Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How I spent Thanksgiving

My final guest post is up at Thought Catalog. It's called: "I Hate the Holidays."
I hate the holidays. Not like, “Oh, I hate the holidays,” and then I go do it anyway. I mean it like, I do not do it. When the girl at the bookstore the day after Thanksgiving asked me, “Did you enjoy your Thanksgiving?” and stuffed my new copy of U-Turn: What If You Woke Up One Morning and Realized You Were Living the Wrong Life? into a bag, I said, “I abstained.” I put a lot of emphasis on that last word, abstained, to be clear: I do not imbibe. The girl looked at me all pained and perhaps sort of sympathetically embarrassed. Then I smiled, and took my book, and left.
[I Hate the Holidays]

Monday, November 29, 2010

On novel writing

I spent a good part of this holiday weekend working on revising my novel. It's about a federal agent searching for a missing porn star. I'm about a quarter of the way through the revisions.

This time, I'm doing a few things differently.

a) I found that I kept going back to the beginning to revise, and I also found the prospect of completing a novel daunting, so I broke each part of the novel down into a small section. Most of them are the length of a piece of flash fiction or a short short story. Each one has its own document. This decreases the likelihood you will go back and attempt to revise from the beginning. So far, it's working.

b) Generally, when writing, the head is what gets in the way. Now, when I'm writing, I empty my head and don't think. I let some sort of emptiness or higher connection guide the writing and the revision. This seems to be effective, as you eliminate internal debate, and you allow the unconscious to steer the creative process. The ability to do this is aided by meditation and being a content-generating machine at my day job.

c) The novel will be short. Probably 100 pages. That makes it either a novella, or a noveltini. I made up that last word. The idea is that you read it in one sitting. Because who wants to read more than 100 pages anyway?

I'm also reading U-Turn: What If You Woke Up One Morning and Realized You Were Living the Wrong Life? It's about people who make radical changes in their lives. I find it inspiring.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Watch me read

Next week, I'll be reading at Five Things, where five readers read five minute stories based on a theme. The theme is dysfunctional families, and I'll be reading a story about over-sharing holiday cards.

Five Things, 7 pm
Wednesday, December 1st
United States Art Authority
2906 Fruth Street
Austin, Texas

[Five Things]

Thursday, November 25, 2010


The view from my balcony.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The B-boys of the San Fernando Valley

I've got another new post up at Thought Catalog: "The B-Boys of the San Fernando Valley."
Every so often, I go back and look at these photos. I don’t know why. They’re so weird. Who are these men? Why did this one guy think it would be a good idea to wear a wig and a fake mustache? To hide his identity from the camera, sure, but why the Parisian waiter ’stache? And what about the other guy? He looks like his name is Robert, and maybe he lives in Sunland, and he overheard two guys talking about this at Lowe’s, and he knew he had to be there, that he couldn’t live the rest of his life knowing about this but not having done this, and his wife, Doris, is playing bridge with her friend, so what does she care?
[Read it]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I get email

My most recent post for Thought Catalog is online. It's called "I Get Email." It's about all the crazy emails I get.
Because I have been on the internet for a long time, I get a fair amount of email. From people I don’t know. People who, I assume, think they know me, because they know me on the internet, which is to say they don’t know me at all. They know me as a simulacrum. The pixel, not the flesh.
["I Get Email"]

Monday, November 22, 2010

The queen of comedy

I interviewed Sandra Bernhard for The A.V. Club. Here's a part of it that didn't end up in the final version. It's about "The King of Comedy."
AVC: How did you get the role in "The King of Comedy"?

SB: Along with about 500 actresses, I managed to sneak in there and meet with the casting director, a friend of mine, actually, hooked it up, and I went in there and improvised a bunch of stuff. Then I went out to meet with Scorsese and De Niro, and then they came to see me perform, and then they flew me to New York, and I auditioned with Jerry Lewis, so it was like a two-month, long, protracted experience, and then when I got it, of course, I was like over the moon. Then when I filmed it, it was equally exciting and inspiring. I think the film holds up as a real precursor to everything that’s happened in our culture. The man who wrote it, Paul Zimmerman, was so prescient. I mean, who could ever have imagined how crazy things really would go in terms of celebrity in our culture? He just really busted it open. It still is a benchmark film in that whole idea of reality television, and how anybody will do anything to become famous.
[Read it]

Friday, November 19, 2010

I am Ed Gein's widow

I had a great time reading as part of the Encyclopedia Show last night. There was singing, there was dancing, and since the theme was Serial Killers, there was a lot of gore. Thank you to Ralphie and Mike for having me.

Here's the story I read, "I Am Ed Gein's Widow." The people seemed to enjoy it.
I am Ed Gein’s widow. Not a lot of people know that Ed was married. Even fewer people know that I am his widow. It’s not something you tell people at dinner parties. Ed was not a well-understood man. He was passionate, and he was reserved, and there were certain things about his life that when they came to light were not looked upon entirely favorably. In fact, when the spotlight shown down upon him, the world was horrified. But the man I knew was a different man, and that is what I have come to discuss here today: my Ed Gein.

You can say a lot of things about Ed that may or may not explain him. That he lived in Wisconsin. Plainfield, to be exact. Really, there isn’t much to say about Plainfield other than that Ed lived there. Everything else sort of pales in comparison. His real and full name was Edward Theodore Gein, but no one ever called him Teddy. After it all came out, they called him The Plainfield Ghoul. He loved his mother, Augusta. Augusta did not love his father. Augusta had strong feelings about things. For example: all women are whores. This is the background in which Ed was raised.

Augusta was not kind to Ed or his brother, Henry. Eventually, Henry turned on his mother. Then Henry turned up dead. Some people say Ed did it, but it’s hard to say when you weren’t there. Eventually, Augusta died. And that’s when the trouble began.

On November 16, 1957, a local Plainfield woman, Bernice Worden, disappeared. One way or another the police investigators ended up at Ed’s house. There, they found Bernice. She was strung up by her ankles in the shed, naked as a jaybird, and no head. She had been cut wide open, like a deer. In the house, they found things: a collection of masks made from human skin, four noses, nine vulvas in a shoebox. Bernice’s head. The heads of ten more women, their tops lopped neatly off. Human organs in the ice box.

Ed wasn’t a serial killer. He was an artist. He didn’t want to kill. He wanted to transform. He wanted to be his mother, he wanted to become a woman, he wanted to be someone other than who he was. Haven’t you dreamed of the Resurrection? Of some kind of total transformation? Of waking up one day and finding you are not a giant cockroach but a beautiful, beautiful butterfly? That’s what Ed was after. Unlike most of us, he was willing to get what he needed from the graveyard in the middle of the night, if that’s what it took. To make suits of women. To transvest himself.

After the trial, they sent Ed to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He died in 1984. For a time, those who visited Ed’s grave would chip off a little piece of his headstone, like a trophy. Like they wanted a piece of him for themselves. Finally, someone stole his tombstone. When it turned up again, they put it in a museum. I haven’t gone to see it. It’s not the same. Ed wasn’t some slab of stone.

Our love story is a simple one. We met in high school, and we married in secret when I was 19 and Ed was 23. We never consummated our relationship. We never lived together. We told no one. Ed didn’t think people would understand. He was a man who needed his space, so I let him have it. I didn’t go over to his place much, and when I did, I focused on him, not what was there, or what he did or didn’t do. That’s how it is with men. You have to let them be.

So, you can talk to me about those four noses, those nine masks made of human skin, those hollowed out skull bowls, those heads that lost their tops, those chairs upholstered in DNA, Mary Hogan's head in a paper bag, Bernice Worden's head in a burlap sack, those nine vulvas in that shoe box, those skulls on those bedposts, those human organs in that refrigerator, and that pair of lips on the draw string for the window shade, but you can’t tell me about love.

People say there are good men and there are bad men, but it’s because of Ed that I know there’s no difference between the two. Good men do what bad men do to somebody other than you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The War Project: Spc. Benjamin Hart Viges

I've got a new interview up at The War Project. Hart Viges was a paratrooper deployed to Iraq in 2003. He became a conscientious objector.
I got the reputation over there as the guy who ran the .50 cal every day. ‘Cause other squads, they rotated out their .50 cal gunner, Mark 19 gunner. ‘Cause that was kind of like a very vulnerable spot. If anybody was gonna get shot first, it was gonna be the guy behind the biggest gun. Me, I had a thing about me. Angelina. I’m an Angelina Jolie fan. I had to ride Angelina every single day. She was my gun.
Photos on Flickr. [INTERVIEW: Spc. Benjamin Hart Viges]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Come see me live and in person

Tomorrow, Thursday, November 18, I'll be reading a new story, "I Am Ed Gein's Widow," at the Encyclopedia Show in Austin, Texas. The event takes place at ND at 501 Studios. The evening's theme is Serial Killers. The show starts at 8 PM.
Ed wasn’t a serial killer. He was an artist. He didn’t want to kill. He wanted to transform. He wanted to be his mother, he wanted to become a woman, he wanted to be someone other than who he was. Haven’t you dreamed of the Resurrection? Of some kind of total transformation? Of waking up one day and finding you are not a giant cockroach but a beautiful, beautiful butterfly? That’s what Ed was after. Unlike most of us, he was willing to get what he needed from the graveyard in the middle of the night, if that’s what it took. To make suits of women. To transvest himself.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Killer journalism

My first post for Thought Catalog is online: "All the Stories I Never Wrote."
I also never wrote a story about a young woman whose father had died tragically and famously, and then five years and five days to the day that her father, who was very handsome and supposed to be a very good person, had been killed, she wound up being involved in a homicide. I went to her hearing after I heard she’d gotten arrested. She was 17 at the time of the incident, and she was 18 when I saw her in the courtroom: pretty and blond and small. When she walked into the courtroom through a side door, her hands were shackled to her hands, and her ankles were shackled to her ankles. She looked across the courtroom to her mother, who had really had enough hard things happen to her already in her life, and there was so much sadness and tragedy and horribleness in between them that it filled up the room.
[All the Stories I Never Wrote]

Monday, November 15, 2010

Too tall to love

Peteski sent me this.
When you're six feet tall in a 5'6" world ... there's no hiding place for you -- you're a FREAK, a walking sideshow, jeered at, different in a way no girl should be. Longing in vain to be loved -- but always rejected ... because you're ... TOO TALL TO LOVE.
My love life in a nutshell, really.

[Read it]

Friday, November 12, 2010

My thought catalog

After spending some time not being able to think of anything to write for my November guest stint at Thought Catalog, I finally thought of something. The post isn't online yet, but it's called "All the Stories I Never Wrote," and here's a snippet about one of those stories, one about a guy who lives in the San Fernando Valley.
See, I didn't write the story about him because I was afraid he would kill me. Certainly not like, ha-ha, I thought he would "kill" me, and actually in this case not literally kill me, because I spent a fair amount of time thinking about it, If I did this story, would this guy kill me?, and I thought it would be more likely what this man would do if I did a story about him, one that, shall we say, exposed him, would be to hire a couple of his friends to kidnap me and torture me and tell me if I ever wrote the story to completion, they would kill me. Because he sort of had a history of doing stuff like that. I don't know if they would kill me in the end, but I guess you could say that I've been through enough in my life that I've come to the conclusion that the human brain -- or at least this human brain -- is actually more fragile than you might think, and that it would perhaps not bear up well under being kidnapped and tortured. Especially the torture part. I think.
Check back for the link when it goes live.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


A photo by Clayton Cubitt over my red sofa.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Filmmaker looking for Iraq or Afghanistan veteran to act in short film

The other day I received an email from David Gerson, a New York-based actor and filmmaker. David is casting for a short film that he's directing, and he's looking for an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran to cast in the lead.
"American Standard" is a film about the challenges of a vet returning home and readapting to civilian life. We are seeking a veteran who has served in either Iraq or Afghanistan (or both) who might be interested in "acting" in this short film. No previous experience necessary, just a familiarity with his own emotions and a willingness to share his experiences with the public.
 You can email David for more information here


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I've got more stupid advice

My latest installment of my "Stupid Advice" column for Playboy's The Smoking Jacket is now online. This time, I take on Men's Health's stupid advice about what a woman is saying by what she's wearing.
According to Jones, women have a “secret language,” and that secret language can be found in their clothing choices. While I do agree that women have a secret language, it’s not in their style. It’s in their vaginas.

Unfortunately, the contract I signed upon becoming a woman bars me from sharing that secret language – suffice to say, it’s more complicated than Klingon ...
[Stupid Advice: What Her Clothing Says About Her]

Monday, November 8, 2010

I'm at Harvard

It would appear one of my recent blog posts, "The Numbers on Self-Publishing Long Form Journalism," is on the reading list for students of a class being taught at Harvard Kennedy School this semester, "Media, Politics & Power in the Digital Age."

The post was also on the reading list for a journalism class Jay Rosen is teaching at NYU this semester.

Both of those happened because of Dave Winer.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The War Project excerpt

I was in the 1-325, so we were an airborne infantry regiment, ‘cause our ancestors were gliders in World War II, and, you know, we just stand a little bit taller and talk more shit than the regular soldier, because soldier is a dirty word at Fort Bragg. You are not a soldier. You are a paratrooper.
-- An excerpt from an upcoming interview for The War Project, which should be posted next week.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Questions for Sandra Bernhard

A women's shelter on Wednesday cut headliner Sandra Bernhard from its annual benefit after she said Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin would be gang-raped if she ever visited New York. -- Huffington Post
This weekend, I'll be interviewing Sandra Bernhard. Got any questions for her? Let me know.

I just want to know if she still talks to Madonna.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Zero for your thoughts

This month, I'll be contributing some posts to Thought Catalog.

I have no idea what I'll be writing about. And since they seem to write about all sorts of things over there, I suppose I'll write about whatever happens to pass through my mind.

Perhaps I'll write about this video, seeing as it's about the most amusing thing I've encountered on the internet in, oh, the last few weeks.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Afghanistan, October, 2010

The Big Picture has posted the latest installment of its Afghanistan series: "Afghanistan, October, 2010."

Here, a Marine's helmet is decorated with lyrics from a Misfits song.


Monday, November 1, 2010

The meat girl

I'm in the process of moving. I bought a bordello red sofa. Over it, I will be hanging a print gifted to me by my photographer friend Clayton Cubitt.

It's the photo of the woman on the left. She comes from a series that Siege did for Zink magazine: Raw Flesh.

She's Sushi Barbie.