Friday, February 26, 2010

To whom it may unconcern

In response to various emails and other neurotic queries, yes, I quit Twitter. Why? Because it was my crack, and I had to put down the pipe. Because it was a time suck. Because I felt like it. Please cease sending me your stricken, mortified emails regarding the absence of my inane comments, random links, and other drivel from your lives. I remain unmoved.

Basically, I needed to spend less time doing that crap, and more time working on my novel. You are aware that I have a full-time job, as well? Or, perhaps you were not. And Twitter as a gig doesn't pay well, unless you are a Kardashian.

I'm sure I'll start up again in some other way when I get obsessed about some other thing.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Say hello to my little friend

The other day I came across this video. I discovered it after reading about the Magpul FMG-9 on Boing Boing. (See also: here.) The FMG-9 is great if you're in a situation where you need to look like you're just messing around with a flashlight, and then need to mow down someone. Sadly, it is only a prototype. For now.

Anyway, screw the FMG-9, because I am all about the KRISS Super V. You know that part when Rick James says "Cocaine is a helluva drug"? Well, this is a helluva firearm. In a nutshell? It is a submachine gun that shoots .45s. You had me at hello. You know what it is for? "Room clearing." I bet this is a very effective way to clear a room, indeed. Permanently. It is also described as a "real person stopper." I'll say! And it puts a helluva hole into anything at which you point it -- at a rate of 1,500 rounds per minute. People may run from the KRISS, but probably not far.

One time, I went out on a date with a guy, and we went shooting. Sadly, that date did not end well. Perhaps if the KRISS had been on hand, things might have turned out differently.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You must remember this

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
-- Kierkegaard

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The fine art of dog racing

A long time ago, well, it wasn't that long ago, but in the years, and it seems like another lifetime ago, I went out with a guy who was a drill sergeant in the Navy. I went up to visit him in Kenosha, Wisconsin, or somewhere thereabouts. I hadn't been up there since graduate school in Chicago. Suffice to say, my upbringing in California did not prepare me well for sub-zero temperatures, breath-taking-away wind chill factors, and snow that sent tractor trailers sliding into your rear bumpter at slow rates of speed. The land was as bleak and unforgiving and barren as I had remembered. I got the name Fond du Lac stuck in my head. I wondered what I was doing there, exactly.

At some point, he took me to the dog races. (I am leaving the part out about the strip club by the side of the highway, and for that you can thank me later.) I believe we went to Dairyland Greyhound Park, which has since closed. I don't believe I'd been to the dog races before. It was extraordinarily beautiful, watching the dogs, muzzled, their sleek bodies bucking, flying down the track in hot pursuit of something they could never get. The snow falling.

Sometimes, I miss the dog races, and the shooting ranges, and the whatnot strange experiences. But I guess my mind is like a movie theater, and maybe sometimes it's enough to watch the old movies replay on the screen, even if it is a bit tattered.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm the style editor of my dreams (updated)

This week, the style editor at my job is on vacation, and so I have been asked to fill in for her, turning me into the fashion editor of my dreams, albeit but for a fleeting moment. To watch what I'm up to, check out the style section at The Frisky. I'll be the one in Rodarte.

Update: Fashion porn.

Update 2: ADR tells you how to pack.

Friday, February 19, 2010

How to hustle a warlord

If you have a chance, definitely watch HBO's new documentary, "Reporter." It follows New York Times op/ed columnist Nicholas Kristof's journey to Congo and back and various points in between. It seems strange to call Kristof a columnist, as when I hear "columnist" I think of like, Handy Hints from Heloise, or some broad blathering about relationships, and, you know, Kristof is breaking bread with Congo warlords.

It's not a perfect piece. It's a little all over the place, and the mealy-mouthed voice over could definitely be done without, but what makes it interesting is seeing Kristof in action, because, when you think about it, you see a lot of the consequences of what journalists do, but you don't see a lot of journalists in the field, doing what they do. Kristof is kind of an odd bird. He's sort of what I think of as a traditional newspaper reporter. They have no facial expressions. They seem sort of detached from everything, even as they move through it. And, you know, Kristof is not, ah, easy on the eyes. Oh, but, dang, he's just a marvelous reporter, and watching him "carelessly" wing off into the DRC and track down a warlord and traipse through the jungle is, well, I haven't done that. Have you?

The most interesting part is when Kristof sits down with General Laurent Nkunda, a warlord, and one bad ass motherfucker, no one I would want to mess with, or, like, meet while speed dating. And it's very intriguing to see Kristof and Nkunda do the interview dance. Kristof is very, very good, and he gets what he needs from Nkunda, surrounded by guards with guns bigger than the likes of anything I've ever seen, somewhere out in the jungle deeper than you've ever been. Afterward, Nkunda asks them to stay for dinner. Really, they can't, Kristof explains, because the trip home is four hours, and the sun is getting low in the sky, and if they travel at night, they run the risk of being killed. But how do you say no to a warlord? So, they stay. Nkunda provides them with armed soldiers for the ride home, and sends word that no one is to harm them on their return trip, presumably so the man who the warlord has perceived to be his messenger can spread the leader's word to the world.

Now, I've never sat down for dinner with a warlord, but it did remind me of the dance I've done with some of the people in the Valley, particularly the men, the directors. The stereotype of "those guys" has a hairy chest with a phat gold chain tangled in it, but, in fact, directors who cajole people into doing what they otherwise would not do are without a doubt charming. And so is Nkunda. As the interviewer, you can't hustle this subject. A hustler can't hustle a hustler. Yet, you do the dance, and, oftentimes, along the way, the subject falls in love, with something -- the sound of his own words, his story told his way trailing out of his mouth, the way that even though you are an outsider you are here and now giving him your undivided attention. So, in the end, maybe you both fall a little bit in love, mostly, in all likelihood with yourself, or some idea of who you think you are when you play this verbal game of chess, and both sides walk away thinking they've won, and the game keeps on playing.
"Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible."--The Journalist and the Murderer

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Self-publish or perish?

One of the sad truths of my life is that I pretty much don't do anything unless The Harpoonist approves of it -- and I do mean anything. I met The Harpoonist many years ago, when we were both graduate students in a writing program. She is exactly one foot shorter than me, and yet she controls me the same way she controls her dim, slobbering Boston terrier. It would be sad if it weren't so effective. She is rarely wrong, and for that I deeply resent her.

So, when we were talking books last night, I told her about my latest self-publishing idea, which, well, it's certainly forward-thinking. Suffice to say, it takes self-publishing to the next level. By eliminating the book altogether. I had worried she would not like my idea, and yet she did. The Harpoonist loves Moby-Dick, and The Harpoonist is a mystery. These two things are related.

In any case, I like this new idea. You know what it seems? It seems easy. It's not really, not at all, but I like it anyway. I've spent so much of my life taking the road less traveled that the idea of taking the road untraveled sounds intensely appealing, especially because, in this case, the road itself is, shall we say, invisible.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

That writing thing

I'm about 6,000 words into my novel, which will actually be a novella, around 30,000 words, so I'm maybe 1/5th of the way through. Honestly? Except for that time when I wrote a bunch of stuff in January that was off track and threw it all out, it's been going pretty swell. You know what it feels like? It feels like all the other times I was trying to write it, I was paddling a canoe upstream, and then I let the current turn the canoe around, and now it feels like I'm canoeing with the current.

What happened? If I had a brain without holes in it, I'd tell you how many years I've been trying to write this novel, but I don't, so I can't. Maybe since 2002? But I think the part of getting it right started last year, when I went back to the Valley, in April. That gave me the stuff that ended up informing a lot of this book. And then I wrote a non-fiction essay about that experience, and then I published that, and then, for a long time after that, I would go back, and I would read that piece online, like I was trying to get at something.

What I knew by that point was that whatever I was interested in was in that piece, and that when I was writing about it, the one true thing that really interested me in it, that writing would sing. And it did. And when I saw what that was, and where that was, I finally got to a point where I could say: That is the place I need to be. That is what I know. It is what I love. Because to write about something really, really well, you have to really, really love it or really, really hate it, and once you get there, and you see that, you can kind of let go of it, and then, and only then, can you write about it, or at least that was true for me.

The temptation is to self-flagellate for not getting it earlier. The weird thing is that this writing is in some ways a lot like what I wrote like in graduate school -- or, perhaps more significantly -- what I wrote like before my father died. It feels more like me, or more like the me I thought I'd be, before things got off track.

It doesn't seem to need a lot of revising. Maybe I'll be done by this April. Or maybe I won't. It feels like when you've crested the summit, and you're trundling down the other side, and you feel gravity take hold of you, and you wonder how long it will be before you reach the river.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hey, it's fashion week

Did you know it's fashion week in New York City? True story. Photographer Lauren Greenfield made this odd video after visiting various fashion weeks around the world. You may recognize Greenfield for her Girl Culture series, which has become pretty iconic, or her HBO documentary on eating disorders, "Thin," or Fast Forward, which is about growing up Hollywood, and the cover of which always reminds me of Spencer Platt's World Press Photo of the Year 2006.

In any case, I don't quite get why Greenfield chose to edit the video the way that she did, breaking her shots into squares that blink on and off; mostly, it simply serves to fragment their beautiful cohesion. And that soundtrack is awful mopey; although, the grind has a strange appeal after a while. But if you keep watching, you do see her take on the strange bird that is the fashion industry. She really gets at the peacocking of it, that it is simply surreal to have girls that look like weeping willows parade around in 21st century bedazzled armor, while everyone looks on, fussing over how important it all is, what it all means.

At my day job, the style editor is going to be on vacation for a week, so I'll be the de facto style editor while she's gone. I'm really looking forward to it. Fashion is my pornography, my vehicle to escape, what makes everything else fade. Those glow-in-the-dark heels. Those blow-up doll lips. Those crystal ball effects.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The in box

I, also, am glad you made it through the long night.
Your brain has changed.  You say you feel it changing again.  That is phenominal, but probably a bit scary.  It happened to me before.  I felt my mind expand.  I felt the world change.  For me- these were, always, positive events.  I am sorry you have not always had that.
Enough.  Happy heart day- you deserve it... and many, many more.
Merchant Seaman

Friday, February 12, 2010

V is for love

Happy Valentine's Day!



Thursday, February 11, 2010

On suicide

Alexander McQueen has died. He committed suicide. Purportedly, he hanged himself.

For the last couple weeks, I've been thinking about writing a post about suicide on February 15, because five years ago, on February 15, 2005, that's what I was thinking about doing. I've alluded to it a few times over the years, mostly on my old blog, but I don't think I've ever really written about it much. It's sort of an odd thing to write about, and you wonder what people will think, and you wonder why you didn't do it. But it's been five years, which, I suppose, is some kind of a miracle.

I was without a doubt one of those types of people who never would have believed I would have ended up wanting to kill myself if you had asked me prior to that time in my life. In all likelihood, I would have designated such an act either a sign of terrific personal weakness or the consequence of lunacy. And perhaps it is those things, for some, some of the time, and something else, too. I'm not even sure I know what.

I could tell you that there were a series of things that happened right around that time that prompted me to want to end my life, but, looking back now, as if through a kaleidoscope, it seems the build up to it predated it by a long, long time. After my father died on January 6, 1996, things were never quite the same for me mentally. And, surely, I was far from "normal" before that. The years that came after his death were, in a way, a long route of avoiding his death. When my stepmother called me the night my father died, while I lay sleeping, she suggested I come and see my father, who had died of a heart attack on the living room floor. Later, some person in the medical field would describe his heart as having "exploded," and that was pretty much what that news did to me. It was as if someone had fired a bullet into my brain, tearing a path straight through, after which things would never be the same. At the time, I declined my stepmother's invitation to view my father's dead body; but, sometimes, looking back, I wonder if it would have been better if I had. If by seeing him unequivocally gone, I would have in some way been able to better let him go. But I didn't. Instead, I dodged, parried, and, after hanging up the phone, went to the neighbor's, as I was concerned I was going to toss myself out the window. So, every suicidal mindset has a back story, and mine was years old.

In 2005, after things came to a head, I wanted to kill myself pretty much every minute of every day from mid-February until around mid-April. I suppose I snapped. I had some kind of a mental break. After the death of my father, I had moved to Los Angeles, where I spent several years writing about the adult movie industry. In that world, I followed some of the most extreme things the hardcore corner of the Valley had to offer. And it is impossible to say that what I saw there did not have a significant impact upon my psyche. Standing front row at "The World's Biggest Gang Bang III" does not generally lead an individual to believe that people are inherently good. Repeatedly visiting the sets of bukkakes, in which as many as 100 men ejaculate onto the face of one kneeling woman, does not typically cause one to conclude that the world is a beautiful and wondrous place. Visiting and revisiting a world in which there are no rules, and people respond to this fact by treating one another as if the single goal in life is to annihilate each other does not for a happy, healthy human make. Still, I did it. And, as Billy Pilgrim says, so it goes. For every action there is a consequence, and these actions were not without their own.

In the months when I most desperately wanted to kill myself, it's hard to describe what it was like. My suspicion is that my current brain, in working to protect its current, one hopes, healthier state, is predisposed to avoid connecting with a time during which the body in which the brain is housed no longer wanted to continue living. I can say one thing unequivocally: It was absolutely terrifying. It was like being trapped in a madhouse, only you are the madhouse. It was like being a bug in amber, but the bug is alive. It was like your body knew that your brain was sick, and because you were sick, you were no longer of use to the gene pool, and the best thing for everyone involved, the body knew, was to destroy itself, because otherwise it would be at risk of contaminating everyone else in the pool. The thing that's hard to understand if you haven't been immersed in it, that, I think, is portrayed well, if it can be that, in "The Bridge," is that, from inside, it seems like the most logical thing in the world. It's hard to underscore how perfect the logic is, from the inside looking out. At least, that's how it was for me. It was ... perfect.

I wanted to gas myself. I was living in an apartment at the time where the central heating system was gas, so there were gas valves in the various rooms that you could open if you needed heat. I spent hours and days staring at them, wanting to turn on the gas. Looking back, I see I would have taken those who lived in the other half of the house with me. At the time, I can't say it crossed my mind. Mostly, I didn't tell other people what was going on. In fact, I believe I told no one. I lied. All the time. I listened to my girlfriends talk on the phone while I stared at the pipe, wondering how long it would be before I turned the lever. The first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning and saw the ceiling was that I wanted to die. It was never ending. I entertained other measures: a gun, some pills, the train. But, in the end, I didn't do it.

Today, I no longer want to die. In fact, I want very, very much to live. But the fact that at one point you wanted to take your own life -- well, it lingers in a way that I find to be, frankly, haunting. It's always there. The fact that you went that far. That you were there. Like a shadowy figure in a noir novel that you can't quite shake. And if it's there, who says it won't catch up to you again one day? So, you walk a little faster. And you try a little harder. And sometimes, when you wake up in the morning, you look at the ceiling and think, Thank god, I made it through the night.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quote of the day

Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.
-- Cormac McCarthy

[Image via This Isn't Happiness]

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Say hello to something I like

Apparently, there's this magazine called Love, which is helmed by some woman everybody who is beautiful loves, and her latest issue is all about the body or something, which is code for "let's run a lot of photos of naked women who are fabulous and famous but are not wearing any underpants." That, my friends, is internet gold.

Ergo, the models are famous, beautiful, and naked. They are Lara Stone, Daria Werbowy, Kate Moss, and a bunch of other broads. Fashion Gone Rogue, which I read more times a day than is psychologically healthy, has them here, and here, and here. I think there's more somewhere else, but, eh, whatever.

I love these images. I think they are beautiful, and real (by which I mean "real," but whatever), and fabulous. Each one has the girl's measurements, and there's some little text with some of them that has the chick bitching about or saying something weird or whatever about her body, which is fine and sort of interesting. Like Daria has a "love/hate thing" with her body, which is sort of amazing, considering I would just parade up and down the street naked all day if I looked like Daria naked. Yet, I do not.

Of course, the Huffington Post has to generate some linkbait "DUR, IS THIS PORN OR ART" poll (here, baited), which is reductivist and retarded. No easy task, that.

My only problem with the series is that it's a blatant ripoff of the divine Helmut Newton, aka God with a Camera. See? See? Yes, maybe you do. I could say "in my opinion," but isn't that sort of inferred with a blog?

A long time ago, I interviewed the late Mr. Newton over the telephone, and I asked him how to take a picture of a naked woman, and he said, "Yoo take ovf dee clodes, yoo prop zee gurl awp in dee corner, and you take da piktcha." Or something like that.

Anyway, boobs. You're welcome.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Your video remix

Maybe you follow me on Twitter? Maybe you do not. Either way, here are some fine videos that I've tweeted lately. Some are happy. Some are sad. Some are scary. Some will make you want to dance. Some will make you want to take a photograph. Hopefully, one of them will make you want to do something.

Above: U900 does "Diamond Head." I'm dating the lead ukulele player, but "carrying on" with the other guy. I like him because he's the "bad" one.

My buddy Alex Jablonsky and his partner Michael Totten have created another installment of their Sparrow Songs project. This time, it's "The Puppet Maker." It freaked me owwwt.

Xeni does not use the "n" word.

Man-about-the-street Bill Cunningham says men are the new sex objects, and Bill knows shit.

This is a terrible video, but I can't stop listening to the song. Brian Jonestown Massacre does "Anenome Amenome Anemomnuonme?." Or whatever it's called. Courtesy Kevin Depew.

"Nuit Blanche" broke my heart.

Back to Congo with Dr. Mukwege, who appears in my novel.

A photog goes raw dog.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hey, tough guy

Make sure to watch "Gangster Types and Tough Guys," a terrific audio slide show featuring the thoughts and shots of the amazing Bruce Gilden.

Then, visit "Shaped by War," an equally riveting audio slide show focusing on war photographer Don McCullin.

Finally, Lens wonders: "Too Many Angles on Suffering?"

James Nachtwey's latest tour: "Haiti: Out of the Ruins."

For more Yakuza, there's Anton Kusters.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Maybe not happy

So, I think I have to change the title of my novel. I came across this book the other day, a memoir called Happy by Alex Lemon. It's about how he has brain bleeds, and how it changed him, and it's getting some attention. "Happy" was his nickname.

That's what my novel was going to be called, Happy, because it's the first name of the main female character in the novel. Because it's ironic, as a title, given the subject matter. Weirdly, I had recently even envisioned a cover a great deal like the one Lemon has, with the letters dripping. But there you go.

Anyway, I thought I better think of a new one. The Bad Man. The short story upon which the novel is based is "You're a Bad Man, Aren't You?" The central question of the story is whether or not the main character is a bad man or not. It's hard to know sometimes. Especially when you're the man.

There's an old Western with that title. And Lynyrd Skynyrd shed tears for the bad man. But that's OK.

I changed the epigraph, too. It's from Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream: A Forensic Psychiatrist Illuminates the Darker Side of Human Behavior by Robert I. Simon, MD.
"One cannot listen for so many years to patients and to criminal defendants revealing their inner lives without coming to the conclusion that bad men and women do what good men and women only dream about doing."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The top 10 wackiest stripper shoes

Over at my day job, I compiled a slide show of "The Top 10 Wackiest Stripper Shoes." Yes, that's my day job. There was research involved! My dedication to my "craft" knows no bounds, truly.

I think my favorite ones are the "Bondgirl"-themed heels you see here, equipped with, well, part of a gun for a heel and extra, er, "bullets." Of course, there's something to be said for a pair of stripper shoes with their own stripper pole. And I appreciate the direct marketing campaign of these: "PAY ME." People tend to get a kick out of the tip jar ones if you haven't seen them already. And nothing says "I love you" on Valentine's Day like platforms with hearts for heels.

I used to own a fair number of pairs of shoes like this. They were covered in silver glitter, or had a pair of red lips, or thigh-high fire engine red boots with eight-inch heels. Now? Not so much. They crippled me. Something to remember them by.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The fat of the land

"The exhibition takes its title from the central sculpture in the exhibition, a severed bull’s head with golden horns and crowned with a solid gold disc. Suspended in formaldehyde and encased in a golden vitrine, this totemic sculpture acts as a powerful coda to The Golden Calf (2008). End of an Era proffers a sacrificial head, here dismembered from the majestic body of the earlier sculpture. While The Golden Calf symbolized the worshipping of a false idol, with End of an Era (2009) Hirst demystifies the biblical tale and, by extension, debunks his own myth-making."
-- Trend.Land

Monday, February 1, 2010

About that novel ...

Yeah, so, between the here and the there and the everywhere, I think I had churned out around 15,000 words of this latest version of the novel. Only, I didn't really like most of it but the beginning. The first 1,500 words. I kept plowing away at it anyway, because I am nothing if not an excellent self-flagellator, and then I got, well, subjugated would be one way to put it, by The Kidney Stones Fiasco. Then I, you know, had a little chat with myself, and I took the extra 13,500 or so words out. I looked at the 1,500 I still had, and I thought those were about right. Then I wrote another, oh, I don't know, 800 or so, maybe. Now, I like it.

It's such a weird thing, this novel. It is finally what it was always supposed to be, this novel or novella-sized version of this short story I wrote in, oh, I don't know, 2001? No, 2000, maybe. The title story of You're a Bad Man, Aren't You?. But for years, and I do mean years, I kept not really doing that, without even totally realizing that I wasn't really doing that, sort of writing it in other characters, or "going there," and then backing out, and the hemming and the hawing. Maybe, I guess, after I went back to LA in the spring of last year, something clicked. Or maybe it was after that, after I wrote "They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?" I was able to have a frank, silent conversation with myself, that there was only one thing about all of that that interested me, and so maybe, yeah, just maybe, if I wrote about that one true thing, then it would be right, which, long story long, sounds like how it feels. About right.

Still, after I churned out the first dollop of it -- I don't remember when, like, December? -- sure enough, I went squawking off in another direction; hence, all that crap I had to throw out. But lying here, contemplating my kidney, ruminating, but not brooding, because I figured any negative thoughts of any kind would forestall physical healing, I kind of got somewhere where doing what I needed to do was OK. Not, you know, "bad," or, like, something to be avoided, or so reprehensible I couldn't tolerate it. Then, you know, how it happens, when you're not really thinking, those teeny, tiny slivers of time when your brain gets distracted by something else, and some other secret slimy smart part of your brain decides to step up to the plate, and then you look back again, and you're like, Oh, and, I get it, and everything is clear.

It was like that, but way more boring. Or way better. Depending on how you look at it. Regardless, I am going back to what I originally said when I started doing this version of it, which is that I think this book is a novella, not a novel. That's how it feels. I don't know if it's that I can't stand it to be more than that, or I don't think anyone else could stand more than that, or if that's the way it simply is, but there you have it. It's like a pygmy pig. Or a Tic Tac. Or an IED.

I wish I could work on it more, but when I sit up for too long, my kidney aches. Why? I don't know. Longing, maybe. It's probably for the best, though, really. This is fast food. Not a steak. It's a hit and run.