I decided to employ some Bukowskian methods, and I wrote it in one sitting on a rainy Saturday afternoon, to the tune of cheap wine and classical music.  Beethoven, I think.

Details as they come.  On that note, I'll leave you with three of my favorite Bukowski poems, the first courtesy of the man himself, and the other two read beautifully by Dean Stanton and Tom Waits.