Call of Lack of Writing

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I’m 36 today. It’s another nice round number, and I guess I think about that every year. 30 was big, 35 was halfway between 30 and 40, and 36 means I’m approaching 40. I like 36 better than I will probably like 37; I didn’t like 27 either, for some reason. But it always has me thinking of different intervals, points of life, and whatever else.

For example, I remember when I was 23. I had pneumonia and I was stuck in my apartment in Colonial Crest in Bloomington. 21 was legal drinking age, 22 was a nice even number, and then there was 23, normally not significant. But when I was born, both of my parents were 23. They were adults, with a kid, on the path of the rest of their life. And at 23, I totally didn’t have my shit together; I was living in a student ghetto, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my academic life let alone my life life. My biggest aspiration at the time was to get a Game Boy. It was a real slap in the face to think about how much I needed to get myself together.

The thing that gets me about 36 is that my 18th birthday was half a lifetime away. I am 18 times two today. I remember being in the parking lot of Concord High School on January 20, 1989, a Friday, getting ready to leave for the day. I was listening to the Anthrax cover of “I’m Eighteen”, which is kindof pathetic, but I loved it. I went out with my friend Julia that night and went to the movies to see _Naked Gun_, which I thought was the pinnacle of humor at the time. And I guess the stuff in my head then, the desire to get the hell out of the small town and to a place where people didn’t think “book learnin’” was “for faggots” pretty much overshadowed everything else.

And like I said the other day, 36 is halfway to 72, and I have no idea how I will make it that far, aside from bionics or something. Maybe I should eat something healthy before I go to this 15-course dinner tonight.

My big gift from Sarah was a PlayStation 3. (see here.) It’s very very neat. My goal is now to get this book done before they get GTA 4, SOCOM, or an Ace Combat game launched, because otherwise, it will never get done.

Speaking of, I want to get in some Call of Duty 3…

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Per Se

Christ, it’s early. I’ve been trying to shift the bulk of my book writing to mornings before work, since I can’t work out a good block of time in the evenings to get any work done. I’d rather get a couple of hours of good writing in and go to the office exhausted, rather than sleep in, work, and then come home exhausted and try to write. Despite the early hour (I’ve already showered and eaten at this point) I have been getting a lot of work done on Untitled Book Three. I broke 39,000 words last night, and I’m trying hard to get 40K by tomorrow. The first draft is almost a third done. Unfortunately, when I finish the first third, there will be a huge amount of dicking around with the outline and story before I can really launch into part 2 of 3.

I turn 36 tomorrow. We are going to Per Se for dinner, which should be incredible. (here is a good review.) Aside from that, I haven’t even thought about the birthday much. This is the first year since 1999 I have not been in Vegas on 1/20, which is odd. We are going in a couple of weeks, but it will be weird. Birthdays are a lot less “whee, presents!” for me these days, and a lot more “christ, I am old”. This year’s current revalation is that I am exactly halfway to my SSI-mandated retirement. I have a list of mechanical problems a page long, so I don’t know how I will make it that far, let alone live happy for decades after. I need to start thinking about early retirement.

Speaking of, I got my quarterly 401K statement, which was the best birthday present ever, because for whatever reason, I’m making an insane amount of interest on that thing. I added it up last night and if I take 401K + IRA + savings + checking + value of my land + upcoming tax refunds + upcoming bonuses + flex spending account – all debt, it’s still a six-digit number. When I think back, at 26, I was at a grand total of about minus $20,000. The realization that I’m entirely in the black right now is a sudden and incredible thing, like the point maybe ten years ago when I realized that I was completely independent from my parents. So maybe I will finish before I’m 72.

I finished the Wright brothers bio. One thing that I find incredible is that their claim to being the first to fly was fiercely contested and debated until probably the second world war. And you’ll still find dickheads on the internet (probably all French or contrarians, or both) that will argue against them. Anyway, that was a good book. Now I am reading Julia Child’s book (ironically, about being in France.) Sarah read it, and I found it interesting for whatever reason, so I started it. It’s a good book, with very charming prose describing postwar Paris. The only problem is that it talks about food a lot, so it’s not the best thing to read right before lunch or anything, because it will make you even more starving.

Oh, when we were upstate this weekend, we went to a mammoth aircraft hanger grocery store, and I found 20,000 products I never knew existed. There were at least a dozen flavors of Doritos I’d never even contemplated. I got a box of Cheez-It crackers that are both cheddar and ranch in the same thing, a product I will probably never see again. And that’s probably a good thing, because they are insanely good. If I lived within striking distance of one of these huge stores, I would probably need to be cut out of my house by the fire department two or three years later.

Crap, I’ve wasted too much time here. Gotta get writing!

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I’m in the New Yorker

I mentioned a while ago that someone from the New Yorker was talking to me about the whole Adam Gadahn thing. The story is the lead article in the current issue of the New Yorker, here. It’s by Raffi khatchadourian, who did a hell of a lot of research on the subject. I think he was the one reporter who “got it” more than others, with regard to the whole death metal thing. And he managed to dredge up a lot of details I never heard about, and I’ve read pretty much every article about him in the last few years. The article’s online, so check it out.

I babbled about the iPhone last entry, and that led me to get a Sidekick 3. I know the two are barely related, but I figured I’d rather get something for $200 and $30 a month that did 90% of what I wanted right now, as opposed to waiting 6-12 months for something that cost $800 plus $100 a month for something that did 70% of the things and looked neato.

This is my second sidekick – I was an early adopter of the first version, and it was pretty neat back then. It came in especially handy on my first trip to hawaii, where I was able to keep up with AIM conversations and email and web browsing without bringing a laptop. It was also nice on my jury duty stint, so I could spent my lunches outside reading the web, instead of sitting in an ancient building watching soap opera reruns on prison TVs. The new one has some plusses: it has a camera, more updated software, and it’s color. It also has a music player (worthless to this iPod owner, but still) and it uses SD memory for its junk. The big difference is that now I can get a $30 unlimited data/no voice plan instead of a $60 unlimited data/crappy voice plan, which is a noticeable savings for me, and I never use it for voice calls anyway. (I can if I need to, it just costs .20 a minute.)

Downsides to the 3 versus the 1: the keyboard has slightly glossy keys, as opposed to the slightly rubbery ones in the original. It uses a tiny trackball instead of a scroll wheel on the right side, which I don’t like as much, but I guess it’s better for games. The phone controls are more awkward, and I will probably accidentally dial more calls than I legitimately make. And the styling is not as neat as it once was. The original grey on grey looks made it more of a Star Trek device than a consumer ugliness device. Oh well.

If you’re so inclined, you can now reach me on this thing by sending email to my gmail address. If you don’t know it, it’s not hard to figure out. It’s basically the same as my rumored address. If you don’t know that, you probably stopped paying attention like ten years ago. Actually, even more than that, since it was also my username at IU since like 1989.

Still reading the Orville and Wilbur Wright bio. Good stuff. And we were out of town this weekend, but no huge stories. Just a good dinner, a night in the country, and hanging out with friends. We also shopped at Target, which is a moral imperative anything I leave this tiny island for a place with real shopping and groceries.

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On the firing of a dentist

Tuesday night, right before I left work, I broke a filling in one of my molars. It’s the third tooth up from the back, on the bottom, and it has a silver (or silver-color) filling that’s sort of bowtie-shaped on the top of the circular tooth. It has always bugged me since I got it, because food gets caught between the teeth and I have to floss it out. Well, this time, when I went to floss it, it felt like a giant seed or pit or something was stuck in there and I couldn’t get it loose. I went to a mirror and saw that the entire back part of the filling was loose, and I was actually lifting that out with the floss. Cue panic.

I called my dentist, the guy who is right next to my house and who did the half-ass work, and he was just leaving and said he couldn’t do it unless I came in on Thursday and sat around all day. I had visions of swallowing the filling and having white-hot pain for days and the inability to eat solids, so I started googling “emergency dentist New York”, cost be damned. I eventually found a guy who would take me at 9:00 the next morning, for $300 plus the cost of any repair. I then went home and ate macaroni and cheese, which you can pretty much drink if you make it soft enough, and went to bed with great worry in my head.

The new dentist was good. Fast, courteous, he took an x-ray and explained the situation. The old dentist did a shit job of putting on the filling, and it didn’t fit flush to the tooth in the back. So all that food from the last few months got caught under there and eroded away the tooth underneath, making it come loose. Even I could see the problem on the x-ray. (Of course, I’ve had a little more practice looking at dental x-rays than the average person.) He drilled out the back part of the filling, put in this temporary cement filling stuff that looks like thick white-out, and we made an appointment to do a real repair this month. I thought of going back to the old dentist, bitching him out, and trying to get some work for free, but if he’s going to do a piss-poor job on the repair and make it all repeat itself in three months, forget it.

The new guy, oddly enough, is the team dentist for the Yankees. He doesn’t keep a regular practice, just this emergency service and other appointment-only work. He’s also a baseball photographer, and googling his name brought up a million SI and API photo credits, which is pretty weird. At least I’m not a fervent Red Sox fan or anything.

So between the stress of my back (which is almost better, but not quite), the stress of my tooth, the stress of my stupid job, and don’t forget tax season comes soon, I haven’t been getting much done. I’m still reading journal entries, making minor snips and edits, and pushing them into one of the howevermany categories. I think there will be a rather large “other” category, though. I’m also reading this biography of the Wright brothers, which is old but very good. Very weird to hear the stories of their ancestors; I can’t imagine moving to Richmond, Indiana and having your entire family killed by Indians.

I’m also working my way through the Beatles Anthology DVDs, an episode a night. (There are, I think 8 episodes plus extras, two per DVD, each one being about 80 minutes long.) I am three episodes in, and the beginning of Beatlemania has happened, along with their first movie. It’s all good, but it’s also somewhat annoying that at this point, they play pretty much the same eight songs over and over. I can’t wait for another album or two to come out to get some more stuff going. But the interviews are great, and they’ve spliced in a lot of home movies the band took on trips abroad, old TV footage, fan-shot movies, radio recordings, the whole nine yards. They must have some heavy-duty archivalists at Apple Corps.

Speaking of Apple, no, I’m not getting an iPhone. They look very nice, but at ~$700 plus maybe $100 a month on the calling plan, that’s a hefty chunk of change just to browse the web on a tiny screen. I think if I was so inclined, I would just get a Blackberry or a Sidekick. I think a Sidekick is like $200 + plan, which is $30 for data and then whatever for voice. I dunno, maybe.

Okay, time for work. A short day, and then a long weekend. We will be going out of town on Saturday/Sunday, so that’s good. That’s all.

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A million entries, a dozen categories

Compiling this journal book has been harder than I thought. I have a million journal entries, but they all fall into one of the following categories:

  • The weather
  • How I’m sick
  • What I’m reading
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Long, rambling stories about the past
  • Travel diaries
  • Bad stuff that happened
  • Why I hate New York
  • What I miss about Indiana/Seattle
  • Unfinished or rejected stories I decided to post to get rid of them

Or a combination of the above.

I’m now trying to categorize things into each of the above and have a section of the book of each, which is similar to that Mikal Gilmore book of old articles, and isn’t as boring as a straight-up chronological thing. The trip essays from when I crossed the country in 1999 will be in there, maybe as an appendix. And I’m trying to dredge up either some paper journal entries, or some of the stuff I write in my not-published journal, so there will be new stuff that isn’t on the web. (Yes, I keep a journal on my computer that isn’t online, mostly for when I’m so disgusted with writing online, but I need to write about something.)

I’ve been taking codeine lately. Not large doses, but in Tylenol-3, for my back. The good thing is, it completely blows out the back pain, and makes me feel all nice and neat. But I can’t take it at work (or maybe I should) and it completely weirds out my dream cycle. I have a lot of really vivid, really abnormal dreams, but within five minutes of waking, I completely forget them, but still remember that I had them. I also wake up in the middle of the night with an incredible thirst for something really sweet. On Friday, I woke up in the middle of the night and drank half a gallon of Tropicana fruit punch without even thinking about it. The back’s just about better, so no more weird dreams.

I went back and re-read The Device, or at least what I had done, and it’s largely unusable. There are line 9 chapters of setup, before the plot starts. Then there’s no plot, no notes on the plot, nothing. I vaguely thought of stealing some of the premise of that book for the second act of the current book (not the journal one, the real one) and there’s no way. I might steal the most basic premise of it, and the title. It will mean this is the third book attempt with the same title, which might be bad. It’s like the car stereo I had that I used in three different cars, all of which ended up totalled. I think that happened with the parts off of James Dean’s car, too. Or maybe that was a Twilight Zone, I’m not sure.

Oh, I got the first Air in the Paragraph Line with a bar code yesterday. Neat.

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Unker’s Amish voodoo balm

Still hobbling around with a bad back, but I think it’s making progress. I must have really tore up some muscle. Heating pads and Ben Gay have helped a lot, though. My sister told me about some Amish cream called Unker’s that is supposed to work wonders, if you can find a place to buy it. The web site (unkerssalve.com) is pretty hilarious, because it looks like it was designed in 1996, and is full of Jesus quotes and whatnot. The sidebar says “Listed on FDA Over the Counter Drug Registry. / Listed as OTC Drug Manufacturer by the FDA. / Stays Active for Years / To God be the Glory / No Turpentine Used.” Well, I’m glad they got out the turpentine. Her friend’s mom buys it by the case, because she blew out her knees praying. That’s a pretty good testimonial for atheism, especially to someone that spent about two months of 2006 in bed with a blown out knee.

I’m reading The Good German by Joseph Kanon, and I’ve got to say it’s a pretty damn decent book sofar. Yes, it’s a George Clooney vehicle on the silver screen, but the book is a lot more than that. It’s set in Berlin, the summer of 1945, when the occupation forces are trying to get things cleaned up and un-Nazified. The Russians and Americans are vying for their pieces in what will be a strongly divided pie in the future. The city is absolutely fucked – buildings smashed, no utilities, no coal for the upcoming winter, everyone shifting around the city, looting, cutting down trees in parks and city streets covertly at night for fireplace fuel. Cigarettes have become the new unoffical currency as a black market flourishes around silk, B-rations, smokes, booze, prostitutes, and oil. The Russians were stupidly given a set of plates for the occupation money, and they’ve printed it nonstop, flooding the currency market. And every German that wants a job (street sweeper, guard, pallbearer, whatever) has to be checked out to make sure they weren’t a Nazi, which makes the market for fake reference letters and paperwork lucrative. (i.e. a letter saying “I knew Mr. Falli when we were in Treblinka together, and he’s totally not a Nazi. Signed Rabbi I.M. Fictional”)

Anuway, all of this is a good setting for an excellent page-turner about a reporter finding out a crime that’s hard to unravel. The other reason I like the book so much is that I was just in Berlin, so all of the geographical references are very familar to me: the Ku’Damm, Zoo Station, Brandenburg Tor, and so on. But in the 1945 version, instead of glass malls and new shopping centers, it’s abject destruction, with still-smoldering ruins of houses sliced in half by allied bombs, and the Reichstag half destroyed and covered by Russian graffiti from the troops that overtook the city. Hitler’s bunker is still there (it’s now a parking lot) and the Russians won’t let anyone in, but every Pentagon brass hothead wants a picture there to send back to the kids. It’s interesting to intersect the two Berlins in my head and absorb that story.

A similar thing happens to me when reading fiction set in New York. I bought American Psycho I think when I was in Seattle (maybe Indiana) and I couldn’t get three pages into it. After I moved here and got the general gist of the city in my head, I read the book and loved it. Same goes for Catcher in the Rye; I read it when I was in high school and just thought it was about a snotty kid. But when I was able to overlay my knowledge of where the streets and subways were, it made it come alive in a totally different way.

I got Guitar Hero 2, and I’ve wasted some time in the last two nights with that. It has a new feature where if you play at a certain level through a group of songs, you’re asked to do an encore, and it picks a new song that isn’t on the list, and is generally cooler. The first three encores were Spinal Tap – Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You, Kansas – Carry on My Wayward Son; and Black Sabbath – War Pigs. So that’s fun.

Time to get ready for work. I wish I had a little more time in the morning, so I could get working on this journal book, but I’d rather sleep. At least this is a short week – TGIT.

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Ring in the new year, wring out a spine

I seem to have rung in the new year by somehow wringing out my back. Something in my lower back is fucked, in an entirely different way than usual. I think it’s just tight muscles, and not some greater damage, but it always drives me nuts when this happens. Typically, in three days, it’s all over, but I spend the whole three days wondering if it’s something horribly worse and I need to see a doctor or a chiropractor. It would be helpful if I owned an MRI, or I had some kind of table or contraption that I could strap into that would mechanically snap my spine into correct position.

A lot is going on with the zine. The first thing is that issue #11 now has an ISBN: 978-1-4303-0628-3. It will be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders in a matter of weeks. The price at everywhere but lulu’s store is now $14.95; it’s still $10.95 at lulu. So if you’re morbidly afraid of their store, or hate their shipping options, or are very locked into Amazon’s wishlists and address book and all of that, you can now buy it. You pay $4 more on Amazon, and I make 50 cents less, plus I had to shell out a hundred bucks for the setup, but so many people think something isn’t real unless it’s on Amazon, that I felt I had to do it. So there.

The zine now has its own myspace page: myspace.com/aitpl. Feel free to add it to your friends and get… well, whatever you get out of MySpace. I haven’t really figured it out. It’s interesting because when I created the profile, I said the zine was female and slim/slender, and got a deluge of friend requests from dudes who are functionally illiterate but search solely on those two criteria. I changed it to male and then got a bunch of friend requests from strippers and whorey types that are probably just dudes. Some sociology grad student looking for ideas on research should probably get on this.

I’m also creating a soundtrack for the zine. It should be interesting, since three people have responded, and their songs are punk, country, and A3 (which is both and neither, I think.) More on that when I get more songs.

I also have the themes for the next two zines picked, and I’ve mentioned them to everyone who contributed to #11. I’ll talk about that more later – I’m more concerned with pushing this issue before I get rolling on the next one. If you’re really itching to write something for the next issue, email and I’ll tell you more.

I finished reading all of my journal entries from 2000 and 2002-2006. (I did not write during 2001, and I will probably write an essay explaining why.) I don’t know the exact division, but a bunch of entries talk about weather and my bitching about it; a bunch talk about how I’m sick; and a bunch talk about how I can’t write. I don’t know if those are interesting to anyone else, although sometimes the weather entries get pretty insane and hilarious when I’m dealing with the New York summers with no AC. What doesn’t fall into any of those categories gets into my longer essays, which I really do like. And a lot of those are reactions to some kind of media: book, movie, music, or whatever. Some are strictly reviews, but some are more interesting stories relating to some part of my past versus said media. I’m not sure why I’m explaining all of this, since there are a couple of links to the left that will show you everything, but the summary of all of it is interesting to me. Taking ten years of your life, cutting it in half, and looking at the layers like the rings in a tree trunk is always an interesting exercise.

Speaking of bitching about health, I’m going to take an hour-long shower to see if the hot water shakes out this spinal kink.

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Life Aquatic Stardust

It’s a New Year. It’s hard to believe it’s 2007, after spending forever in the 80s and 90s. It’s even weirder to think I retire in 2041, which sounds like a hugely futuristic year where we all have jetpacks and clones and bionic arms, although we will just have computers 50 times as fast and a version of Windows that runs 50 times slower, so it’s basically the same shit.

It was impossible to get out of bed and come in here to sit under the blue light for a while. There’s Seattle weather outside, 54 and everything covered in rain. We went to dinner last night, then came home and watched Dr. Strangelove for some reason. We watched about 8 minutes of the various Times Square crap to see the ball drop, and then went to bed. I’m getting old – I remember when midnight meant the start of the party, and now I’m pretty much dead by then. The neighborhood was pretty sedate, aside from some stupid fuck with what sounded like a bird call that wouldn’t shut up. There are many moments when I wish I had a sniper rifle and diplomatic immunity. Instead I had sleeping pills, so it all worked out well.

I think to continue my current cleaning binge, I will be removing names from the right of journals I read, and removing friends from my LiveJournal, in order to pare down the amount of stuff I read. I found that after my return, there’s a lot of stuff I simply don’t want to read anymore, because life’s too short. There’s also the issue that I seldom click on the links to the right; I just go to my friends list on LJ and read all of the posts. Unfortunately, it is impossible to remove someone from your LJ friends list without causing high drama, like I didn’t pick you for my 4th grade kickball team or something. Seriously, just because I met you at a party 10 years ago, I am not obligated to read your reposted memes and drama for the rest of my life.

My old pal Derik Rinehart has a band called Speechless that just came out with a CD. You can preorder it now, although I think it comes out in February. They also posted four songs on MySpace in that little media player that’s typically annoying, but works well in this case. It’s hard to describe the band, maybe prog-rock except with more of a metal edge and some slight jam band aspects, but not in a crappy way. Anyway, go to their myspace page to check it out.

Another CD I just ordered is the new Stuck Mojo album, available at their site. I never got into Stuck Mojo when they first came out, as I dismissed the idea of a metal/rap fusion as stupid. Since then, I’ve enjoyed Rich Ward’s work in Fozzy, Sick Speed, Cafu, and his solo album, so when Stuck Mojo came back around, I found it a lot more interesting. They are releasing their own CD now, trying to avoid the problems with record companies, which have repeatedly ripped them off. So you can get the tracks for free on MySpace, YouTube, and the web site, but you can also send them the ten bucks if you find it worthwhile. The new disc, called Southern Born Killers has a couple of weird, anti-terrorist songs that have been generating a buzz because of the politics, which I guess is a good way to sell some albums. Either way, it’s interesting.

I also got a gift card for iTunes that I’ve entered into the system, and I’m now looking for worthwhile songs to add to my collection. It’s weird, because I will suddenly think, “I don’t have a copy of Ziggy Stardust anywhere”, and three clicks later, I do. I guess a lot of people deride the iTunes model because you don’t really “own” your music, as in you don’t have a piece of plastic and aluminum you can drag from computer to computer for the rest of your life. But face it, you don’t really own anything in this life. I have a deed to 40 acres of property, which you’d think is the ultimate in ownership, but every time I think about building or drilling holes in the ground, I realize I don’t really “own” the property – I just have the ability to permanently use it as the county sees fit, provided I pay taxes every year. I’m at the point in my life where I really don’t give a shit if I really own that copy of Eye of the Tiger as much as I care about listening to it when I feel like it.

Speaking of Ziggy Stardust, we re-watched The Life Aquatic the other night, and it’s still really hilarious as a repeat viewing. It’s very much a Bill Murray vehicle, but it’s got that Wes Anderson absurdity to the max, and everyone else in the cast gives an excellent performance.

Okay, I’m very curious to see if this new entry for 2007 will completely topple my new indexing changes. I also need to get back to reading through 700+ journal entries to separate the wheat from the chaff. Christ, I bitch about the weather a lot – that’s like half the entries.

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