<= 2004.02

2004.04 =>

[MARCH 2004.]

another month down time's maw

Vu sent around this article from Salon: The confessions of a semi-successful author. You have to watch a Flash ad to see the whole thing, but it's worth it if you're curious about the true grotesquerie of the situation. It may not be too odious an ad; mine was for Sigur Ros. The fact that Sigur Ros, unlike any of the contemporary authors you or I like, has money to spend on this sort of Web promotion is revealing in itself.

György Ligeti sez, re: composing music in the artistically repressive Hungary of the 1960s, "To write for one's bottom drawer was considered an honor." It's easier, I think, to maintain the idea of resistance against a totalitarian society that sees your work as dangerous, as opposed to a mercantile society that just can't be bothered to care. We're a free country: if you can't sell, what the fuck is your problem?


another month down time's maw

Vu sent around this article from Salon: The confessions of a semi-successful author. You have to watch a Flash ad to see the whole thing, but it's worth it if you're curious about the true grotesquerie of the situation. It may not be too odious an ad; mine was for Sigur Ros. The fact that Sigur Ros, unlike any of the contemporary authors you or I like, has money to spend on this sort of Web promotion is revealing in itself.

György Ligeti sez, re: composing music in the artistically repressive Hungary of the 1960s, "To write for one's bottom drawer was considered an honor." It's easier, I think, to maintain the idea of resistance against a totalitarian society that sees your work as dangerous, as opposed to a mercantile society that just can't be bothered to care. We're a free country: if you can't sell, what the fuck is your problem?


die, monster, die!

Here are some completely insane microtonal guitars. I really can't tell the difference between most "true" versus tempered intervals, and I've tried—the other day Erik and I sat down with a guitar and a calculator to figure out by how many Hertz we'd be off tuning exclusively by harmonics. The answer was four. I guess once you get into higher overtones the difference becomes more pronounced. Anyway, that 62-tone just intonation guitar still frightens me. And I don't understand the sixth-tone (each half step divided into thirds) at all. Why even bother putting frets up past the octave? Surely no one can play on those.

Here is the Sonic Youth tablature archive, maintained by some very serious guitar geeks. They have all the alternate tunings (looks like over fifty of them) listed alphabetically, and detailed instructions such as:

tuning: EADECD w/ screwdriver @ 9th fret

Only Lee plays on this song. His part is incredibly similar to the World Looks Red. Begin by bending the strings behind the screwdriver, hitting the DECD strings open and releasing the bend. repeat.

then start a pattern like this (w/ 0 being the open string on the 'right' side of the screwdriver):

D--0---0---0---0--- etc

while doing this you can either push the strings down behind the screwdriver, bend the strings up the screwdriver, wiggle the screwdriver, etc to modulate the sounds and get the pitch you want.

it's kind of difficult to tab the rest.


living wage

In my experience one can generate about 15,000 words a month. And by a happy arithmetical coincidence, a month's living expenses when one isn't doing anything economically productive total about $1500. There you have it: a dime a word. Meaning a 100,000-word novel will set you back ten grand for the first draft, and probably another few thousand for the revisions. All things considered, that isn't too bad.

And the ratio might get better. I've been writing a hell of a lot the last few days; I have made the shocking discovery that it goes much more quickly when the subject matter isn't so damn serious all the time. At some point I got the idea from Iowa that prose could be sufficiently literary only if it was so dry and earnest that writing it became completely onerous. Well, to hell with the monastic self-flagellation. Right now I'm doing a scene on a volcano.



For some reason, and I'm not sure why this is, I always thought I'd like Henry Miller. Last night I cracked open Tropic of Cancer and got as far as page 26, where, after many passages of bad sex and drinking and verbal abuse of various characters whose names I've already forgotten, I ran into this paragraph:

Ah, the Germans! They take you all over like an omnibus. They give you indigestion. In the same night one cannot visit the morgue, the infirmary, the zoo, the signs of the zodiac, the limbos of philosophy, the caves of epistemology, the arcana of Freud and Stekel.... On the merry-go-round one doesn't get anywhere, whereas with the Germans one can go from Vega to Lope de Vega, all in one night, and come away as foolish as Parsifal.

I'm sorry, but that passage does not mean a damn thing. Really. Parse it. It's certainly not about the Germans. I don't think of myself as a linguistic martinet—I love it when Pynchon will just break down and type "YAAARRRGH!" or something in the middle of a paragraph—but a minimum of sense is nice, especially if you're going to splatter the word cunt all over the place. It's not offensive; it's self-indulgent and boring. It's just like the Beat novel, except that sloppy rambling autobiographical nihilism is even harder to take than sloppy rambling autobiographical pantheism. Karl Shapiro gets docked fifty points for his worshipful prefatory essay.

Anyone want a Tropic of Cancer? Hardback, slightly used.


the empty bed/rehearsing for the grave

Anne Carson sez: "Loneliness is not an important form of suffering. It's undeniable, but it's just not significant."

Well, I'm glad you can be so glib about it, ma'am.

At one in the morning, around the time I fall into bed, a nightly train passes. I don't even know where the tracks are, somewhere south of here, but Frseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeefrong that train again weeping tone once in the dead deaead days beyond recall close my eyes breath my lips forward kiss sad look eyes open piano ere oer the world the mists began

pianissimo eeeeeeee one more song


beneath shit mountain

Here, this is the current list of unfortunate events in the publishing world.

Ms. Hamilton's tone can be "Lord of the Rings"- lofty. ("Brother, do not do this to us. We do not need the shining ones. We are goblin, and that is better." ) But this is not a book too mystical to notice washboard abs on a weight-lifter or to stint on goblin romance. Early in her story, someone explains that "the goblins do not see same-sex sex as a bad or shameful thing. If it's the way you swing, it's the way you swing."

Remember Tolkien, where over 1500 pages no one even went to the bathroom? I suppose there's something to be said for a completely imagined fictive world, but you'd think some of this could be left to the slash-fiction writers.

And in a book determined to move so fast that it makes John Grisham look like Henry James, Mr. Meltzer also manages to pack in tourist-worthy scenery: the Capitol Dome, the Washington Monument and Mount Rushmore, too. Mount Rushmore? It seems that halfway through this initially sane and lively book, the chase sequences take over and the plot moves from the corridors of power to an abandoned gold mine. And the story's angle about secret weapons has a secret weapon of its own: the neutrino.... If the neutrino ever turns up in a diet scheme, it's bound to find readers, for sure.

I will skip the obvious question of how you make a weapon out of a particle that doesn't interact with anything and move to the diet question. Nutri-No. Dr. Neutrino's Massless Diet. Luscious Lepton Lunches. All this slop makes me so tired.

This extensive Q&A on radio promotion basically underscores how impossible it is to promote anything, even on college stations, without a nest egg of a few thousand dollars. Well, fuck it. My goals are humble: I just don't want to cart ten boxes of unsold albums to California when I move. So I have to get rid of them before them. If the only way to get rid of them is to send them all to zines and college stations, then I guess that's what I'll do. Is it possible to develop a tolerance to decongestant? I asked the cat if life was worth living; she didn't answer.


say afrin thrice, the afrin man appears

I should apologize for the unnecessary vagueness of yesterday's entry, which led people to believe that something enormous had happened like one of the novels getting published, or an acceptance by the New Yorker or something. No, no; it's just a humble story coming out via the good people at the Southern Review. Which is, as I mentioned to Grant yesterday, certainly occasion for a small victory dance, but not the great Dance of Pants that would accompany publication of a novel. It's the summer 2004 issue, which comes out I think in July; I don't know exactly where it's available, though I expect any of the Goliath megastores will carry it.

But little changes up this life. I'll be here, squirting decongestant up my nose and playing the cello. As every day.


the means of production

Well, so this is how the pros do things. They FedEx you back your manuscript with a very nice cover letter, and show you all the changes they've proposed to fit with the house style, and their ideas for changing words and moving sentences here and there—but it's all negotiable, just have to get it ironed out in the next week so they can have me proofread the galleys (galleys!) in early May. And then it hits the newsstands in the summer. Or that upstairs shelf at Prairie Lights, anyway. Good old Prairie Lights Bookstore; I miss you.


land of opportunity

If I learned anything at all from the last couple of years, I have learned that within certain (primarily financial) limits it is incredibly easy to create for yourself the sort of life you imagine you want. That's all I've been doing lately with these erratic hops around the continent: dreaming up what seems an ideal situation, and then waving my hand, hey presto! to call it into being.

The obvious problem is that these situations quickly turn out to be unsatisfactory. And their essential failing—that they don't involve other people in any substantial capacity—is of course what made them so easy to conjure in the first place. That's what one misses: the destabilizing influence of one or many others pushing one's life in a direction that one could not possibly have foreseen in the shower in Iowa in 2002, when one was constructing the idea of an ideal ascetic existence in the desert. Et seq.

Community is the word we are looking for. Heyo, community. Surprise me.



The days don't even register any more. I was just here, typing yesterday's post. I am living half out of my mind, living in the future, or in Guatemala—

The FDA just issued a public health advisory about possible suicide connections for pretty much every antidepressant that I or anyone I know has ever taken. Let me emphasize: the little pills are by and large wonderful, they are very good guardian djinns, and I don't know how I would have gotten through several spots in the last couple years without them. But all the same, an awful lot of people whom I love are taking one or more of the names on the FDA's list. If it ever gets that bad, kids, for fuck's sake give me a call. You know where I am.


silence, deep woods

Recovering. Pensive. Yesterday I couldn't write, so I spent the day doing less mentally strenuous things like learning how to remap my laptop's keyboard in the Windows registry. In the dark days of prehistory, before I started blogging, said laptop took a hit for the team when I spilled my coffee and was maimed for life. No more Enter, no Backspace or Del or ] } key.

Wow. I certainly used to link to things a lot more, back when I started this site. I think that was always unnatural, though. I'm too insular to be a linker. Do you folks miss the links? I know, you can't comment. Rouse thyself, ISP.

Anyway, I fixed the laptop. With hexadecimal codes and labels and electrical tape.


you already inhabit the future

I must remember
to let the yogurt in;
then I can begin
to make it better.


viral america

I am mucosal and slow. If anyone needs me I will be on the couch with toast and tea and Portnoy's Complaint.


the continual hunt for protein

The play uses various aspects of American culture to deride United States policy, including rap songs and booming show tunes. "That's why we don't like it Hezbollah! That's why we say No Intifada!" General Fox sings in English at one point.

American political figures put in appearances, either in person or name. The show is interrupted by advertisements for products like Condoleezza Margarine — "It's a real problem solver" — and a steroid drink called Colin Power. Just one sip allows you to "trounce four men and conquer four women."

Over here I am learning about rosin and the wolf tone. I was under the impression that rosin was merely a sort of Astroglide or pool cue chalk for violin bows, making the process smoother and easier for everyone, but no; rosin actually provides all the friction. Without it the bow doesn't do anything, as I learned to my momentary panic. The wolf tone, meanwhile, is a bizarre acoustic phenomenon that occurs with certain notes on a violin or cello; the idea is that the body of the instrument has a resonance frequency just slightly sharp or flat in relation to said note, producing bizarre harmonics. At first I thought I was creating a wolf tone; then I realized that you can't have a wolf tone for every single note on the instrument, and I was just playing badly.

The context here is that I bought me a cello on eBay. It looks pretty awesome in the apartment, if I say so myself.

I think The Wolf Tones would be an excellent name for a band. So would The Oort Cloud.



At Black Oak Books in Berkeley I discovered the quite out of print Letters to Milena by Kafka (my edition is rather older and has a more sixties-ish cover). Toward the end of his life Kafka made the acquaintance of the Czech writer Milena Jesenská, sixteen years his junior, who had translated some of his stories into Czech. They began an epistolary romance—not entirely epistolary, since they did meet in hotels and such a handful of times, but in any case strange and furtive, since Milena was married and Kafka was married, as he put it, to something terrible that he did not understand. The letters are always conflicted and reeling. Toward the end, when the affair starts to go south, they sound like this:

It's more or less like this: I, an animal of the forest, was at that time barely in the forest, lay somewhere in a dirty ditch (dirty only as a result of my being there, of course). Then I saw you outside in the open—the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen. I forgot everything entirely, forgot myself, got up, came closer—though fearful in this new yet familiar freedom—came closer nevertheless, reached you, you were so good I cowered down beside you as though it were my right, laid my face in your hand, I was so happy, so proud, so free, so powerful, so at home—over and over again this: So at home—but fundamentally I was still only the animal, still belonged in the forest, lived here in the open only by your grace, read without realizing it (for after all I'd forgotten everything) my fate in your eyes. This could not last. Though you stroked me with the kindest of hands, you had to recognize oddities which suggested the forest, where I'd sprung from and where I really belonged. Then came the inevitable discussions about the "fear," inevitably repeating themselves, which tortured me (and you, but you innocently) to the point of touching an open nerve. It grew more and more for you, hindering you everywhere—the misunderstanding with Max touched on it, in Gmünd it was already obvious, then came the Jarmila understanding-misunderstanding, and finally the stupid, clumsy, carelessly-handled business with V., and many other minor misunderstandings in between. I remembered who I am, no longer saw any deception in your eyes, I experienced the dream-fright (of behaving as though one were at home in a place where one does not belong). This fright I experienced in reality, I had to return to the darkness, I couldn't stand the sun, I was desperate, really like a stray animal, I began to run as fast as I could, and always the thought: "If only I could take her with me!" And the counter-thought: "Is there any darkness where she is?"

You ask how I live: this is how I live.

I think the saddest part of all is when, around the time that the letters become more infrequent, Kafka stops calling her du (a footnote informs us) and reverts to Sie. A year or two later his lung finally kills him. Milena died in a concentration camp in 1944.


theery of the novvul

Thanks to the Berkeley English department for buying everyone lots of beer. Lubricated by beer, I found a cowboy hat sitting on a lamp (someone had found it months earlier by a roadside) and wore the cowboy hat the entire night, and the hat facilitated meetings with the other prospectives and current grad students, all of whom seemed terrifyingly smart. If I go (meaning, if I can get the money together) I am likely to get my ass kicked. But in an edifying way. Also got to meet John Bishop, who wrote the book on Finnegans Wake and has been holding a Wake reading group lately, who when I went to visit him had the score for Pierrot Lunaire spread over his desk—he's comparing it to "Sirens" as an example of the spoken word becoming a musical instrument. Last year he taught a grad course on experimental fiction whose syllabus included Gravity's Rainbow and Infinite Jest.

Lacan, Lacan, your pants are gone!


putting the "cad" in "academia"

Joyce's first book of poems, Chamber Music, has been set in whole or in part by any number of people, but here's a new one coming from London-based Fire Records (courtesy Juliak): Mercury Rev, Mike Watt, Jim O'Rourke, and 50% of Sonic Youth, among many others. Rawr!

I am going to Bk Cf for a short span of days; back Tuesday.



The Fortress of Solitude is, by my lights, the first great fiction to come out of America in about ten years, since the halcyon days of Beloved and Jesus' Son and Infinite Jest. Of course there have been plenty of very good books in the interim, but Lethem has written one of those masterpieces that just vaults over everything else. It's Underworld without DeLillo's insufferable amateur sociology; it's Kavalier & Clay, but where Chabon can get so caught up in his fanciful yarns that he seems to leave the world behind, Lethem keeps both feet on the ground—even when his characters are airborne. This book has the dirt of the real world on it; it sticks. I can't say enough good things about it. The man has come through for us all.


i am bat boy's special interest

I swear I thought this link was a joke at first: Communist North Korea is the only government on record supporting John Kerry! The former French environment minister is Kerry's first cousin! Coldplay, a British band, endorses Kerry! Conspiracies, indeed.

But no. It's actually got the gop.com URL. I would like to think it's a good sign that they're scared enough to trot out the stupidest propaganda ever, except I'm afraid there are large sectors of America that will actually swallow it.


ei! wie schmeckt der coffee süsse

7. Recitative: “Nun, folge, was dein Vater spricht”

Here, Schlendrian plays his trump card: marriage. He threatens to deny Lieschen a husband if she doesn’t give up the dreadful beverage; she relents, vowing never to drink another drop. Professor Greenberg thinks that Lieschen planed it this way all along: that Schlendrian had denied Lieschen a husband in the past and now finally relents in order to get Lieschen off the coffee.

8. Aria “Heute noch”

A joyous, sensual number, with an invigorating harpsichord and string accompanament; Lieschen sings longingly of a husband, encouraging her father to get her one now. With luck, she has “traded coffee for a lover.” Again to quote Professor Greenberg, “I think there’s something a little more than...oh...platonic in Lizzie’s voice.”


training america's children to think in non sequiturs

Badgers badgers badgers badgers badgers badgers badgers badgers MUSHROOM MUSHROOM!

I will never be a dwarf star; I am too tall, and I am not famous.

But it's a nice day. The mailmen and mailwomen are wearing shorts. Household fears will not be permitted to leave the closet, at least not before dark.


i hope they incinerate everybody in it

What the Mountain Goats' We Shall All Be Healed reminds me of, and this may not be a clear connection to anyone else, is Modest Mouse's The Lonesome Crowded West. They both seem to get something about the non-coastal American West that's hard for me to explain; the way it's turned into a landscape of rocks and scrub and parking lots and districts of strip malls giving way to districts of cheap houses with desert grass colonizing their untended front yards. Some reviewer said the Modest Mouse record had a "vaguely white-trash vibe," and that's half of it, but there are plenty of lines ("aren't you feeling real dirty / sitting in the parking lot... out to New York City / to store and sell these rocks") that I can't hear without thinking of Tucson; specifically, without thinking of being teenaged and drunk and hopeless and aimless in Tucson. Maybe that's why the Mountain Goats record gives me the same feeling.

The record is basically Mr. John Darnielle's autobiographical account of being a meth addict in Portland in the eighties. They tell me meth started in the Northwest, but at least by 1994, when I met my first tweakers, meth (or "crystal," as they called it) had been a fixture of Tucson's lower strata for a number of years. Anyway, the record doesn't sound like Portland to me. Elliott Smith sounds like Portland; his folk was urban folk. Darnielle grew up in an eastern stretch of the L.A. sprawl, and that's what I hear in this record: the grass, the flatness. "I come from Chino," he sings, "where the asphalt sprouts." The way America is laid out these days, pretty much anywhere that has cows has meth. The coastal Northwest is too cool for that; it's heroin country now.

I guess what ties the records together for me is their sense of being young, hopeful and hopeless, working with a limited palette of experience. This ain't New York City; you don't get the romance of the streets. You get your tiny obsessions ("Martin calls to say he's sending more electrical equipment / That's good, we can always use more electrical equipment"); your decaying environment ("I don't know how the metal gets rusty / when it never rains here"); your wish for apocalypse ("The malls are soon to be ghost towns" vs. "If anybody comes into our room while we're asleep / I hope they incinerate everybody in it").

Turns out Mr. Darnielle is also the man behind Last Plane to Jakarta. Makes one want to go back and examine for instance his extensive song-by-song take on Amnesiac. It's one of the only accounts I've heard of someone fearing that album as much as I do.


guns, butter, porn

Yesterday afternoon I stopped by the Multnomah County building down the street, which has been marrying same-sex couples since Wednesday. Everyone seemed pretty happy about it. The only demonstrators were a few people waving rainbow flags and "CONGRATULATIONS COUPLES" banners and generally expressing solidarity with the whole thing. Occasionally a passing motorist would honk. There were a few cop cars handy to keep an eye on things, but there didn't seem much need for them.

Maybe all I need is a gay wedding. It would probably result in a cleaner apartment. The ants and I are at an impasse.



The attractive young women whose photographs appear in my spam are stepping up the offensive. For a while they were only appearing in diet ads and ads for the amazing digital XCam2, and that made sense: attractive young women have successfully lost weight, or: attractive young women are something that you can photograph with the amazing digital XCam2. The Cialis ads also had an obvious connection. But now I am getting ads to, say, improve this site's Google ranking, and there's an attractive young women flanking the offer. Does she also want to increase her hit count? Is she going to help me increase my hit count? There's no longer the least formal connection; she has explicitly become decoration.

I mean, I understand their reasoning. And I suppose that if I must receive photographs of strangers in my email, they might as well be attractive. But to get them first thing in the morning, before I've had my coffee, just makes me want to go back to bed.


mant's in my pants

I know you were expecting this, and were probably trying to warn me telepathically, but I have an ant problem. The cat, bless her heart, has sloppy eating habits and tends to leave oh-so-tempting morsels of food lying outside her bowl, and the empire of insects takes over from there. I have been vacuuming up the ants at intervals, but this seems to be only a stopgap measure.

But I know you did not come here to read about ants, and now you don't have to any more, because there is a bright new star in the blogverse. Orangebones is up through the good offices of Chris, my old doubles partner in guitar. (He also played badminton for Enamel.) Those are some penetrating posts, Chris; where you been, law school or something?

I have to go buy some ammonia cleaner now. They tell me it masks the formic acid trails.


compassion the highest law

Simpatía, Remedios Varo
Oil on masonite, 95 by 83.5 cm
(thankyou j.f.)


newton's second law (sit on your thumb & rotate)

March? Fuck! My book is not 16% written! There goes the beautiful timeline. But it is sunny, so; go write beyond my apartment. This only-leaving-the-house-for-food paradigm must stop. Portland is not a war zone.

I am the little crocodile. I improve my shining tail.


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