Snap Judgment

Thank you to Ray for my early birthday present, which I got in the mail today. It’s the best three demos from the Chicago hardcore/Death band Snap Judgment, all compiled together on a CD-R. Ray put the whole thing together for his own evil intentions, but he also made me a copy, with a nice laserprinted package that has scans of the original three covers and very comprehensive, anal-retentive track info that a fellow audiophile would love. The first demo, Tomorrow Will Be Worse reminds me most of a trip to Chicago I took with Ray during spring break of 1992. There’s a funny and tragic story that goes along with this which I need to tell at some point, but these six tracks remind me more of other imagery from March 92, like my VW, my old girlfriend Patty, the spring break trip home I took with Ken Rawlings along for the ride, the new Realistic cassette-only deck in the dash of my car, and Eternity cologne. The second demo, Hey! Soul Classics reminds me of Jan/Feb 1993, when I was dating both Kim and Danielle, and walking everywhere because I didn’t have a car. I only heard the third demo, 1993 once or twice, and never got a copy. Around that time, I was going to Chicago a lot with Ray, almost every weekend, and I must’ve met their lead singer John Tekiela a few times, but I don’t remember for sure. I never saw them play, but I heard many times the fable of when Ray saw them on his birthday. They threw together an impromptu cover of the Motorhead song “We Are the Road Crew” for him, and when John didn’t know the words, he gave the mike to Ray and let him sing.

Memories like that make me wish the music scene hadn’t gotten so stupid in the last five years. At least I’m finding more old, cool stuff on CD so I can listen to it until the next wave of decent stuff comes out.

I hate to cut this short, but I just got home and ate dinner, and I have a new Nintendo game waiting for me. Maybe I’ll write more later.


BL Sandwiches, taxes

I’m getting a very late start today – I had a meeting that ran late, and now I’m eating a BL, since the sandwich shop was out of tomatoes. It’s pouring rain outside, but I borrowed one of the huge golf umbrellas from the receptionist’s desk. It was a good plan until the wind picked up to about 90 miles an hour and it started raining sideways.

I remember reading about some famous poet in jail or a mental institution who wrote his epic poem a line a day, because he had no paper and he memorized a line each day. When I’m at my current level of output, I’m grateful I’m not that guy. I’m averaging about 30 lines a day, since I figured out that for Rumored to Exist to be about 100,000 words when it’s done, each section from 0-255 would have to be about 30 lines long. I need to increase my pace, but it’s hard. Once I hit that perfect frame of mind, I’ll write a few thousand words a night of really hilarious shit. But for now, I trudge along, hoping that my future editing passes will add some life to the mediocre prose I’m putting on the page.

I did my taxes this morning. This is the earliest I’ve ever filed. I use the tele tax phone thing, and I will be getting a ton of money back. Because I do not have the ability to save a few bucks a week, I have the government take an extra fifty out each check, and then when I get it back, I blow it on computer equipment or whatever. I should have this wad of cash back by the time I go to New York (Feb. 10).

I’ve got another meeting in a few, and I need to eat. Maybe I’ll write something better tomorrow.


Dream theories

(my non-writing update: I’m alive and my stomach is letting me eat what I want. I still feel a little weird from my total lack of nutrient, but I’m getting there.)

Yesterday, I was talking about dreams and writing, which is a great topic right now. I think I have some kind of sleep disorder, because I sleep 10 hours and it feels like 6, and I always have dreams which are taunting me, saying “just try to write this shit down when you wake up.” My dreams right now are incredibly nonlinear, overlapping, redundant, confusing, and realistic. Because they aren’t a simple story, I can’t just write them down. (It’s also a pain in the ass because when I wake up at 4 in the morning, I don’t want to spend 20 minutes transcribing dreams, and then end up wide awake.) I find that by thinking about how I want to write the dreams down, they happen more vividly, and I remember more when I wake. I wish there was some kind of machine or hypnosis tape I could use to get closer to this goal, but most of the stuff you find on the internet is either new-age hippie crap, or a get-rich-quick scheme.

I think people have similar, cliche dreams. I mentioned this yesterday: falling, naked in front of people, forgot they were registered for a class, and so on. I find that my dreams sometimes fall into templates, but they are much stranger. Let me see if I can assemble a top five list (not in any order):

  1. This really isn’t a dream, there is a nuclear holocaust, and I’m experiencing the last five seconds of my life.
  2. A lucid dream where I’m able to take control.
  3. I’m back in Elkhart, Indiana, and going through the same problems I did ten years ago
  4. “The amalgam dream” – I’m walking in San Francisco, I turn a corner and it’s Bloomington, 1992, crossed with the cabash scenes from Naked Lunch. I run into a person I used to work with, who is drinking coffee with Jesse Ventura. Etc.
  5. The lucid dream that takes place in my apartment and I’m not sure that I’m asleep or awake. Happens when I’m about to fall asleep, or on those bad nights of insomnia where I wake up and look at the clock every hour and later deduce that I’ve been up all night.

I take ideas from my dreams. For the last three years, I’ve been on and off successful with writing down things. I read about how Phillip K. Dick dreamed all of his stories, and then woke up and simply transcribed them to paper. I thought that was so cool, I started doing it with Rumored to Exist. A lot of key ideas in that book were lifted straight from dreams. I’ve never been able to fully capture the whole dream-state onto paper, but I never would’ve been able to figure out some of the stuff I use in Rumored.

Or maybe I would. I have a lot of theories about dreams, that they are simply extensions of what you feel and think consciously, mixed with a little biochemical work from what you ate before bed or how stressed you are. I wish there was a way to control that mirror from one side to the other, and maybe there will be within my lifetime….

I got a late start today, so I better split. More about this later.


dreams and writing

(Sickness update: I’m back at work, but I’m not eating yet. I don’t know how long I can survive on applesauce; I really wish I could go to Burger King and order a bacon double cheeseburger, but I don’t think that would help things.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately, in the context of writing. I think the ultimate nonlinear novel would flow like a dream, and I’m not talking cliches here. I mean the entire story would unfold in the same random, surreal fashion. It would be an easier project with film, because you wouldn’t have to explain all of the visual anomalies. One of my favorite films is, of course, Naked Lunch, and it uses many of the Burroughsian structure elements and changes which could also be attributed to dreams. The movie has little to do with the book, but it was the only way they could pull it off.

So what are the elements of dreams that would have to be captured? I could write about all of the stereotypical dreams, like falling from a height, being naked in public, finding out on the last day of the semester that you were registered for a class you didn’t know about, etc. I think if I did that, the story would resemble one of those “we’re making fun of horror movies even though we’re a horror movie” movies, like Scream, Urban Legend, or whatever.

The first thing about dreams is that they are incredibly nonlinear. It’s normal for me to wake up after a dream, remember two pieces of it, but not remember which one was first in the dream. Then, other pieces filter in, some fitting in the order of the story, and others confusing it further. But how the hell do you do this on paper? One solution would be to NOT do this on paper, and work on some hypertext project. My personal bias about this is that it’s not possible to achieve suspension of disbelief while sitting in front of a CRT. Plus hypertext is more of a choose-your-own-adventure experience, which isn’t non-linear, it’s sort of multi-linear. Maybe someone will do further research on this and make a hypertext novel that captures the nonlinear feel of dreams.

I don’t know how this would work with just regular HTML though. I think dreams may be a phenomenon other than natural thought, like something with a more chemical basis or using parts of the brain we don’t use when reading a book or shopping for groceries. When you remember three or four parts of a dream but don’t remember the order, or each part makes you remember more parts, it’s like when you try to remember something that happened ten years ago – the parts are all in your mind, but with varying quality, and they don’t “come back” in order. When you read a book, you start at page 1 and read until the end (unless you skip around) and the story is placed in your brain in a linear fashion, even if it is nonlinear. If you think of the book later, and the various pieces of the book are not as clear in your mind, the plot might appear to be more dreamlike. I re-read The Grapes of Wrath about five years ago, and I don’t remember many of the specifics with great detail, but I remember the part where the grandmother died and they pretended she was really sick so they could get past the border guards. It’s almost like a dream, but it’s not that Steinbeck wrote it that way – it’s a function of my memory. The question is, how can you write a book that imitates that function when the reader has to read it from start to finish?

It’s time for my daily plug for Raymond Federman. His books are so nonlinear, they can be unreadable in places. They’re all great, and funny. He has a lot of different stuff going on in his experimental works, but one thing he uses to obfuscate the linear plot is repetition and derivation. In books like Double or Nothing, he’ll tell a piece of a story, then later change the story, tell an earlier segment, and so forth. It’s not as easy as just reading the story from A to B, but it plants little subliminal facts in your memory, so when you hear a derivative of the story later, you wonder if you’ve already heard it, or if it was new. Irregardless of Federman’s technique (which is beyond the scope of this one time journal entry) it shows that it’s possible to work with non-linear dream structures on the linear page.

I want to talk about this more, but maybe I should wait until tomorrow to start a new topic about dreams. As always, let me know your thoughts and help me keep thinking about this.


Biological anomaly

I want to talk more about writing, but today’s been weird. Not today, or the events of today, but some biological anomaly. Maybe I’m depressed, or maybe it’s poor diet. It’s one of those weird in-between states where I’m talking to someone about something and it reminds me of a movie, and it takes me 7 years and 3 Leaonard Maltin books to remember that I was thinking of The Godfather. Or whatever. Not the time to start discussing weird literary theory.

I finally found the expansion pak for the Nintendo 64, and also picked up a Rumble Pack. I’m still trying hard to finish level 4 of Star Wars: Rogue Squardon. Last night, I managed to get a tow cable around an AT-AT three times, and the fucking thing stumbled to its well-deserved death. Then I found out that you have to kill two of them and do some other jerking around before you clear the level. I read some FAQs and found that I’m not alone here – it’s one of the hardest levels of the game.

I don’t know who reads this, but I’ll say this in case some people deeply embedded in the journal scene do read this: I am really looking for journals similar to mine, or similar to what I want this journal to be. I have been falling into this rut of “I went to the mall. I bought some new socks. I ate a grape. I looked at the inside of my fridge” sort of journal entries. I wish I knew others who were writing about writing, instead of writing about their lives as writing. If you know of any, let me know.

Writing Rumored has been hard lately. I wrote two pieces last night, both marginal in quality, and finished working in some edits Marie did on the first half back when I was in NY. And it’s hard to procrastinate. I feel so guilty watching TV, and I’m so sick of the shit they have on there. I spent 40 minutes out of the hour watching commercials, and think about Asimov writing a book every 14 minutes during his career. I know that eventually I will get motivated and a long string of writing will suddenly hit the page. Until then, I’m poking away. I am at part #133 of the book, and it would be nice to be at #150 by the end of the month. I really hope to get this fucking thing done by the end of March. That doesn’t mean a final draft, but just something that has parts 0-255 and doesn’t require me to go back and junk 40 or 50 of them because I wrote them all in a night.

I have a dinner getting cold here, and I should probably try to get in the right frame of mind to work. More later.


persona, content

I’ve been thinking more about content, which I babbled on about yesterday. There are a few conflicts involved in all of this, so bear with me.

Yesterday, I talked about content and method versus character and setting and plot. It might be helpful if you read yesterday’s entry, but for now, I’m going to ignore everything but content. A typical, writing 101 short story or Hollywood screenplay contains content – a protagonist, an antagonist, a dark and stormy night, a football player and the cheerleadr who loves him, and so on. The distinction that I would make between a typical story and something experimental or literary is that the purpose of the content is different, so the content is different. For example, the purpose of Dr. Benway in a William S. Burroughs book is different than the purpose of Dr. Niles Crane on the TV show Frazier. The former can develop in different ways because he’s not supporting this typical entourage of characters in the typical plot A/plot B sitcom script. More focus can be put on the characters (or the settings or objects) because they aren’t simple plug-ins to a prefab storyline. I think that’s the big distinction in literary fiction, and it’s what differentiates something like The Subterraneans and Weekend at Bernie’s.

So where do these heightened characters and places and objects come from? Writers write what they know, for the most part. This has been the major stumbling block for me and my writing career. I’ve read books by Bukowski, about his years of drinking, meeting different women, betting on the horses, living with almost no money and writing for an underground newspaper, living in roominghouses. I’ve read Burroughs, the trips into the jungle to find Yage, the travel all over the world, the Beat Hotel and Tangiers. And I’ve even been jealous of Henry Rollins, sleeping in the back of a U-Haul, a different city every day on the road with Black Flag. All of these people lived adventurous lives, while I haven’t. The closest I’ve been to being on the edge was maybe in college, but that’s nothing like On the Road. So part of my muse has been telling me that I need to go out and live to collect this content – to do like Hemmingway and fight in wars and fight bulls and drink 20 shots of whiskey for breakfast and everything else. And granted, if I could play the guitar or I found some gig that got me out of the house and all around the country, maybe I’d try it. But I’ve thought that the collection of content was a major deterrant in my writing career. I wrote one book called Summer Rain based on a summer in Bloomington, and it was fun to write (well, it’s still not done yet…) but I realized that there would never be a second book after this one, because if I stuck to this genre of autobiographical fiction, every book I wrote would be another Summer Rain.

But you don’t need to live it to write it, do you? Several of my favorite writers, most notably Mark Leyner, write stuff that never really happened. It’s all based on a mix of research, pop culture, current events, and sheer insanity. Someone like Leyner is pulling his content from the air, and it’s commendable work. When I mess with this, I find that the fictional content you create is only as good as the random junk floating in your head. I took a few weird college courses on music theory, cancer, third world politics, and astronomy, and I have a weird laundry list of interest and topics I like to read about, too. But when I do my best work on Rumored to Exist is when I do my best homework. I pick things up from other people, from newsgroups, from websites, from odd shows on the Discovery channel. And when everything works good, and when I’m saturated with this useless knowledge, the content flows. But other times, it doesn’t. And that’s what I’m trying to improve.

I just got interrupted, so I lost my train of thought. But what I think I was going to say is that I feel a need to research and challenge myself to look at new things and ideas, specifically for Rumored to Exist. I find that I need to look for a starting point for new and weird topics, and once that happens, everything snowballs and I’m doing plenty of good writing. My friend and fellow writer Michael Stutz recommended Robert Anton Wilson’s book Everything is Under Control, so I ran and got a copy of last night. He was 100% right – it’s this encyclopedia of weird conspiracy theories and secret societies that’s somewhat tongue in cheek and probably not even 10% correct, but it’s an excellent read. And now I’m thinking about Freemasons, Men in Black (not Will Smith), word virus theories, germ warfare, and a ton of other cool stuff. I have enough research material to keep me busy for a while.

The application of this material is the second part of what I talked about yesterday, the method. I don’t think I am going to be able to crack out a good explanation of this, since I haven’t even begun to think about it. But that’s a good discussion for later.

As always, I’m really looking for comments about this babble, especially since this self-discussion is becoming somewhat important to me. So please email me if you have any thoughts on the subject.



I’m at the point in my writing cycle where I’m overanalyzing how writing works. I often need to break apart stories and books and try to find what makes them readable, desirable, and functional. Although I feel that Rumored to Exist is a good book in many places, I don’t know how it will stand as a complete book, and I don’t know how I will come up with the ideas to finish it. Because it is so loose and free-form, there’s no cohesive story to follow, which puts me in the danger of never finishing. I’ve been hacking at Rumored for a little over two years, and I’m barely halfway done. Another round of edits could put me well below the halfway bar, if I start chopping the pieces I absolutely hate.

This means I start thinking about the theory of plot and structure of story. It also means I think about my interests and try to find new topics to research, combine, and twist into new ideas. It’s a nervous prospect, since I have absolutely no attention span right now, and I can never apply myself to projects like this. It’s the reason I could never learn a foreign language, or pull a decent GPA in largely scantron courses like psychology or sociology. So I might be off this kick before too long.

The perfect starting point and example is, of course, William S. Burroughs. He lived a life of ecclectic and bizarre connections: heroin, South America, homosexuality, classical literature, psychology, technology, and travel. He worked jobs just to find out what it was like, as a private detetective or exterminator, and took a strange path, studying at Harvard, going to Vienna for medical school, living in the middle of nowhere in Texas, and then going across the globe: Mexico, South America, Tangiers, Paris, Austria, New York, Kansas. His life provided the raw material to produce his books. He often went on about different topics, such as the Mayans, time travel, scientology, the corruption of a Christian society, drug dealers, and more. But he didn’t write straightforward narratives about his experiences, like Charles Bukowski or Henry Miller or something. It was more veiled in complicated structures; cutups, fragments, dreams and chaos used to frame the pieces of his stories.

If I wanted to rip off Burroughs entirely, the two basic pieces to investigate could then be defined as the content and the method. This sounds pretty arbitrary, but it’s an important distinction, because I think in most of your writing 101 classes, the division of story would be something like plot and character. I don’t think plot is required, because it’s really a part of method. The method of a story, especially something nonlinear, doesn’t have to include plot. It could use any mechanism that would pull the reader through the story. A book like Naked Lunch is not plot-driven. (The well-versed Burroughs scholar could argue that it is, but the first-time reader would disagree, so let’s stick with that.) And character is somewhat of a division of content. Although characters are important in WSB’s work, he doesn’t rely on a top-down cast like a Hollywood movie. And it isn’t a typical first-person narrative like so many literary works.

I don’t know where to start, and I don’t think I can investigate both of these today, but the easiest way for me to begin would be with content. I always try to find new, cool things to discuss in Rumored, be it designer drugs, high-tech weaponry, pop-culture icons, or obscure history references. I’m not always 100% happy with some of these things, and many have been cut or toned down as the editing of Rumored continues. I need to think of new topics, but I need to think about how they are discussed or applied, and that’s where it gets even more complicated.

Back to Burroughs – a lot of his work has a mystical, investigative approach. He talks about the Mayans and Ah Pook the Destroyer and all of that, with a spiritual approach. I don’t mean that he is a religious writer; it’s that the characters and reference – the content – relies on a religious framework to interact through his books. When he talks about heroin, it isn’t a Trainspotting sort of Calvin Klein ad for junk; he talks about it in a spiritual sense. He has created a culture which has its own minor morality plays based on the unique aspects of drug use and addiction. It’s not like a Hollywood movie where the use of drugs pushes one of the characters in the stereotypical inventory of characters through the stock five plot movements, i.e. I’m a high school cheerleader and I have a football player boyfriend; Someone offers me drugs and I try them so I can be pretty/popular/better; antics ensue; I weigh 500 pounds and smoke a pound of hash a day; I learn to love god. moral: don’t do drugs, kids! Burroughs seems to walk far outside of this, because he isn’t pushing a plot like they are. He might have some plot elements to keep the pages turning, but it’s not all designed to be a 2 hour movie of the week.

Although I haven’t read his stuff in years, I was thinking of Asimov as another example. He wrote all of these books about robots, but the books aren’t really about big aluminum men running around killing people or whatever. He took the angle of social commentary and engineered it around the limitations and issues of robotics. Asimov wasn’t a religious guy (If I remember correctly, he’s a Humanist, which is probably my closest fit, religion-wise) and his books aren’t knit together with a spiritual overtone. He takes his unique topics and works together the content with the political or sociological consequenses. Other writers would have a plot-driven theme about robots, but he uses a light plot to drive home the unique circumstanses of man creating artificial “life.”

So my homework for tonight is to come up with a laundry list of topics I could further explore and research for the universe created within Rumored to Exist. There are tons of things there, but many of them are free-floating. Someone might be injecting some cloning serum in his arm, but the purpose and placement of clones in the book is somewhat secondary. I think if I picked apart some of the topics I’ve discussed and brainstormed further mutations of them, there would be more coross-pollination of weird stuff and more ideas for new pieces.

And maybe tomorrow I can talk about method. Or maybe I’ll still be babbling about this.


It was a dark and cloudy afternoon

It was a dark and cloudy afternoon. Foggy, really – it looks like the mist at the outer boundaries of a Nintendo-64 screen has enveloped all of Seattle. I knew the few days of sunshine were too good to be true – now we go back to six months of shittiness.

I watched too much TV last night, and didn’t get any work done. There was a show on about the Air Force One, another one of those Discovery Channel “Inside Story” things. I actually went on the first jet-powered Air Force One, a Boeing 707, tail number 26000. It’s at the Boeing museum in Seattle – you can walk through it and see various replica seats and desks and fake radio gear behind plexiglass. Actually, I don’t remember if the museum had plane 26000 or 27000, or if it was all fake. But one one of the two was where they swore in LBJ while JFK’s corpse was stowed away in the passenger compartment. Another weird thing on that show – Air Force One is the FAA callsign for the plane only when the president was on board. When Nixon resigned, he was president when he left DC on his way home, but Ford was signed in at noon, when he was midway to California. So the plane had to change callsigns to 27000 while in midair.

The Museum of Flight has so many cool planes there, each with a weird story. Their B-17 was in the film Memphis Belle; their FG-1D Corsair spent 33 years at the bottom of Lake Washington before being restored; they have an A-4F that used to be a Blue Angels plane. I already mentioned Air Force One; their SR-71 Blackbird and D-21 drone is also a one-of-a-kind. Their F-4 Phantom really scored 3 MiG kills in 1967; their P-12 biplane once flew from LA to San Diego, inverted. One of their biggest planes is the prototype 747; one of the smallest is the Aerocar III, a fiat-sized car that can bolt on a pair of wings and a prop for air travel. The Aerocar is pretty kick-ass; you can convert it in only ten minutes. Although it can go about 100 miles an hour in the air, it can only drive at about 65.

I’m bored, and I have a meeting in a bit, so I better cut this short.


it happened ten years ago

I’ve been obsessively eating those little, red, cinnamon candies, and watching a special about nuclear submarines that sank. So it’s been a productive evening. I also got a bunch of CDs in the mail, but I fell asleep after Marie called, and I didn’t get a chance to listen to anything. Now, in a fit of “it happened ten years ago” nostalgia, I’m listening to a Lizzy Borden album. It’s Master of Disguise, probably the best one. It’s somewhat of a concept album, and really reminds me of my first semester in college. I recently found another copy, and it’s one of those albums that can really transport me back to a very specific time and era. I love music like that, even if it is somewhat dated.

I should get back to writing. Rumored to Exist is going slow, but I have a pile of edited stuff to reconcile that I’ve been putting off. And Letterman is on.

01/05/99 15:05

The government is burning tons of napalm that has been sitting around since the end of the Vietnam war. Why can’t they have some kind of lottery for it? Or sell it by the barrel at the army-navy store? I don’t know about you, but I could really use a 55 gallon drum of napalm.

It’s a slow day – I want to write more, but I can’t. Maybe later.

01/05/99 15:42

I need to do some research and find all of the nuclear subs that are still on the ocean floor. I think there are at least 4 or 5 of them. After I make my first billion dollars, I’m going to rent that Hughes explorer ship and try to find one of those subs. That Hughes boat has this gigantic hole in the middle of it, where they can lift an entire submarine with a giant claw-like thing, close the doors behind it, and dismantle it with Navy frogmen in nuclear protection gear. I guess when they salvaged that Soviet sub in ’74, it was completely hot from the nuclear missiles. They also found 9 bodies, and gave them a traditional Russian burial at sea, while they rolled a few movie cameras. They showed part of the burial on the Discorvery channel special last night – it was very bizarre, James Bond sort of stuff.

I still hear what sounds like sea otters across the street. I’ve been listening to White Zombie all morning. I’ve started cleaning my office in anticipation of my move to the other building. I only have one or two boxes of stuff – some of the people I work with have a dozen boxes of stuff. I wish I had a camera I could mount anywhere and transmit the video signal several miles away. I’d use it for lots of things, like proving that my fucking landlord is only in his office an hour a day.


lunch, year

I actually brought my lunch today. I’ve been going to the deli downstairs every day, but that costs money and I’m gaining weight because of it. Plus, I’m moving offices at the end of the week, and the new place doesn’t have a deli downstairs. So, I need to get used to lunchmeat and snak-paks again.

I’ve been having a minor freakout about the year. It isn’t because Prince sang about it in that stupid song, but because 1989 was ten years ago. So many key things happened in that year, from college to women to psychiatry to everything else. It was when I left for school, learned to play piano, bought my first bass, got my first real credit card, and started taking Prozac. And the fact that I can now say “Ten years ago, I…” is making my usual nostalgia trips even more chaotic.

On a similar topic, I was flipping through channels last night, and saw a “Hey, remember the 90’s?” CD for sale. I almost called the 800 number to yell “Hey, IT IS THE FUCKING NINETIES!!!!” at somebody. Remember you read it here first – this is going to collapse on itself so much, that by 2015, you will see ads for “Hey, remember 2:45 this afternoon?” CDs.

I have a lunch to finish. Catch you later.