Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Though "Grab Her Twat" and "Dad's Anal Adventure" would have been worse:

I've noted before that, thanks to my Black Table pieces, my name has been inadvertantly (and often humorously) linked to a number of porn sites. However, in light of today's additions, Grab Her Boob and Mom's Anal Adventure, it's worth reiterating that, no, I don't write porn and if I choose to, I'll certainly come up w/ something more erotically charged and less hurl-inducing than playground-level groping and persons' moms taking it up the ass.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

When words are both essential and meaningless:


Koinange: Hospital scene like 'hell on earth'

African nation of Malawi battered by AIDS, drought

By Jeff Koinange

Thursday, December 1, 2005; Posted: 3:46 p.m. EST (20:46 GMT)

Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences covering news.
Jeff Koinange, CNN Africa correspondent, in Malawi.

BLANTYRE, Malawi (CNN) -- Walking into the highly restricted tuberculosis ward of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Malawi's second city of Blantyre is a lesson in humility.

To enter, you need to fill out a lot of paperwork letting the hospital know that if anything happens to you, it is not liable. This takes a couple of hours.

Once you're cleared, you get a surgeon's mask and a guide and off you go.

Our team did this recently and entered a scene that's the closest thing we've seen to hell on earth.

In bed after bed, the dead and the dying lie side-by-side. Patients stricken by advanced tuberculosis brought on by AIDS cough uncontrollably while relatives try to comfort them.

More: - Koinange: Hospital scene like 'hell on earth' - Dec 1, 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"I spend all my energy staying upright..."--N.S.

My Paste review of Nada Surf's October Seattle show went up last week. I feel compelled to note that "emotard" was changed to "emogeek", "wang" became "dork" and "shake its ass" was altered to "do something besides nod approvingly". (I fucking loved the show. These terms aren't in reference to the band.) Anyhow:

Paste Magazine :: Review :: Nada Surf, Say Hi To Your Mom :: Neumo’s, Seattle 10/19/2005 (Page 1)

Monday, November 14, 2005

From the Times of London: "Man 'cured' of HIV agrees to undergo further clinical tests"

"Man 'cured' of HIV agrees to undergo further clinical tests"
By Sam Lister, Health Correspondent

A YOUNG British man thought to be the first person to have shaken off HIV, the virus that causes Aids, is to undergo further clinical tests in the hope of a breakthrough in treating the condition.

Andrew Stimpson, 25, said yesterday that he was willing to do all he could to help to tackle the condition, after it emerged that his body had apparently rid itself of the human immunodeficiency virus.

Mr Stimpson, a Scot living in London, was found to be HIV-positive in August 2002, but 14 months later a blood test suggested that he no longer carried the virus. A further three tests confirmed the finding.

Doctors believe that this first confirmed case of ?spontaneous clearance? of HIV could offer important insights into the behaviour of the virus, and possible means of defeating it. "


Britain, UK news from The Times and The Sunday Times - Times Online:

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Mauling + ice cream + sex = readin':

My short story, "When Bears Attack", is in Rivet #14, "The Union Issue". The story's print version features an awesome graphic from Christopher Hong and the correct line breaks, but if you're short five bucks, you can read it here:

Rivet Magazine: Discover. Inquire. Repeat.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What? Who?

I'm not sure how a feature on Seattle music can viably omit Barsuk and its roster--*bullshit has been called*--but this is a fun piece nonetheless, particularly the part about the (awesome) John Richards:

Seattle Weekly: Music: A Day in the Life

Saturday, November 05, 2005

If you need a (temporary) distraction from bird flu news:

My Paste Death Cab cover story is archived online now:

Paste Magazine :: Feature :: Death Cab For Cutie :: The Hardest Working Band in Show BIz (Page 1)

And--bonus!--the print-only Donner Party sidebar. Because eating people is funny:

In the new documentary, "Drive Well, Sleep Carefully", director Justin Mitchell captures Death Cab for Cutie's 2004 tour, during which the band traversed the U.S. in a well-equipped bus. While their offstage antics seem largely comprised of storytelling and shooting hoops, who knows what could happen next time? As Death Cab gets ready to hit the road again in support of their new record, Plans, Paste asked the lads and some of their indie rock co-horts: If a Donner Party type situation arises, who will you eat and why?

I think I'd probably eat Jason. He's definitely the strongest out of the four of us. He has more muscle, and probably more protein, in his body than Chris certainly does, and definitely more than Nick because Jason's taller and bigger than Nick. I'd have to eat Jason.--Ben Gibbard

I don't think any of them would dispute that if both of our bands were lost together, although I would do everything in my power to return us all to safety, in the final analysis I would be picking my teeth with their shinbones when spring came. It's hard to say whom I would eat first, because each of them has a terrible ferocity when cornered. I might let them fight it out amongst themselves at first, and wait until they'd worn each other out. I think that Nick would make the best eating. --John Roderick, The Long Winters

I'd eat Jason because Jason's muscle to fat ratio is the best.--Chris Walla

I guess I have to agree that Jason would be the last one standing. If it were up to me to decide which band member to eat first, I would volunteer myself, so that the band might have a chance to live on. ---Josh Rosenfeld, Barsuk Records co-founder

Well, I've got a big appetite and Nick's got some good hearty muscle on his bone, so I would choose Nick. Although what if I needed him alive to be on my side? I might have Chris as an appetizer instead.--Jason McGerr

I would eat whoever died of natural causes first because I couldn't kill anyone to eat them. I'm pretty sure Ben would be one of the first to go and then we'd have to eat Ben. Ben would be pretty juicy. Surviving that long requires a certain level of dedication and patience and I think Ben would be like, "You know what? Screw this whole thing. We're already screwed." He wouldn't hang on unnecessarily. I think Chris would make a very lean meal, and that's always important, so if I were watching my figure, I'd go for a leg of Chris. If I were going for really tasty, I'd go for Ben. Jason would be good, too, but I don't think he would die early on. I think Jason would be the guy who would eat us all. He would be the last man standing. He's kind of the survivor that way.--Nick Harmer

Not Walla, definitely, because you wouldn't get very far eating him. I think it would be between Ben or Nick. I think Ben would have more of a chicken flavor, whereas if you were in the mood for something like lamb, something a little more rich, Nick would be your man. So, it depends on what sort of curry you wanted to serve, chicken or lamb.--Colin Meloy, The Decemberists

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Great moments in bad editing:

Here's the letter I wrote to New York Magazine:

I've interviewed JT LeRoy twice, once for Bookslut and once for Poets and
Writers. Over the past two years, we've become good friends, exchanging
hundreds of emails, blowing several hours on the phone, and spending time in person. (Note: I attended the Deitch Gallery launch for "Harold's End" last November. Your photographer, Danielle Levitt, took some test Polaroids of me, a curly-haired woman in a pink boucle coat.)

The truth is far more banal than Stephen Beachy's turgid story alleges. JT writes his own work. On numerous occasions, he's called or emailed
throughout the day with sequential drafts of stories or articles on which
he's working. He has a predilection for animated e-cards, only burns soy
candles, and loves my mom's baklava. And I've met Emily: she and JT sound
nothing alike.

In order for JT to be a hoax, he would have had to fool Vanity Fair (the
U.S. and British versions), the New York Times, BlackBook, Interview, Paper, Index, I-D, Spin, 7 X 7, Viking Press, Bloomsbury Press, Last Gasp Books, Zoetrope, Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida, Bono, Zadie Smith, Gus Van Sant, Madonna, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Arthur Bradford, Mary Karr, Carrie Fisher, Yoko Ono, Jerry Harrison and my mom and me, among others. (Perhaps you can fool Madonna, but you can't fool my mom.)

Also, he would have to had raise several thousand dollars over the years for Dr. Terrence Owens' McAuley Institute at St. Mary's Hospital, *spontaneously and for no apparent reason.* And anyone who knows JT well knows he could never pull off a hoax. He's erudite and silly and probably a genius, but I once spent five minutes on the phone with him while he looked for stamps. He could never perpetuate fraud--not only because he's moral--but because he's totally unorganized.


Litsa Dremousis

Here's what New York Mag ran this week:

The Real LeRoy
Over the past two years, I’ve become friends with JT [“Who is the Real JT
LeRoy?” by Stephen Beachy, October 17]. He has a predilection for animated e-cards, burns only soy candles, and loves baklava. To be a hoax, he would’ve had to fool Vanity Fair, the New York Times, BlackBook, Interview, Paper, Index, I-D, Spin, 7X7, Viking Press, Bloomsbury Press, Last Gasp, Zoetrope, Dave Eggers, Bono, Zadie Smith, Gus Van Sant, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Arthur Bradford, Mary Karr, Carrie Fisher, Jerry Harrison, Madonna, me, and my mom. And anyway, JT could never perpetuate fraud—he’s totally disorganized.
—Litsa Dremousis, Seattle, Wash.

A New York Mag fact-checker called three times over two weeks to verify everything, and I was told twice that my "letter [was] probably going to run". I never would have agreed to let them print it, though, if I'd known they were going to alter its tone. I know they can edit for clarity, but they changed the thing's intent. The edited version is poorly written and sounds like I'm taking a swipe at JT, which I'm not doing. Obviously.

Regardless, I hope everyone is done with this inane topic. I know I am.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Apparently, Stephen Beachy has time on his hands:

I hate to respond to this because it's so absurd, but I've been asked about it more than once, so here goes:

In order for JT to be a hoax, he would have had to fool Vanity Fair (the U.S. and British versions), the New York Times, BlackBook, Interview, Paper, Index, I-D, Spin, 7 X 7, Viking Press, Bloomsbury Press, Last Gasp Books, Zoetrope, Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida, Bono, Zadie Smith, Madonna, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Arthur Bradford, Mary Karr, Carrie Fisher, Yoko Ono, Jerry Harrison and, oh yeah, my mom and me, among others. (Maybe you can fool Madonna, but you can't fool my mom.)

Also, he would have to had raise several thousand dollars over the years for Dr. Terrence Owens' Mc Auley Institute at St. Mary's Hospital, *spontaneously and for no apparent reason.*

And anyone who knows JT well knows he could never pull off a hoax. He's erudite and silly and probably a genius, but I once spent five minutes on the phone with him while he looked for stamps. He could never perpetuate fraud--not only because he's totally moral--but because he's too unorganized:

Who is JT LeRoy? The True Identity of a Great Literary Hustler

Friday, October 07, 2005

A tiny green man gave me a blintz one time:

My friend's story, "The Day the Aliens Brought Pancakes", was selected as a "Notable Story of 2004" in the new "Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005". All hail, Mr. Spitznagel:

Friday, September 30, 2005

Yay, Jay Tay!

My friend, the finest writer and most sartorially adept individual to come out of West Virginia, has another essay in the New York Times:

By JT LeRoy
Published: September 25, 2005

"Cheese! It's hailing cheese!" We cover our heads. Our 8-year-old, Thor, cowers beneath us - his parents, Astor and Speedie, and me, a surrogate brother, sister, wannabe parent - as we form a shield between him and the miniature cubes pounding down on us. This is France, so it was only a matter of time till the cheese blasted us; we didn't expect it at the Tour de France, though.

We arrived two days before the tour's end. It was all anyone talked about as soon as we opened our mouths and revealed our furtive identities as Americans, noticeably scarce in Paris right then. A man in the lobby of our hotel, the Monna Lisa - situated two blocks from the Champs-Elysï¿1⁄2es, where the tour would wind up - informed me as I was struggling with a map that I was there for the tour: "Ah, you are here to see your Lance win!"

"Well, we came to go to Euro Disney."

His face crumpled, he folded his paper and, in an unyielding tone, rectified my faux pas: "You mean to say, 'Disneyland Paris!'"

By the threat in his tone, I instantly capitulated. "Yes, uh, Eur - Paris of Disney. What you said." After this happened a bazillion other times, I finally got the drift that the antipathy toward outfitting Disney with the "Euro" prefix could have something to do with its being the equivalent of "Dollar Disney." I started pronouncing it "Disneyland Paris" and received no more looks of vile disgust. Well, at least not for that.

Uncle Walt, Parlez-Vous Fran?ais? - New York Times

Friday, September 09, 2005

Nada Surfin':

I've been listening to the promo ceaselessly since I received it in June. If Nada Surf's "The Weight is a Gift" doesn't become one of your favorite discs of 2005, well, I don't want to know you:

The Weight is a Gift by Nada Surf - New York Fall Music Preview 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The best summation I've read so far:

From today's New York Times:

Macabre Reminder: The Corpse on Union Street - New York Times

Macabre Reminder: The Corpse on Union Street

Published: September 8, 2005

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 7 - In the downtown business district here, on a dry stretch of Union Street, past the Omni Bank automated teller machine, across from a parking garage offering "early bird" rates: a corpse. Its feet jut from a damp blue tarp. Its knees rise in rigor mortis.

The sight of corpses has become almost common on the mostly abandoned streets of New Orleans, as rescue and evacuation operations have taken priority over removing the dead.

Six National Guardsmen walked up to it on Tuesday afternoon and two blessed themselves with the sign of the cross. One soldier took a parting snapshot like some visiting conventioneer, and they walked away. New Orleans, September 2005.

Hours passed, the dusk of curfew crept, the body remained. A Louisiana state trooper around the corner knew all about it: murder victim, bludgeoned, one of several in that area. The police marked it with traffic cones maybe four days ago, he said, and then he joked that if you wanted to kill someone here, this was a good time.

Night came, then this morning, then noon, and another sun beat down on a dead son of the Crescent City.

That a corpse lies on Union Street may not shock; in the wake of last week's hurricane, there are surely hundreds, probably thousands. What is remarkable is that on a downtown street in a major American city, a corpse can decompose for days, like carrion, and that is acceptable.

Welcome to New Orleans in the post-apocalypse, half baked and half deluged: pestilent, eerie, unnaturally quiet.

Scraggly residents emerge from waterlogged wood to say strange things, and then return into the rot. Cars drive the wrong way on the Interstate and no one cares. Fires burn, dogs scavenge, and old signs from les bons temps have been replaced with hand-scrawled threats that looters will be shot dead.

The incomprehensible has become so routine here that it tends to lull you into acceptance. On Sunday, for example, several soldiers on Jefferson Highway had guns aimed at the heads of several prostrate men suspected of breaking into an electronics store.

A car pulled right up to this tense scene and the driver leaned out his window to ask a soldier a question: "Hey, how do you get to the interstate?"

Maybe the slow acquiescence to the ghastly here - not in Baghdad, not in Rwanda, here - is rooted in the intensive news coverage of the hurricane's aftermath: floating bodies and obliterated towns equal old news. Maybe the concerns of the living far outweigh the dignity of a corpse on Union Street. Or maybe the nation is numb with post-traumatic shock.

Wandering New Orleans this week, away from news conferences and search-and-rescue squads, has granted haunting glimpses of the past, present and future, with the rare comfort found in, say, the white sheet that flaps, not in surrender but as a vow, at the corner of Poydras Street and St. Charles Avenue.

"We Shall Survive," it says, as though wishing past the battalions of bulldozers that will one day come to knock down water-corrupted neighborhoods and rearrange the Louisiana mud for the infrastructure of an altogether different New Orleans.

Here, then, the New Orleans of today, where open fire hydrants gush the last thing needed on these streets; where one of the many gag-inducing smells - that of rancid meat - is better than MapQuest in pinpointing the presence of a market; and where images of irony beg to be noticed.

The Mardi Gras beads imbedded in mud by a soldier's boot print. The "take-away" signs outside restaurants taken away. The corner kiosk shouting the Aug. 28 headline of New Orleans's Times-Picayune: "Katrina Takes Aim."

Rush hour in downtown now means pickups carrying gun-carrying men in sunglasses, S.U.V.'s loaded with out-of-town reporters hungry for action, and the occasional tank. About the only ones commuting by bus are dull-eyed suspects shuffling two-by-two from the bus-and-train terminal, which is now a makeshift jail.

Maybe some of them had helped to kick in the portal to the Williams Super Market in the once-desirable Garden District. And who could blame them if all they wanted was food in those first desperate days? The interlopers took the water, beer, cigarettes and snack food. They did not take the wine or the New Orleans postcards.

On the other side of downtown across Canal Street in the French Quarter, the most raucous and most unreal of American avenues is now little more than an empty alley with balconies.

The absence of sweetly blown jazz, of someone cooing "ma chère," of men sporting convention nametags and emitting forced guffaws - the absence of us - assaults the senses more than any smell.

Past the famous Cafe du Monde, where a slight breeze twirls the overhead fans for no one, past the statue of Joan of Arc gleaming gold, a man emerges from nothing on Royal Street. He is asked, "Where's St. Bernard Avenue?"

"Where's the ice?" he asks in return, eyes narrowed in menace. "Where's the ice? St. Bernard's is that way, but where's the ice?"

In Bywater and the surrounding neighborhoods, the severely damaged streets bear the names of saints who could not protect them. Whatever nature spared, human nature stepped up to provide a kind of democracy in destruction.

At the Whitney National Bank on St. Claude Avenue, diamond-like bits of glass spill from the crushed door, offering a view of the complementary coffee table. A large woman named Phoebe Au - "Pronounced 'Awe,' " she says - materializes to report that men had smashed it in with a truck. She fades into the neighborhood's broken brick, and a thin woman named Toni Miller materializes to correct the record.

"They used sledgehammers," she said.

Farther down St. Claude Avenue, where tanks rumble past a smoldering building, the roads are cluttered with vandalized city buses. The city parked them on the riverbank for the hurricane, after which some hoods took them for fare-free joy rides through lawless streets, and then discarded them.

On Clouet Street, where a days-old fire continues to burn where a warehouse once stood, a man on a bicycle wheels up through the smoke to introduce himself as Strangebone. The nights without power or water have been tough, especially since the police took away the gun he was carrying - "They beat me and threatened to kill me," he says - but there are benefits to this new world.

"You're able to see the stars," he says. "It's wonderful."

Today, law enforcement troops began lending muscle to Mayor C. Ray Nagin's vow to evacuate by force any residents too attached to their pieces of the toxic metropolis. They searched the streets for the likes of Strangebone, and that woman whose name sounds like Awe.

Meanwhile, back downtown, the shadows of another evening crept like spilled black water over someone's corpse.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The best part is that it's well-deserved:

Nothing Is Certain but Death and Taxis - New York Times

Nothing Is Certain but Death and Taxis

Published: August 28, 2005

BEN GIBBARD, the lead singer and main songwriter for Death Cab for Cutie, has had a wildly eventful few years. His band's sweet, melancholy songs have helped a generation of listeners rediscover the joys of heartfelt balladry. And along the way, Mr. Gibbard has gone from semi-obscure singer to unlikely heartthrob. Who could have predicted that someone like him would wind up dominating the gossip columns? And who could have foreseen the sold-out stadium concerts, the punch-up with a paparazzo, the fruitful marriage to Gwyneth Paltrow?

O.K., strike that last bit: I think I'm getting Mr. Gibbard mixed up with that guy from Coldplay. But it's a surprisingly easy mistake to make. Both of them know their way around grand, sighing love songs. And while Mr. Gibbard isn't quite a mainstream rock star yet, he's surprisingly close. The last Death Cab for Cutie album, "Transatlanticism" (Barsuk), has sold more than 300,000 copies since its release in 2003. And with an electronic side project called the Postal Service, Mr. Gibbard released another 2003 album, "Give Up" (Sub Pop); it was a surprise indie smash, selling more than 600,000 copies.

On Tuesday, Death Cab for Cutie is to release "Plans" (Atlantic), its first major-label album, which is all but assured to be its best-selling one so far. In an earlier era, indie-rock fans might have worried about the new record deal and the newfound popularity, but Death Cab's evolution into a pop-chart-ready band has been steady and relatively uncontroversial. Whereas older indie-rock groups sometimes struggled furiously against the current of listener demand, this one has found a graceful way to swim with it.

"Plans" also represents a challenge for the mainstream music industry. Modest Mouse proved that indie-rock bands (you don't necessarily outgrow the genre when you outgrow your record label) could earn a platinum plaque, and Bright Eyes proved that an indie-rock act could make its debut in the Top 10. Now the executives at Atlantic Records have a chance to raise the bar again, although no one knows how high. Could Death Cab be the first of these bands to break into the Top 5? The first to go double-platinum? The first to score a remix from Kanye West? (A Gibbard can dream, can't he?)

Ever since Death Cab's 1999 debut album, "Something About Airplanes," this Bellingham, Wash., band has been finding ways to record music that is pretty but not fussy. The members first perfected their approach on "We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes" (Barsuk), an astonishing CD full of hard songs that sounded soft. Mr. Gibbard sang,
When your apologies fail to ring true
So slick with that sarcastic slew
Of phrases like, 'I thought you knew'
While keeping me in hot pursuit

but the words came out not as angry accusations but as one long, gentle sigh.

After "The Photo Album" (Barsuk), from 2001, the band outdid itself with "Transatlanticism," which showed off Mr. Gibbard's crystalline voice and also the crystalline production of the guitarist, Chris Walla. He stripped away almost all the noise and fuzz, letting listeners concentrate on intoxicating little details, like the owlish hoots hidden in the background of a song called "Lightness."

With "Translatlanticism," Mr. Gibbard also found a simpler and more suspenseful way to write songs. Sometimes he began with a scientific observation ("And when I see you, I really see you upside down/ But my brain knows better, it picks you up and turns you around") and worked his way toward an unadorned confession ("I know it's too late/ And I should have given you a reason to stay"). Songs from the album found their way to soundtracks, including that the of TV show "The OC." The sugary songs of the Postal Service became sleeper hits, too, and Mr. Gibbard found himself the figurehead of an unexpected indie-rock boom.

Whatever the cause, it wasn't Mr. Gibbard's rock-star swagger. If anything, his success seems like a byproduct of his humility. A prouder band might find defiant ways to alienate newcomers, and to keep longtime fans at arm's length. But Death Cab excels at giving listeners what they want: wistful, neatly written indie-rock ballads. Instead of insisting that we humor them (like noisier, pricklier indie bands of a decade ago), Death Cab has agreed to humor us, instead; like the Shins and Rilo Kiley, Death Cab has figured out that there's nothing wrong with being eager to please.

Now comes "Plans," which is fuller than "Transatlanticism" but otherwise quite similar. There are delicious (and, still, melancholy) songs that unfold like the last batch. "What Sarah Said" begins with some rolling keyboard chords (come to think of it, they don't sound wholly unlike something Ms. Paltrow's husband might play), and some opening remarks: "And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time." (It's the closest Mr. Gibbard comes to singing the title.) By song's end, the lyrics have grown shiveringly direct: "I'm thinking of what Sarah said/ That love is watching someone die/ So who's gonna watch you die?" These are cruel words, but Mr. Gibbard sings them as if he really wants to know.

This album feels a bit more premeditated, a bit more familiar, than "Transatlanticism." (In fact, the new album ends with a throwback: "Stable Song" is a rearrangement of "Stability," which was released on an EP in 2002..) But it's a triumph all the same, with semisweet refrains that glide into your brain and refuse to leave; millions of Coldplay fans should give this CD a chance. In "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," which seems destined to become one of the album's most beloved songs, there is only an acoustic guitar to accompany Mr. Gibbard's memorable promise of endless love: "If there's no one beside you when your soul embarks/ Then I'll follow you into the dark." On this album, couples don't just part, they dearly depart.

Mr. Gibbard's lyrics have changed subtly over the years. The early albums were full of odes sung by lovers left behind. In one old song, "Company Calls Epilogue," Mr. Gibbard evoked an ex's wedding: "You were the one/ But I can't spit it out when the date's been set." Now he's as likely to be the leaver as the left. "Someday You Will Be Loved" offers cold comfort to an ex: "The memories of me will seem more like bad dreams/ Just a series of blurs like I never occurred."

On the album's first single, "Soul Meets Body," Mr. Gibbard delivers a soothing pick-up line. "You're the only song I want to hear," he sings, "A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere."

That phrase sums up what Death Cab for Cutie promises its listeners. Most bands, of course, promise far more. But it's worth remembering, too, that almost all of them wind up delivering far less.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

No, not because we're friends:

A smart, funny essay from one of my favorite writers:

June 5, 2002 | CANOGA PARK, Calif. -- Canoga Park is a rarely visited graveyard where celebrity pool cleaners go to die. It's less a suburban oasis than an apocalyptic dustbowl, an unfathomably ugly San Fernando Valley sprawl of strip malls, factories and cul-de-sacs that can only boast affordable housing and a lower crime rate than Los Angeles. During the summer, the valley is always at least 10 degrees hotter, and exponentially more humid, than anywhere else in Southern California. From the moment you cross the border, it feels like you've ventured inside the mouth of a dog.

More: Sex | Fast forward

Friday, August 19, 2005

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Trend-bucking Paste now trendy magazine":

Trend-bucking Paste now trendy magazine | AccessAtlanta

Trend-bucking Paste now trendy magazine

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/14/2005

Back in college, the founders of Paste magazine surely couldn't have imagined 9-to-5 ever being this much fun.

Sipping free liquor before noon, brought in by a 3 Vodka representative who wants to discuss advertising and potential sponsorships.

What differentiates Paste from the No. 1 magazine on the Tribune's list, music magazine Blender, as well as mainstays such as Rolling Stone and Spin, is that you can pretty much bet that no matter how much pop superstar Britney Spears agrees to bare, she will never be on its cover.

Opening boxes of complimentary CDs every day.

Gorging on chips, queso and a seemingly endless supply of fish tacos during two-hour lunches.

But don't be misled — these are working lunches.

Today, in a six-room Decatur office that, with its walls lined with shelves of CDs and music posters, feels a little like a dorm room, eight music and movie lovers are eating and holding energetic talks about the best ways to share their favorite new finds with the world.

Editor Josh Jackson points out that there hasn't been a woman on the cover in a while.

Some names are tossed out: India Arie. Lizz Wright. Fiona Apple.

"Yeaah," says assistant editor Steve LaBate. "With [Apple's] album that's not coming out floating around, that would be unexpected."

"And with her being out of the spotlight," Jackson adds, "and most of all, good ."

These are men who take their roles as tastemakers seriously.

Think of Paste magazine as a dream come true for that high school classmate who used to make mixtapes for his friends. In fact, partners Jackson, Nick Purdy and Joe Kirk were those guys, spreading mixtapes around their high schools in Dunwoody, Norcross and Naples, Fla. Their fourth partner, Tim Porter, says he was more of a tape and CD loaner at his high school in Jackson.

Seven years ago, Purdy, Jackson and a friend created, an online retailer of indie music. In July 2002, Jackson, Purdy and Porter, a classmate of Jackson's at UGA, launched Paste magazine as a quarterly with 600 subscribers, most of them Web site customers. (Kirk, who had been mastering the magazine's free CD samplers, was brought in as a partner shortly afterward.) By October 2003, Paste had grown so much that it became a bimonthly.

And with the release of its August/September issue, Paste got even bigger, more than doubling its print run to 225,000 thanks to a recent buyout of the rock music magazine Tracks.

But its founders' influence extends beyond its subscription base. Every Tuesday at 1:54 p.m., either Jackson or Purdy — the two main faces of the magazine and friends since they met at a Presbyterian church youth group 18 years ago — share their interests with the hundreds of thousands tuned in to "CNN Headline News."

And 37 independent record stores in 24 states feature Paste Recommends listening stations programmed by the magazine's 19-member staff.

Those listening stations present certain challenges, though, which have the staff at the lunch meeting concerned.

"So what are we going to do when our reviewer gives one-and-a-half stars to something on the Paste Recommends station, or the sampler?" LaBate asks.

(The CDs for the stations and the songs for the samplers are chosen before staff and freelance critics review albums.)

"Everything is not always going to line up," Purdy answers. "What we have to do with the sampler is fill it with the 22 songs we love. And if there are one or two things in editorial that conflict with that, hey, we can still stand by the fact that the 22 songs on the sampler we love!"

Their passion is getting them noticed.

In June, the Chicago Tribune named Paste one of the 50 best magazines, placing it at No. 21 — six places ahead of the British music magazine Mojo, which Paste aspires to emulate.

What differentiates Paste from the No. 1 magazine on the Tribune's list, music magazine Blender, as well as mainstays such as Rolling Stone and Spin, is that you can pretty much bet that no matter how much pop superstar Britney Spears agrees to bare, she will never be on its cover.

"We live and die by our tagline — 'Signs of Life in Music, Film and Culture,' " explains Purdy, far and away the most matter-of-fact of the generally easygoing foursome.

The staff added "film" to the tagline when its December/January 2004 issue hit stands with director Wes Anderson ("Rushmore," "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou") on the cover.

"Film has always been a component of the magazine," Purdy says. "We've increased our emphasis on it in the last year. But in the future the magazine, ultimately, will be seen as an entertainment magazine."

It is Paste's mission, says Kirk, to help people find art that has value and to help encourage its development.

"Paste finds the edgy, really provocative, forward-thinking, progressive musicians," says Lindsey Pearl of Press Here Publicity, whose clients (danceable rock band Franz Ferdinand, beloved indie wordsmith Bright Eyes) have been given major feature treatment in Paste. "I think as music diversifies more and more, it's important to have publications that really do honor the music itself and are not paying attention to politics, fashion and culture."

Dave Siff, a bassist in a couple of local bands and the "Headline News" executive producer who brought the Paste guys to CNN, says the look and content of the magazine caught his eye.

"I was told by somebody, like, 'Hey, check out this local music magazine.' And I'm thinking to myself, Stomp and Stammer. Not that there's anything wrong with Stomp and Stammer. But I just thought, like [Stomp], it was gonna be paper, thin, that kind of thing. And the first time I got my hands on Paste I was literally blown away. Mouth agape."

Porter came up with the name Paste when some of the partners were sitting around one day trying to come up with a good metaphor for connection.

"We really feel music is not inert," Purdy says. "It has emotional, spiritual, inspiring-type power over people. It's not something that's just food that goes in your body and out. It affects you. So that's why we're toying around with the idea of a connection. Paste is a metaphor for connection."

With that kind of purpose and focus from its start, it's no wonder they're taking some abuse from their readers for giving the ever-writhing pop star Shakira a positive, full-page review. Or — gasp! — actually liking mainstream favorite Coldplay's latest CD, "X & Y."

After all, the Tribune deemed Paste "hip without sacrificing credibility on the altar of corporately deemed 'cool.' "

Pardon Kirk as he snickers a bit.

"We're often seen as having a bias toward artists nobody ever heard of before, but that's mostly because other people aren't paying attention to artists nobody's heard of," he says with a laugh. "And yeah, we probably are more likely to help people discover the next little thing, but we kind of really don't care. If it's good, it's good. You can't please everybody."

If there has been one consistent knock against Paste, it's that it hasn't seemed to have found many "signs of life" in the work blacks, Latinos and other people of color are creating.

Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, of the hip-hop band the Roots, is the only black person to have a Paste cover. "And I can see where that could be perceived as a plus and a minus," Thompson says.

Purdy doesn't dodge the issue.

"Absolutely we could and should be stronger there," he says. "And slowly and surely, we are putting our money where our mouth is. We're working on a big feature on [black Atlanta singer-songwriter] India Arie. The whole neo-soul thing seems to be a place where folks in our audience — who, let's just say, don't listen to a lot of music made by black people — can start."

The Paste guys know tastes can be changed.

After all, Purdy admits that the mixtapes they made back in high school included songs like DeBarge's "Rhythm of the Night."

Little chance of such dopey pop seeing daylight on a future Paste sampler.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Next week? That I'm actually a guy:

Last week, a message boarder said that I was Jewish. This week, I'm listed as a poet. (See below.) Anyhow, if you're in the Bay Area on Thursday, drop by Pegasus Books in Berkeley for Cranky's first out-of-state reading:


Thursday, June 23, 2005

From today's New York Times: "Sometimes Snarkiness is Preferable to Sincerity"

Sometimes Snarkiness Is Preferable to Sincerity - New York Times

I'm glad the Dorothy Parker bit got singled out because it's one of my favorite parts. Mr. Sanneh quotes me accurately, though--in context--it's obvious that I'm not the posterchild for tender-hearted emo sincerity. Whatever. My first piece for The Believer is referenced in the New York Times and JR gets well-deserved props, too. Nice.

June 23, 2005
Sometimes Snarkiness Is Preferable to Sincerity

One of the funniest and meanest music-criticism blogs publishes no original music criticism at all. It's called The Shins Will Change Your Life, online at, and it compiles excerpts from breathless or fawning articles about indie-rock albums and musicians.
One writer in the site's crosshairs promises that after hearing the new album by the singer-songwriter Maria Taylor, "you'll soon be wondering how you've lived so long without having these songs in your life." Another declares that the new Art Brut album is "as clear as crystal a piece of untainted genius." And a third notes that "No Wow," by the Kills, is "a brutal record that changes you the same way prison changes a man." No extra commentary is provided, and none is necessary; the site's scathing sarcasm goes entirely unstated.

The Shins Will Change Your Life reads like a delayed reaction to the great snark debate of 2003, begun in the pages of the literary magazine The Believer and continued, for a few months, in the Snarkwatch section of the magazine's Web site, Heidi Julavits, an editor of The Believer, used the term snark to refer to the "hostile, knowing, bitter tone of contempt" that she often noticed in book reviews, including some that have been published in The New York Times Book Review. (The essay is online at And the Snarkwatch site did the opposite of what the Shins site does now: instead of snarkily mocking music critics for their overwritten encomiums, it took book critics to task for "needlessly unpleasant" or unfair reviews.
It makes a certain sort of sense, then, that the editors of The Believer have just given the anonymous Shins blogger a big, fat new target. The magazine's new issue is its annual music issue, featuring 88 pages of articles ("Incl. non-music essay on George Plimpton," as the cover promises, or perhaps warns) and one CD full of musicians covering songs by their peers; almost all of these cover versions are previously unreleased.

The Believer prides itself on being omnivorous, and usually for good reason. The editors love to give the essays long subtitles followed by even longer lists of the subjects discussed. In the next issue, due out later this summer, the magazine sort of promises ("Not all contents are guaranteed; replacements will be satisfying") to print an article entitled "Ignatius Donnelly, Prince of Cranks: How a nineteenth-century Minnesotan's catastrophic imagination predicted the Internet, chemical warfare and demon airships." This is a magazine that aims to show readers a bigger, weirder world.

That's why it's so puzzling to find, for the second year, that The Believer's music issue contains almost nothing outside the alt-rock world. The five musicians interviewed offer five different flavors of alternative: the post-punk singer Karen O, from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs; the puckish singer Beck; the sisters, ages 11 and 13, who make up Smoosh; the singer-songwriter Aimee Mann; and the indie-rock singer John Roderick of the Long Winters.

The interviews are long and appealingly casual, and the best are full of unexpected little anecdotes and asides, as when Mr. Roderick's interviewer compares some Long Winters lyrics to Dorothy Parker's writing. The response is a half-serious warning: "Be careful not to compliment me too much, because I'm apt to say, 'Don't you think my last quip was rather like Dorothy Parker?' " But the relentless focus on alternative rock is not only strange but also slightly depressing. What fun is it to explore a musical world that seems so small?

The CD is similarly frustrating, not least because there's much to recommend it. Many music issues come with freebie sampler CD's that are little more than record-company-sponsored promotional tools. But this one has new recordings, some of them great (like Spoon's version of "Decora" by Yo La Tengo) and some not so great (like Devendra Banhart's rather graceless reading of "Fistful of Love" by Antony and the Johnsons).

Again, the problem is the limited focus. The CD is accompanied by an essay that begins, puckishly, with an ultra-condensed history of songwriting: "The oldest recorded song that we know of was etched on clay tablets in western Syria 3,400 years ago." The essay leaves readers free to imagine that the CD is a wide-ranging collection of contemporary songs, even though it's mainly devoted to the work of a small cohort of indie-rockers.

Maybe it's unfair to judge a magazine by its music issue. The style magazine Nylon just published its annual music issue, too, and it's full of stylishly disheveled bands so similar-looking that they could probably trade members without anyone's noticing. This is a small world that's small on purpose; the little details (like the hilarious and quite lovely Will Sanders photograph of the teenage Nashville punk band Be Your Own Pet, half-hidden behind a blossoming tree) more than make up for the lack of range.

If The Believer's music issue is more problematic, that's because it's also more neutral. In an effort to stamp out snark, the editors also seem to have stamped out skepticism, and so the magazine takes it for granted that indie-rockers are the most important musicians on the planet: the harpist and songwriter Joanna Newsom, for example, taps into "a deep, universal pain." (Might those words appear on a certain blog sometime soon?)

There is scarcely any mention of the kind of music left out. Mainstream pop music is mainly off-limits, although Rick Moody makes a grudging confession: "I like pop songs, too, of course, in reasonable doses." (Later, he takes a swipe at "the bland affirmations of the contemporary 'country' radio format.") And black and Latin music is almost entirely absent. At one point, Mr. Roderick claims that "indie-rock culture is the real ghetto of people who have convinced themselves that they're too sensitive to be yelled at or to yell." The interviewer responds with what might be The Believer's unofficial credo: "When it's genuine, though, it's different."

Compared with the ostentatious sincerity of The Believer's music issue, a site like Shins probably seems like an exercise in bad faith, a place where writers are pilloried for daring to be enthusiastic. But while Shins provides plenty of cheap laughs, it also hints at the prejudices that usually go unexamined in music writing, assumptions about what smart or genuine or good or life-saving music should sound like, and about who should be making it. Sure, indie-rock fans and musicians have plenty of reasons to be glad that The Believer throws such an entertaining party every year. But they - and others - might also pause to wonder who's not invited, and why.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Because who *doesn't* like reading about illness?

The CFIDS Association of America asked me to tell part of my story. That's Ms. Posterchild to you, bitches:


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

My family has been in a similar situation and...

...we've debated whether the Schiavo family is well-intentioned but misguided, or selfish and cruel. Andrew Leonard's interview with the Rev. John Paris, Professor of Bioethics at Boston College, offers an insightful look at a complex case. From today's Salon: News | "This has nothing to do with the sanctity of life"

By Andrew Leonard

March 22, 2005 | The decision on whether to allow Terri Schiavo to die has sparked endless controversy over what is legal and ethical when patients are unable to make their own wishes. One observer who brings both legal and moral authority to the debate is the Rev. John Paris, the Walsh Professor of Bioethics at Boston College.

Paris has served as an expert witness on numerous cases involving patients who were being kept alive by artificial means. He is equally capable of discussing the legal details of the Schiavo case and the Catholic Church's view of it. According to Paris, every relevant legal issue has already been decided; the only thing keeping the case alive is the fact that the Christian right has made Schiavo a cause célèbre.

Paris did not serve as an expert witness in the Schiavo case. However, when the case was reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court, he signed an amicus brief on behalf of Michael Schiavo, who wants to take his wife off life support. Salon spoke to Paris by phone on Monday morning. "This case," he says, "is bizarre."

>Why is the case bizarre?

In most cases, the court has a theory, you have an appellate review, and that's the end. But this case, the parents keep coming back with new issues -- every time that they lose, they come in with a new issue. We want to reexamine the case. We believe she's competent. We need new medical tests being done. We think she's been abused. We want child protective services to intervene. Finally, Judge George Greer denied them all. He said. "Look, we have had court-appointed neutral physicians examine this patient. You don't believe the findings of the doctors but the finding of the doctors have been accepted by the court as factual." There have been six reviews by the appellate court.

>What did the appellate court find?

The Florida Court of Appeals found four very interesting things. And it found them by the highest legal standard you can have -- clear and convincing evidence. The appellate court said that Judge Greer found clear and convincing evidence that Schiavo is in a well-diagnosed, persistent vegetative state, that there is no hope of her ever recovering consciousness, and that she had stated she would not ever want to be maintained this way. The court said we have heard the parents saying she didn't [say that], and we heard the husband say she did, and we believe the husband's statement is a correct statement of her position. The court also found that the husband was a caring, loving spouse whose actions were in Terri's best interests. The court said, "Remove the feeding tube," and the family protested. Of course, the family has the radical, antiabortion, right-to-life Christian right, with its apparently unlimited resources and political muscle, behind them.

>So what do you think this case is really about?

The power of the Christian right. This case has nothing to do with the legal issues involving a feeding tube. The feeding tube issue was definitively resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990 in Cruzan vs. Director. The United States Supreme Court ruled that competent patients have the right to decline any and all unwanted treatment, and unconscious patients have the same right, depending upon the evidentiary standard established by the state. And Florida law says that Terri Schiavo has more than met the standard in this state. So there is no legal issue.

>Are there any extenuating circumstances?

The law is clear, the medicine is clear, the ethics are clear. A presidential commission in 1983, appointed by Ronald Reagan, issued a very famous document called "Deciding to Forgo Life-Sustaining Treatment." It talked about the appropriate treatment for patients who are permanently unconscious. The commission said the only justification for continuing any treatment -- and they specifically talked about feeding tubes -- is either the slight hope that the patient might recover or the family's hope that the patient might recover. Terri Schiavo's legitimate family -- the guardian, the spouse -- has persuaded the court that she wouldn't want [intervention] and therefore it shouldn't happen. Now you have the brother and sister, the mother and father, saying that's all wrong. But they had their day in court, they had their weeks in court, they had their years in court!

>Isn't the underlying social issue here one that says the law doesn't have authority over this kind of life-or-death matter?

Let me give you a test that I've done 100 times to audiences. And I guarantee you can do the same thing. Go and find the first 12 people you meet and say to them, "If you were to suffer a cerebral aneurysm, and we were able to diagnose that with a PET-scan immediately, would you want to be put on a feeding tube, knowing that you can be sustained in this existence?" I have asked that question in medical audiences, legal audiences and audiences of judges. I'll bet I have put that question before several thousand people. How many people do you think have said they wanted to be maintained that way? Zero. Not one person. Now that tells you about where the moral sentiment of our community is.

>Where do you think this case is headed?

It's headed to federal court today. I cannot imagine what the federal question is. Congress said, "All we are doing is asking to have a federal court examine this." I don't know what they thought the courts were doing in the last eight years. They are saying, "We're asking a court to review this, to be certain that due process has not been violated." I don't think there is a case in the history of the United States that has been reviewed six times by an appellate court. Remember, the United States Supreme Court refused to review this.

>As a priest, how do you resolve questions in which the "sanctity of life" is involved?

The sanctity of life? This has nothing to do with the sanctity of life. The Roman Catholic Church has a consistent 400-year-old tradition that I'm sure you are familiar with. It says nobody is obliged to undergo extraordinary means to preserve life.

This is Holy Week, this is when the Catholic community is saying, "We understand that life is not an absolute good and death is not an absolute defeat." The whole story of Easter is about the triumph of eternal life over death. Catholics have never believed that biological life is an end in and of itself. We've been created as a gift from God and are ultimately destined to go back to God. And we've been destined in this life to be involved in relationships. And when the capacity for that life is exhausted, there is no obligation to make officious efforts to sustain it.

This is not new doctrine. Back in 1950, Gerald Kelly, the leading Catholic moral theologian at the time, wrote a marvelous article on the obligation to use artificial means to sustain life. He published it in Theological Studies, the leading Catholic journal. He wrote, "I'm often asked whether you have to use IV feeding to sustain somebody who is in a terminal coma." And he said, "Not only do I believe there is no obligation to do it, I believe that imposing those treatments on that class of patients is wrong. There is no benefit to the patient, there is great expense to the community, and there is enormous tension on the family."

>How do you square that with the pope's comments last year, which seemed to indicate that people in Schiavo's situation should be kept alive?

The bishops of Florida did it very nicely when they said, "There is a presumption to use nutritional fluid, unless the continued use of it would be burdensome to the patient." So it's not an absolute. That statement is a recognition that the Vatican is inhabited by the same cross section of people that inhabit the United States

>What do you mean?

I mean there are some radical right-to-lifers there, and they got that statement out. But it has to be seen in the context of the pope's 1980 declaration on euthanasia, and the pope's encyclical on death and dying, in which he repeats the long-standing tradition that I just gave you. His comment last year wasn't doctrinal statement, it wasn't encyclical, it wasn't a papal pronouncement. It was a speech at a meeting of right-to-lifers.

Again, this issue is not new. Every court, every jurisdiction that has heard it, agrees. So you'd think this issue would have ended. I thought it ended when we took it to the Supreme Court in 1990. But I hadn't anticipated the power of the Christian right. They elected him [George Bush]. And now he dances.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Somewhere over the rainbow:

I came down with a massive case of hives on Saturday night. By Sunday morning, my arms and legs were covered in huge raspberry blotches that itched like hell. (Mercifully, my face and chest were spared. I still possess a certain je ne sais quoi, as long as I don't have to take off my coat.)

I explained to my pharmacist and to my doctor that I'm on deadline and that I'd rather be lucid and itch than be hive-free and stoned. I made it clear that I didn't want to ingest anything that would turn me into Judy Garland. Both pointed out, however, that my immune system is not exactly my best friend and that letting said hives go unchecked was a big mistake.

So, now the hives are almost gone but I'm high as a kite and readying a transcript for quote checks whilst trying to remain upright. I'm tempted to crawl into bed and remain there for the next three days, unencumbered by clothes or consciousness.

I won't, though. Here's why:

KEXP 90.3 FM - where the music matters

KEXP 90.3 FM - where the music matters

KEXP 90.3 FM - where the music matters

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Stacked Writer Girl in Vintage Clothing Porn:

I suppose this was inevitable: my Black Table piece, "The Leg Fuck", has been linked to a porn site featuring absurdly specific categories. What distinguishes "Black Amateurs" from "Black Porn"? Where's the guy who's about to clutch himself but tucks it away when he realizes, "Hey, these folks are getting paid!"? What, exactly, is the difference between "College Girls Porn" and "Spring Break Porn"? And what the fuck is "Balloon Porn"? Are they just making stuff up now?

Find out for yourself:

Crazy Shit happens Link dump sex movies blog funny news stories > > News > > STRANGEWAYS, HERE THEY COME: GIRLS HAVE SEX IN ODD PLACES.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

All you can do is bite down and breathe:

In "The Story of O", O allows herself to be tortured. Each time she's flogged, the pain is excruciating and she vows she'll never subject herself to it again. Afterward, she's peaceful and scalded and believes she's stronger. She allows herself to be tortured again.

In the last two weeks, Cranky accepted one of my short stories, Paste asked me to write reviews, The Believer offered me a lofty sum to interview one of my favorite writers, and the British literary journal, Spoiled Ink, asked me to submit. Two of my favorite authors emailed each other about my work and Cupcake gave me another shout out.

And at this moment, part of me would trade all of it to make the fever and chills and nausea go away. To borrow Dylan's line, I couldn't call it unexpected. I've had CFIDS for almost fourteen years and I know that this is what I incur with each piece that I write, with most physical efforts that I make.

When I'm not in the worst of it, I can be sanguine. No one gets everything they want, I tell myself. I'm lucky to be good at what I love to do. My health is impaired, but I have talent and people who love me. There are far worse illnesses. Overall, I lead a remarkable life.

Right now, though, I would give it all away to wake up without this endless flu, to walk without numbness or pain, to lie down because I want to and not because the beast has pinned me. To find that this monster to which I'm tethered has finally set me free.

I can't not write, though.

I'll allow myself to be tortured again.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

"Hello grace/It's been awhile/Your footsteps didn't go unnoticed..."--Ken Stringfellow

To those who stuck around while I was inambulatory and to those who have revelled in my good fortune as is if it were their own, thank you with all I have. I'm grateful beyond measure. Much love, L.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Charles Bukowski's "So You Want to Be a Writer?" from *Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way*:

I don't agree with all of it--particularly the part about rewrites--but it's my favorite piece about writing and I return to it again and again:

so you want to be a writer?

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!!! In case you needed another reason to freak the hell out:

From today's New York Times:

"Two of the city's subway lines - the A and the C - have been crippled and may not return to normal capacity for three to five years after a fire Sunday afternoon in a Lower Manhattan transit control room that was started by a homeless person trying to keep warm, officials said yesterday.

The blaze, at the Chambers Street station used by the A and C lines, was described as doing the worst damage to subway infrastructure since the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. It gutted a locked room that is no larger than a kitchen but that contains some 600 relays, switches and circuits that transmit vital information about train locations."


The New York Times > New York Region > Manhattan Subway Fire Cripples 2 Lines

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Don't worry, I won't start playing hacky-sack:

I'm a city girl and always have been. As Fran Lebowitz wrote, "To put it rather bluntly, I am not the type who wants to go back to the land--I am the type who wants to go back to the hotel." But some days I give into the gravitational pull outside my window. There's something about the bright ice blue of the sky today that just slays me. This last month has been a disaster health-wise, but I can't help but feel grateful for being here, ya know?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

In purgatory, you meet Al Gore and Katie Couric:

My McSweeney's list, "The Five People You Meet in Hell", is up--yea! They gave me the front page again, which was a nice surprise. (If I knew how to hyperlink it, I would, but I don't so you're going to have to take my word for it.)

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: The Five People You Meet in Hell.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Crank it up:

I went to hear my friend, the delightfully talented Suzanne Stockman, read tonight at a celebration for the literary journal, Cranky. I knew that I'd enjoy her work and that she'd rock the mike--right on both counts--but I was skeptical when I heard that twenty readers were scheduled. Lit readings are sometimes transcendent, but often they feature the kind of self-important wankery Bukowski so brilliantly skewered in "Scum Grief". (Fave line: "Fuck the salmon!") So, I was pleasantly surprised that the Cranky line-up was so strong, with nary a northwest-let's-all-hug piece to be heard. Issue #4 is on the stands now and it's definitely worth grabbing. More:

Cranky Literary Journal

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Unfettered heroism:

"TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi told Iran's hard-line Revolutionary Court on Saturday she won't obey a vague summons on her to appear for questioning, even if it means she will be jailed -- an open challenge to a powerful body that has tried and convicted many pro-reform intellectuals."

More: - Nobel?winner refuses Iranian court - Jan 15, 2005

Friday, January 14, 2005

Just when you thought things couldn't get any more fucked up--ha, ha--they do:

Someone recently told me that ancient Greeks would say, "In the face of stupidity, even the gods rail in vain." I don't know if they really said it--if you're Greek, people tell you these things all the time, as if you're pre-loaded at birth with knowledge of all things Hellenic--but the sentiment expressed is certainly true. Behold, folks are using the tsunami to get laid:


Thursday, January 13, 2005

The icing:

I keep laughing--in a dark, sardonic way--that my writing goes places that I cannot. So, after another day wherein my legs were numb as fuck, it's a kick to discover that The Slippery Fish has been linked to Cupcake ("the reading series for New York's best women writers") alongside Margaret Cho and Jeanette Winterson and several others whose work I admire. (Scroll down, bottom right):

Cupcake: Because you've had enough chick lit, and it's time for dessert.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Thanks: Part 1, Pete Townshend:

Sporadically throughout 2005, I'm going to write about artists who changed my life. I'll start with Pete Townshend.

In a recent Black Table piece, I described my adolescent self thusly: "...a teenage art-geek. Frizzy haired and studious, I hadn't yet learned to work a prodigious vocabulary and ample rack to my advantage." I had close friends, and for a brief while, a boyfriend, but I felt hopelessly out of place at the uber-prep Catholic high school that my folks insisted I attend.

At various points along the way I was class president and editor of the school paper and one of the leads in the annual musical (performed at The Intiman, natch) and a member of the honor society, but I mostly remember being bored out of my fucking mind. My friends and I were smarter than the teachers and it cast an air of absurdity over the proceedings. I wanted out so badly and I couldn't leave.

Enter Pete.

I was already well-versed in all things Beatles and Stones when said boyfriend gave me a tape of The Who's "Quadrophenia" one day at lunch. When I got home, I popped it in my fake Walkman, wrapped myself in my butterfly quilt and listened to both sides all the way through. I was transfixed. Suddenly, the world was a bit more light.

If I were writing this for publication and not for fun, I'd delve into the mechanics--to the degree that I understand them--of Pete's guitar wizardry, Roger's soaring vocals, John's throbbing bass, and Moonie's frenetic drum assault. But that's not why I'm writing this. What matters to me is that Pete felt like a friend, someone wiser and more scarred who got the joke. Twenty years later, the lyrics to "Cut My Hair" still make me crumble:

Cut My Hair

Why should I care
If I have to cut my hair?
I've got to move with the fashions
Or be outcast.
I know I should fight
But my old man he's really alright,
And I'm still living at home
Even though it won't last.

Zoot suit, white jacket with side vents
Five inches long.
I'm out on the street again
And I'm leaping along.
I'm dressed right for a beach fight,
But I just can't explain
Why that uncertain feeling is still
Here in my brain.

The kids at school
Have parents that seem so cool.
And though I don't want to hurt them
Mine want me their way.
I clean my room and my shoes
But my mother found a box of blues,
And there doesn't seem much hope
They'll let me stay.

Zoot suit, etc.

Why do I have to be different to them?
Just to earn the respect of a dance hall friend,
We have the same old row, again and again.
Why do I have to move with a crowd
Of kids that hardly notice I'm around,
I have to work myself to death just to fit in.

I'm coming down
Got home on the very first train from town.
My dad just left for work
He wasn't talking.
It's all a game,
'Cos inside I'm just the same,
My fried egg makes me sick
First thing in the morning.

Welcome to

The Who's Albums & Lyrics

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

As good a way as any to start the new year:

There's so much that I want to say about the holidays and the tsunami and the fact that my work is going to be heard on NPR later this month, but I'm exhausted and in pain. So, tonight I'll keep it short but no less heartfelt.

Like all of us, I'm praying for peace and an end to famine and disease. On a lighter note, I hope that all of us have an extraordinary year! May 2005 overflow with superb health, artistic and/or professional fulfillment, true love, dirty sex, oodles of cash, a cupboard full of Green and Black chocolate, and a letter from Marc Jacobs asking where to send the free couture. (Wait, that last one is just for me.)

My best to everyone! Good night!