I hate it when the government kills the main characters in my books

Like I said before, I have a moratorium on “here is what I did last year”/”here is what I want to do last year”/”here’s how horrible the year was politically, even though I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about” posts. I’m pretty sure you can read that at any other blog or site on the web. The one bit of politics I have is to mention that Hussein hanging. One, it sure hasn’t had as much coverage on the web. I thought for sure there would be a million weepy posts about how this won’t help anything blah blah blah and/or “ding dong, the witch is dead”, but it’s been very quiet.

The whole thing pisses me off because I am 36,000 words into this book, and there is a small sub-plot involving Saddam, and now I’m forced to either change it, remove it, or maybe add in a “no, that hanging was staged bullshit, he’s still around” or something. I seriously thought he’d be around for thirty years amidst a clusterfuck of appeals and technicalities. Hell, Charlie Manson’s still dining at the Corcorcan Hilton on the government dime, and his little helter skelter attempt was almost 40 years ago. But I suppose someone writing a fictional absurdist book about Elvis back in ’77 wouldn’t need to change much after he keeled over on the shitter, right? Maybe I should add that Sadaam and Elvis are hanging around somewhere in a Tijuana tranny bar, trading stories and shots of codeine. Stranger things have happened.

As an aside, I was never any huge fan of Gerald Ford’s, but I do feel bad about what’s happening with his funeral. Because of the timing, pretty much everybody is out of town and they’re probably going to have to hire some homeless people to be his pallbearers. Nixon had five presidents to carry his casket; everyone’s too busy watching football to haul away Ford. I think the next Pauly Shore comedy show will have a higher attendance than Ford’s funeral. I always felt bad for Ford because he not only inherited all of Nixon’s shit, but he was the only person appointed the presidency, and I always thought that maybe he didn’t entirely want it. As a person who often gets appointed shit jobs that nobody else will take in my career, I can sympathize.

I now have so many books to read, I can’t really decide on any single book to read. In addition to the armful of Christmas gifts, I also decided as part of a solution to the population control problem on my shelves, I would pull all of the books I have never read, and that I want to either read, or maybe dump in the future. I have a lot of books I bought in the last year or two that I shelved but never read and then forgot, and I have other books that have been following me for over fifteen years that I have never read and might never read at all, which need to be dealt with at some point. So I now have this “to be read or eventually ditched” queue now. I also have a pile of books that are the “dead and gone” pile. I know at least one of you regular readers will mention the greatness of dumping this shit on eBay or Amazon used or whatever, but I’ve found it’s much easier to drag them to the library a block away, donate them, and make up a bunch of semi-inflated prices per book and take it as a tax writeoff. (I am now in the income bracket where I am forced to file long-form and take deductions, and since I don’t have a house, kids, a religion, any political party I’d give one fucking red cent to, or anything else, deductions are more than welcome at this point.)

The one thing I am reading now is the Portable Henry Rollins, a gift from Sarah’s brother-in-law Matthew. The book isn’t part of the Viking portable series (I wish it was so it would match my other ones) but it’s a similar concept – take the best of a dozen books and put them in one place. I think I own about 80% of the books anthologized in this tome, but it’s nice to see them all in one place. It also really reminds me of how I got started on this whole writing thing, almost 15 years ago, which was the Rollins spoken word tapes. Those escalated to his books, and the desire for me to start keeping a journal, and eventually trying to write my own stories and books. Some of the stories in the anthology are ones from his tapes, and that brings me back to that period when I was trying to define myself as a writer, or at least capture something on paper. The book is also printed with the ragged right paper (I don’t know the technical term, that shit they use in arty books and wedding invitations), which typically drives me apeshit, but it reminds me of some of the artsy paper and notebooks I tried to use when I was first starting out. For a little while, I thought the type of paper and type of notebook and type of pen would radically change my ability to keep a journal. Later I realized that Mead college-rule and a ball-point stolen from any bank or hotel would work just fine, and all of the “special” journaling stuff was just bullshit.

The Rollins stuff is interesting in a few different ways, once you strip away the typical egomaniacal layer that usually obstructs people. Below that, there’s this part that originally caught me, this thought that loneliness and despair are not only a pure form of pain, but they are also essential to the human condition. He always talks about the need to be alone, the times when he grew up in DC and worked at the ice cream store, how he didn’t drive or take the bus, because he needed to walk across the city in the night alone, to have the pain and pleasure of not being around any other humans. He would walk and relive the horrors that happened to him in the city, the times he got mugged or saw a dog in the street get nailed by a bus, the pieces he could not erase. I identified with that to an extent, because I would walk across campus alone at three in the morning, and would see the million layers and landmarks of what happened to me over the years, and that time at night was when I was most alive, and most depressed. But I also thought Rollins was full of shit, that he was a millionaire that could get any chick he wanted, and he was obviously crazy because he wanted to go back to that period when he was a lonely, confused little punk living in a shithole apartment and living on nothing. But now, 15 years later, my memory always pulls back to those times, and I realize that even though I’ve gained so much, I have also lost that overwhelming pain that defined me back then.

Anyway, this is starting to sound like some kind of new year’s bullshit, so I’ll leave it there. I am actually going out to dinner tonight at Alias. I could pretty much live on their BBQ ribs and onion rings (at least until I keeled over from a heart blockage.) Until then, I need to keep working on the still-unnamed next book. I think until it has a name, I will simply call it Book Three from now on. Anyway, Book Three is going good, and I hope to at least get the first third done in the next month or two so I can let some other people read it and see if I’m crazy or not.

(BTW, still thinking about that ten-year journal book. I’m thinking a good title would be “This is not a Blog”. From 4/10/97 to today, I have 702 entries and about 496,000 words. I think War and Peace is about 550,000 words, to give you an idea of magnitude. Of course, once I edit out all of the stupid shit, it’s like 32,000 words. I’m also thinking of pulling in some bits from my paper journals, and there will be a certain amount of new content, essays explaining things and why the hell I did this anyway. But I need to work on the aforementioned Book Three first, so this is a side project, as if I have time for side projects.)

Year in review blues

It seems like every blog and news site out there is currently stuck in the “year in review” and “new year’s resolution” modes. First, I have to say that being away from your usual routine of reading crap on the web has done wonders for showing me what bullshit some of my regular reads are. But the typical year-end dreck does the same. And it knocks away any desire to write similar stuff here. It would take me far too much work to dredge up a list of what I read in 2006, and a) nobody really gives a shit and b) you could go back and read the old entries and find out yourself what I read.

That said, I now have about 20 or 30 new books to read, and had to ship most of them back here, then had to carry them home on the subway today. In addition to having two wrenched-out arms and a neck injury from the strap of my overloaded messenger bag, I now have enough reading to last me a little while. I read Terry Southern’s collection, Now Dig This, which started with some very hilarious, Hunter Thompson-style stories, then slowly descended into overblown glossy mag pieces and overworded reviews of stuff I don’t give a shit about. Still, I should dig into his other stuff, when I need to buy more books. Right now, I need to find space for books. I hope when John is here for the start of his book tour, I can unload a dozen or two copies of the annotated Rumored on him as freebie giveaways, and I’ve probably got some reorganizing and skimming of old/redundant crap for the library donation pile.

Speaking of crap, I got the blurb.com book back from the printer, and it’s okay, but not for the price. The hardcover was $40, and the paper is not as thick as I would have liked. It had the sort of “ripple” effect in places that you’d see if you did a lot of color printing on standard photocopier paper. It’s not bad, but it’s not incredible either. Seeing it in actual dimensions and thickness (or thinness, rather) made me not love it. If it was half that price, I would totally be gung-ho about it, but I guess I’ll stick to text books from now on.

I’ve had a little more time to watch DVDs lately, for some reason. I really, really liked Talladega Nights, and now I have my own copy of the DVD, so I’m sure I will watch it a million times more. I never saw Canadian Bacon until the other night – first it was in only three theaters and/or I was too busy repeatedly watching Seven or whatever, and then later I was reluctant to see it because it was directed by Michael Moore. It was pretty damn funny, especially with all of the anti-Canada stuff, although toward the end it borrowed a bit too much from Doctor Strangelove. And I just watched the Tom Green Subway Monkey Hour (or whatever it is called), which is a one-hour special of his old show in Tokyo. Combining an abnormally polite society with Tom Green is not a good mixture, but it was hilarious. My favorite segment was when he went to a sushi restaurant with the rotating conveyor belt of sushi, and put a running vibrator and a digital camcorder on there, hilarity ensues. I still have the Beatles anthology unopened on my desk. And Guitar Hero awaits.

Time for supper. BTW, no I am not going to Times Square for New Year’s Eve. Nobody really does that – it’s an elaborate plot to get you to buy shit.

End of year shuffle

Jesus Christ. If you dig around in the archives, you will find mention of the fact that every year, because of a design decision made back in 1997, I have to do this whole firedrill of moving all of last year’s entries into another directory, starting a new one, and of course, fucking it all up because I forget where everything goes because I only do this once a year. And yes, all of you fucks can start with the BUT WHY DONT YOU JUST SWITCH TO WORDPRESS shit, and I will write the clue on the end of a baseball bat and swing it into your eye: this was around before the term “blog” was even invented, let alone blog software. Also, it all sucks. So today, I started hacking away on a new scheme to put all of the entries in one big directory and somehow link it all together without fucking everything up. I think I have accomplished that now, although the archives pages are slightly fucked up at the moment. And I am sure it will all be broken on your browser, or if you type the entire swahili alphabet on the end of the URL, or whatever. But it’s largely functional, and I won’t be worrying about this as the ball drops.

Anyway, I am back from Christmas in Milwaukee. I did not announce it on this site (or did I?) largely because of the amount of unending shit I get whenever I mention even the slightest shred of truth on here. But we took off for about a week, and I had a lot of fun with Sarah’s family. I went to a Marquette basketball game, which was my first non-high school basketball game I’ve ever seen. (Okay, technically I saw a lot of elementary school ones when I played in the 6th grade.) The game was interesting because we had very good seats – Sarah’s grandfather taught law there decades ago, which means he has good season tickets. They played another team that may or may not have been a high school or maybe Ivy Tech campus, because they played like shit. I think our average 9th grade PE class teams could have beat them. But it was still fun to watch.

I also went to a hockey game the other night, Milwaukee’s AHL team against Chicago’s. I have no idea at all how hockey is played, aside from the fact that you get a puck in a goal, and it involves skating. Watching the game confused me even more. I don’t think any goal could have been anything other than an accident, because it took so much effort to get the puck across the ice, and then someone else would inevitably knock it back. I found it weird too that players go in and out of the game while game play is in motion, and when they are taken out for a penalty, they aren’t replaced, meaning lopsided teams. I was also amazed at the amount of general violence that is tolerated by the refs, and the fact that the AHL all but guarantees a fight per game. We had two fights, and they were all-out slugfests, while the refs stood an arm’s length away and basically watched. The violence and general fan atmosphere was very cool, but the fact that one of the guys I went with had been to a dozen games that year and still hadn’t seen the Admirals win was a big turn-off.

Christmas was good – I got a million books and some DVDs, including the Beatles Anthology set. I ate way too much, both in restaurants and at two family-cooked dinners. We went with Sarah’s dad’s family to a Serbian restaurant, which was way too much food, but a good house band and hilarious Serbian waitress. I ate at a diner where Clinton and Helmut Kohl ate in 1996, which was weird. I also had a pre-bball Friday fish fry, which is somewhat of a tradition in Milwaukee. We went to an IHOP twice, both times good, except that they make me miss having one just down the street, like in Seattle. My only bratwurst was at the hockey game, and it was fairly bad. Everything else was excellent, albeit too excellent, and I’m glad to get back on a boring and regular diet here.

The one other thing is that Sarah’s sister’s boyfriend had an ’84 Plymouth Turismo almost identical to the one I had that blew up. It was reddish instead of grey on the outside, but the interior was the same burgandy. His car had all of the same problems mine did: sticky doors, fucked up locks, shitty shifter linkage, messed up heater, busted dash lights, noisy CV, the whole thing. I should have told him to keep a fire extinguisher and/or a disposable camera in there, although he says he’s dumping it soon for something else.

Another thing to mention is that I have been wasting a lot of time playing Guitar Hero for the PS2. It is a game that comes with a plastic toy guitar that has five buttons on the neck, a switch where you’d pick, and a whammy bar. You plug it in the PlayStation, and then have to play various songs. It’s a lot like the dance-oriented things with the floor mats, where you step on different colors at different times, but instead, you’re pressing buttons on the guitar neck and strumming the fake pick switch thing. It has a lot of metal-oriented songs, and starts easy, then gets very hard. Anyway, lots of fun.

Okay, time to not think about this PHP crap and think about dinner.

Places I’ve Been

My book is done! Check it out here: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/31228.

It is called Places I’ve Been: From Amsterdam to Alaska in Pictures. (Yeah, I know, lame title.) It’s a 10×8 book, hardcover or softcover, 94 pages, and it’s all color heavyweight coated stock. I threw in a lot of photos from Amsterdam and Alaska, plus Hawaii, Las Vegas, Berlin, New York, the deserts of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, and a few other odds and ends. There’s also a bit of text here and there under or next to photos, but nothing major. It’s extremely expensive at $29.99 softcover or $37.50 hardcover, but I don’t expect many people to buy this one. But check out the preview, and let me know what you think.

Creating the book on blurb.com was a lot of fun, although it ran slower than hell on my Mac Mini. The program has some fancy templates, and you drag in your stuff and make a book. It’s more advanced than what I do on lulu, but the same basic concept. I’m excited to see the final product, although it will probably get here after the holidays.

I was thinking of doing my big year-end, weird crap I read that you should check out list, maybe before the holiday so you can burn off those stray Amazon gift certificates that seem to collect over xmas. I will of course mention things out in 2007 you should preorder and things out now you might enjoy (oh wait, that one isn’t on Amazon.) Sort of a ghost of Christmas past/future thing. I’ll work on that when I have time to dig through the list of what I’ve read in 2006.

Oh, and I got some steaks from my mom yesterday via UPS, which meant dry ice. FUN!

Current projects I will never finish

I put Past Masters Vol 2 on shuffle yesterday and now I have “Hey Jude” stuck in my head. I also listened to the song “Rain” 58 times, and I am convinced that the Beatles were real, real, real, real high.

There is a good article about John Sheppard in Time Out Chicago. Go read it.

I was talking to Vijay Prozac the other night and he asked about what my current projects were. And it’s a hard question to answer, because I have like 20 things up on blocks and half assembled, like Trans Ams in a redneck’s front yard. So I thought it would be fun to make a list:

  • Untitled photo book (Temporarily titled “Places I’ve Been”) – a maybe 100 page glossy coffeetable book that is tons of photos from various trips I’ve taken in the last six years. It has taken forever because a) the BookSmart software is painfully slow on my Mac and b) it’s very hard to look at a thousand photos and find the best six. This book will be publically available from blurb.com, but it will be like $40-$50 so I expect nobody to buy it. But if I owe you a birthday gift over the next year or two, this is what you might get.
  • Book #3 (at one time titled “Zombie Fever!”) – This was an absurdist book about a zombie epidemic, written at a time when I thought it was funny to write a zombie book. The zombie thing has been so thoroughly driven into the ground in the last couple of years (spearheaded by that total piece of shit Romero film last year) that I took out all of the zombie stuff and started over. It’s now a very Apocalypse Now-oriented (which of my books isn’t) story about a guy trying to assassinate a Columbian drug kingpin in Las Vegas who is obsessed with Scarface and Carl’s Jr. and stockpiling plutonium, but meanwhile an alien invasion is about to happen, and a bunch of other stuff. There are one or two little pieces of The Device, a book that was part of Rumored to Exist, and there are some pieces of Rumored that didn’t make it into the final draft. I am almost a third done with it, but it’s going slow.
  • Tenth Anniversary book of this journal – I’ve been thinking about it a lot. On 1/1/07 I will start throwing crap against a wall to see what sticks. Then I’ll start going through the journal and see what I want to keep. (The crap part is just a side hobby of mine.)
  • Memoir Book – I have a bunch of notes on a memoir book I want to write. I bet David Sedaris is really shitting himself about now, right?
  • Six Year Plan – I still have this pile of stories about Bloomington I want to somehow shore up into a readable book. It probably won’t happen anytime soon, even though I have 100,000 words invested into it.
  • Air in the Paragraph Line #12 – Yes, that will happen sometime in 07.
  • Fake self-help book – I have like two or three perfect chapters, and someday I will finish it. Maybe I will do a glossy color book in one of those odd pocket sizes with glossy pictures of business people shaking hands or whatever. I also have this vague idea to do one of those half-size books in calendar form, with 365 days of negative and pessimistic thoughts on it, i.e. “December 15 – Remember that for every project that you worked on that failed, the common denominator was that you were somehow involved.”
  • Nonfiction book containing Larry Falli’s theories on earwax and clown makeup – Someday this masterwork will be completed.

Okay, my half-hour of UV light is done. Time to take a shower and go off to the slaughterhouse.

South Bend Indiana in works of great literature

I’ve been sick since about Friday or so. It’s the usual December 0% humidity, everyone else is sick sort of thing that gets me every year. Vitamins have kept it semi-controllable, but I wish I could sleep 20 hours a night until it went away. And that doesn’t jive with getting any work done, or with my whole blue light/wake earlier plan, which is largely derailed now. (Although I’m trying to get a little artificial sun in as we speak.)

I did finish reading that Edward Bunker book Education of a Felon. I liked it a lot, aside from the fact that there’s an abrupt ending, and the two halves of the book are very lopsided. I was at the 50% mark, thinking the book was about over, and then the second half went by much faster. It’s one of those “why won’t he learn his lesson” things, and it’s not the typical two strikes and then a home run that you see in almost all formulaic writing. While the book started with this Bukowski-like description of old timey Los Angeles, he ended up in this fierce depiction of prison life and violence. And in the late 60s/early 70s, the shit really hit the fan as race relations became a full-on war within the walls of San Quentin and other big prisons. Part of this pissed me off, the whole black panthers/Angela Davis agenda, which was basically to kill whitey. Anyway, showing another point of view for that made it interesting.

And the weirdest coincidence was when he was on the lam and left California in an old car, intending to drive to New York and check out some jazz clubs or whatever. On his way in the freezing winter, his car died in… South Bend, Indiana. This is like in Kerouac’s On the Road there’s a reference in there somewhere that he was on a Greyhound bus and they stopped in South Bend. Every time I re-read that book (which is maybe once a year), I always stop and laugh at that point.

I’m reading Mikal Gilmore’s rock essay book Night Beat now. What’s weird is that I totally don’t remember buying it. I have an old copy (it may be out of print) and it has no jacket, so it anonymously hid on my shelves for maybe a year or so. Or maybe someone gave it to me, I don’t know. I was looking for another book the other day and flipped it open and read a page and thought it looked pretty damn cool, so I’m on that. And what’s weirder is that I didn’t realize until halfway through the introduction (and weirder still, I never read introductions, because after you write a few, you realize they are bullshit) I found out that his older brother was Gary Gilmore, aka the guy executed by firing squad in Utah in 1976. I guess he (Mikal) wrote a book about that (there’s also Norman Mailer’s hugely successful The Executioner’s Song) so I’ll have to check that out.

Reading a book of essays is a good warmup for thinking about taking ten years of journal and compressing it into a couple hundred pages of book. The first question: sequential, or by topic? Maybe I will read everything and the only topics will be “out of town” and “the weather today”. Maybe it’s better to have things date-ordered because of references and whatnot. The next obvious question: do you edit the entries? When I did the annotated Rumored to Exist, I did not remove a single typo – I just annotated the mistakes. A certain zine editor I know (think small fonts) was absolutely flabbergasted that I would not make the changes. But to me, that was the past, and I could make a second edition with the corrections, but the purpose was to annotate the first edition. The Dead Sea Scrolls have not been copyedited or spellchecked for the same reason. On the other hand, the second edition of Summer Rain did have mistakes fixed. I didn’t do much more than minor copyedit changes, because I was happy with the story and I was mostly just re-setting the book into a new format at a different printer.

What’s between the two? Gilmore took a bunch of old essays he wrote for Rolling Stone and a scad of other papers and magazines, and basically re-poured them, thinking about them more, adding strength, adding content that makes it more purposeful. It’s like restoring a ’47 Chevy to look just like a ’47 Chevy, but maybe it’s got an electronic ignition not invented until the 70s, and there’s resin glue or fiberglass or whatever in the structure that wasn’t around, either. This thought makes me want to cut apart all of the entries, try to take the ones that worked best or mattered the most to me, and then edit or extend them until they are great. And yeah, that isn’t a compilation, like a greatest hits album, so maybe it goes against the spirit, but it’s also a hell of a lot better of a product.

Or I won’t do shit and just fester about this for months. Who knows. I do know I have finished all of my xmas shopping except Sarah. I keep threatening to get her either a Fry Daddy or a Playstation 3, but in reality, I need to think of something better.

Okay, time to sudafed up and read this book.

Another book idea

Okay, I have decided (until I possibly flip-flop a month from now) that I will be doing a ten-year anniversary book for this journal. I’ll start on it after the new year. I don’t think I want to do it in a chronological order, though. I’m thinking about grouping things vaguely by topic or something. And I’ll add in a few “why I did this” essays to break up the monotony. It will be on lulu, and I will try to make it as cheap as possible, although I don’t forsee selling more than like five copies. Anyway, if you have any favorite entries from over the years, or have any other ideas on what I should include, let me know.

An excellent review of Air in the Paragraph Line is located at http://www.anus.com/zine/books/. Don’t worry about the URL, it is not a porn site or anything. The disclaimer I will add is that it was written by a contributor. But I agree with what he says, and I’ll take any publicity I can get.

Speaking of which, this journal anniversary reminded me that this year is the decade anniversary of Air in the Paragraph Line. I wish I would have thought of this earlier and somehow hyped this up. Most blogs and web sites are old geezers when they reach the one year mark, but I’ve been doing the zine since before a lot of people even knew there was an internet. Maybe I will send out a press release or something. And an email from John Sheppard had me thinking about the next themed issue. Maybe it will be another component of life, like death, love, hate, sex, food, something. I’m not sure at this point. I am also vaguely wishing I would have gone ISBN/Barcode/distro with this one. It’s a lot like wondering what you’re going to bet on the superbowl before the season begins.

The all-consuming thing for this week has been Blurb, a service where you can put together glossy color books. I guess lulu lets you do this too, but Blurb has a wizard program you download that has templates you stuff with photos to make very pro looking books. So I’m messing with a travel book. It will be prohibitively expensive, maybe $30-40 hardcover, but I plan on just printing one or two for myself, and then putting it out there in case anyone else wants one. I wish I would have thought of this a month ago; I would have used it to make xmas gifts.

Okay, time for lunch.

Light box thing

As of yesterday, issue #11 of Air in the Paragraph Line outsold issue #10. It’s also the best-selling of my lulu books, except for the annotated version of Rumored to Exist. I still wish I could find some scheme to move more copies. I’ve been hearing good things from the first copies that went to contributors, too. I’m still only about 25% on my way to breaking even, but I’m just glad it’s selling copies. (I also doubled the number of copies sold of The Necrokonicon, which isn’t that big of a deal, because it went from 2 to 4.)

I am still working on this getting up earlier thing, with this light box thing, but I’ve still been very out of sync. I have slept maybe two hours a night less, plus woke about an hour earlier, which normally would be pure chaos. With a half-hour of the light at 50%, it makes it somewhat bearable, but by the time I get home at night, I’m demolished. I think a lot of it has to do with breakfast, which I never eat. When I get to work at ten, it’s not hard to coast to lunch at noon. When I wake up six hours before lunch, it’s a catastrophe. So maybe I need to invest in some Count Chocula and a gallon of milk.

The other thing I’ve noticed sofar is that I can’t really focus on writing in the morning yet. It’s a good time to catch up on the web and my email, but I’ve been meaning to start writing journal entries in the morning, and I have been a total blank. I also have Christmas cards to send out, and I haven’t even started on that. Writing from 9 to midnight back in the day was much easier than writing from 6 to 9 in the morning.

And in slightly related news, I think my knee is fucked up again. I don’t know what I did, but it went out in the same way as last spring, starting maybe last night, and has been getting progressively worse. I’m not back on a cane yet, and I only briefly went back to my brace, but it keeps getting worse, so I think I might be full-on crippled by Monday. I bought one of those self-contained, gel-inside icepack things that velcro around your leg, so maybe that helps. Oh, and Tylenol-3 is always good. It’s extremely depressing to be back in this state, though. And putting on ice is much less pleasing when it’s 32 outside instead of 87.

Okay, I need to start on these fucking greeting cards.

Full spectrum

I bought a full-spectrum light box. It’s actually not a box, but a bunch of weird-colored LED lights in a thing that’s about the size of a portable CD player or alarm clock. It’s used for light therapy, to allegedly curtail seasonal affective disorder and mess around with your sleep cycle in some beneficial way. I probably should have bought one of these when I lived in Seattle, when I was pretty much ready to hang myself by December of each year. I was skeptical, but I’ve read more about it, and a doctor told me to try it. I’m also always keen on spending sums of money on things I will use three or four times and then pack in the closet. Actually, I’m hoping to slowly wake up earlier and sit in front of the light as I’m at my computer, typing away at… well, whatever I should be doing on here.

Next year is the ten-year anniversary of this journal. Sure, there weren’t ten solid years of updates, but 4/10/07 will be ten years from the first update. I’ve thought about doing a ten-year book or zine or collection or something. (Actually, I got the idea because Julie at apeculture.com was talking about doing it for her site.) There are basically three reasons why I’m not sure I would do it. The first is that I did this already for the Seattle years of the journal. Second is that despite it being very readable, it sold almost no copies. And third, I’d have to dig through all of this shit and figure out how to do it in such a way that’s neat or funny or cool or something. Every once in a while, when I’m truly bored, I go back and read a bunch of old entries and find some real gems in there. But I wrote them, so I don’t know if they would be as interesting to others.

Not much else to report. I’m doing christmas cards and still reading the Bunker book, which is still pretty good. It reminds me of Papillion in places, except written a little better and no-bullshit. I’ll have to check out his fiction books sometime soon.

The pain of weekly updates

I was digging around old journal entries, and it bothers me that I now write in here once a week, at best, and back in 1997, I wrote longer entries on a daily basis. I’ve been thinking about this because the end of the year is approaching, and I have to do the annual firedrill of moving the old entries and creating a directory and index for the new, and due to the antiquated system I use to do this, it’s always a pain in the ass. (Yes, I know, I should install WordPress. And you should go fuck yourself.)

Anyway, the weekly update bothers me because it emphasizes that from Monday morning to Friday evening, I basically have to write off that time, and that period isn’t part of my life. When I get home from work, I no longer write or do anything or live – I eat a meal, spend an hour or two with Sarah, then go to bed. I can’t write books a day a week, and I don’t want to add some extra activity to my life that will distract me even more and make me feel like my weeks are even shorter than the 48 hours currently alloted. It’s hard enough to not think about work for 48 hours, and maybe get a movie and a single update into this thing during that time. I seriously think I should quit my job with no notice and become a dishwasher, or start heavily drinking, or maybe both. (Especially if the restaurant where I was a dishwasher gave me a discount on liquor.)

I finished reading the Jonathan Ames book I Love You More Than You Know, which wasn’t bad – more articles. The themes start to repeat themselves: the son, the alcoholism, the trannies, the parents, the self-deprecation. I think Marie mentioned in the comments a couple of weeks ago about his lack of shame being a reason not to like him. And I think it’s a double-edged sword – a lack of shame can cause you to confess some really hilarious stuff that works out into a good story. But it can also cause you to be really annoying and redundant. Bukowski had the same lack of shame, and it’s no secret that Ames was a big fan of his work, and largely followed the same formula Buk did in his early days of writing columns for Open City. Or maybe having to write a weekly column leads you into the same trap, I dunno. But Bukowski’s parents were horrible, and beat the shit out of him. He escaped them into a world of alcoholism and skid-row slumhouses, instead of asking dad for a handout every week and an open invitation to move back in his old room when things didn’t work out. I appreciate the brutal honesty schtick, but it might be more interesting if his parents didn’t foster it, but rather turned against him because of it. Ditto for the son. Some of the stories are good, but the extremeness of them is diluted because you know he’s going to escape back to a comfy family life, and there are no real consequences.

That said, I didn’t find out until just last night that Ames was a visiting professor at IU from 2000-2001. That really spent my mind spinning, wondering if he was at Bullwinkle’s a lot, or the main library, or what. That’s about when Summer Rain came out, a time when I had Bloomington on my mind something fierce. Weird.

Speaking of Bukowski, I started reading Edward Bunker’s Education of a Felon. It’s interesting sofar – Bunker was a career criminal in California, from his youth, up until his twenties, when he did a stretch in San Quentin. (He’s actually the youngest prisoner that ever did time there.) He was smart but uneducated, and slowly started reading books and writing letters and articles, and got to the point where he sold a book while in prison. He went straight then, and focused on writing. EoaF is a biography, a story of his youth. It reminds me a lot of Bukowski’s Ham on Rye. Bunker was 13 years his junior, but the stories of the pre-fake-Hollywood tinseltown, the streetcars and farm fields where there are now condos, all tie in with Bukowski’s imagery of his hometown. Of course, Bunker’s stories descended into youth wards, county jails, hard time, heavy crime, drug dealing, and bank robberies. Some of the machismo is similar, and it made me wonder if Bukowsi ever ran into him in later years.

A better comparison is the Jack Black book You Can’t Win. No, it isn’t the Jack Black that was in King Kong and Nacho Libre. It was a penname for a criminal turned writer in the 1920s, the same conversion as Bunker’s, but a decade before he was born. Black’s book showed the childhood swindling, and on to the criminal arts. With a bit of humor and a good sense of detail, he shows you the crime, then shows you why it’s impossible to pull it off without someone snitching and getting your ass thrown behind bars. It reminded me in some ways to Neal Cassidy’s The First Third, which is coincidental, in that William S. Burroughs loved You Can’t Win, and if you’re a fan of WSB, you’ll see where he gets some of his dry wit.

The one bad thing about this Edward Bunker book is that it’s very small type, set in very narrow rows, and the book is wide. With his long sentences, I’m constantly finding my eyes get to the end of the line, return to the left, and then wander up or down a line or six, making it impossible to read at speed. I really hate when books are laid out like this. I’d seriously pay the extra dollar if a bit more margin or spacing added an extra 50 pages to the length.

Something something something else here, I can’t think of how to end this, so something something something.