New Years Resolutions

January 14th, 2008 at 5:37 pm

It’s Day 14 of the Year of the Election. Have you attacked or slandered an opponent lately? Shed a few pounds or quit smoking at least?

I’m inclined to hate New Years Resolutions, convinced as I am that they are the spawn of the same puritanical squares who started religion and came up with a bunch of stuff that feels great so is most assuredly Evil and Wrong and Not Good for us.

But I actually like New Beginnings and a Fresh Start, like starting a new book. It’s like a first date, opening a brand new bottle of whiskey, or going to the shelter to pick out a dog. They all start so different. But the journey and adventure and story is most always Good.

Whether some primeval forest between Poland and Belarus, or a forgotten ancient city in China, it doesn’t matter. The beginning doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it takes you somewhere. Anywhere. Anywhere you haven’t been.

New Years Resolutions are silly and January 1st is just another box on the calendar, but then why even bother getting out of bed in the morning? Why open a new book? Or a bottle of wine? Or say hello to that cute boy?

Because that is Life. Life is a series of Beginnings followed by a never-ending Journey. Yes, there is Death. What would we do without it? Kierkegaard explained that, “No gain or loss is more important than death.” Because what matters is you started somewhere and went somewhere else. Where exactly, is not important. As long as you went.



Stripper Author Hits the Big Screen

January 10th, 2008 at 6:21 pm

I told you reading was sexy.

With the movie Juno performing respectably at the box office and acquiring award nominations, its stripper-screenwriter is making some news of her own. In addition to writing Juno, Brook Busey-Hunt/Diablo Cody is also the author of a memoir about her time working in the sex industry. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but her book “Candy Girl” is quite good. I recently read it along with another stripper memoir because I like reading similar books together, it’s like a nice food and wine pairing. (Try reading Dry and Junky together sometime. Two gay American men with the same last name write memoirs about their drug addiction?)

US billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian was making news recently when he sold 28 million of his shares in General Motors. Around the same time, he offered to buy 15 million shares of MGM Mirage, increasing his stake in the gaming and hotel giant from 56.3% to 61.7%. With reports indicating the inevitability of strip clubs moving inside the casinos (the Las Vegas Gaming Commission has thus far denied the request), Kerkorian and other’s investment in this industry will grow considerably more adult.

Lily Burana’s “Strip City: A Stripper’s Farewell Journey Across America” and Diablo Cody’s “Candy Girl” are both revealing, personal tales from this burgeoning, multi-billion dollar business. In “Strip City,” Burana travels to strip clubs across America, attends stripper school, and even spearheads a legal battle for dancer’s rights, sufficiently providing a wealth of information with unrelenting detail. In “Candy Girl,” Cody works as a stripper, peep show performer, and phone sex operator, masterfully bringing her observations of the sex trade to life with deep, telling imagery. While Burana is inclined to describe the weather outside a club, the ambience inside a club, and the cracked, peeling fingernails of a dancer hustling that club, Cody is more likely to just tell you about the deaf guy at a table near the stage with a sign that reads “TAKE OFF YR PANTY.”

Burana with “Strip City” is the better writer, but Cody with “Candy Girl” is the better storyteller. When you pick up a stripper’s memoir, you are expecting certain things much like the reader of a mystery will demand certain conventions like a detective, a crime, and clues. The better storyteller, Cody’s delivers the goods for the genre. Burana’s prose is exacting and formal; she is journalistic in her deliberate inclusion of statistics and description. But more glaringly obvious, on top of its failings as a road novel, Burana’s “Strip City” feels outright contrived. Whereas Cody’s experience rings of desperation, sincerity, and struggle and clearly mirrors the experience of girls like her all over the world, Burana’s journey smacked of a writer forcing a story out of her past life (Hey, I know! I’ll strip for a year and write a book about all the crazy shit I see!).

Cody writes like a stripper performs. Her prose is informal and lively. Her snappy words dance and twirl into entertaining tales of the industry slang, codes, and norms. Reading her memoir feels like having a close friend tell you a great story. Dear reader, come along with Diablo Cody, let her sling an arm around your shoulders as she takes you on a journey into the undulating land of stripping. She makes a fantastic tour guide, explaining nomenclature and sharing insight into tip rails, house moms, torture chairs, Wednesday “Wet ‘n’ Wild” nights sponsored by O’Douls, the “teeter-totter” move, jack shacks, and panty auctions. Cody’s prose is so inviting and unassuming that I even forgive her for referring late in her memoir to having “spread like Hellmann’s.” And through both women’s memoirs, only one of Cody’s stories succeeded in making me gag.

In the end, Burana and Cody’s memoirs are both very, very good and achieve brilliant moments of poignancy in illuminating an unconventional livelihood and industry that is increasingly mainstream. Cody smartly observes: “…exercise DVDs offer women the opportunity to strip themselves into thinner bodies, teenagers wear Hustler logos and visit tanning beds, feminists, braniacs and alternative types peel for websites like Suicide Girls and Nekkid Nerds, and coeds lift their shirts for spring-break sexploitation pictorials making sexual exhibitionism the norm, not the deviation.”

I can’t help but imagine the 90-year-old Kirk Kerkorian nodding in agreement as he stuffs his 9 billion dollars of net worth in the thong of a dancer.



War of the Words

January 10th, 2008 at 5:44 pm

The New Oxford American Dictionary has already announced that its word of 2007 is LOCAVORE.

Merriam-Webster picked as its word of 2007 w00t.

The American Dialect Society’s word of 2007 is SUBPRIME.

And now the Australian dictionary Macquarie is set to decide its own word of 2007.

This is madness!

What is this, the BCS rankings where more than one team can share a championship? This is bullshit. In the era of feel good diversity, even innocent and impressionable elementary school kids duke it out to be crowned the best spellers in a nationally televised spelling bee.

We need a definitive Word of 2007. I propose that each region in the world autonomously pick its own word of 2007 and then linguistic specialists representing their corners of the world will convene in a Las Vegas convention hall to compete in a series of rigorous academic duels to determine the Word of 2007.

There can be only ONE!



Tom Cruise Bio

January 9th, 2008 at 5:06 pm

As if I wasn’t freaked out enough already by Scientology.

Acclaimed and bestselling author Andrew Morton will publish his unauthorized biography of Tom Cruise on January 15th. It’s causing quite a stir and already doing well in pre-sales because in it Morton claims that Cruise is second in command of Scientology, that some Scientology extremists believe his daughter Suri was conceived with frozen sperm of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, that Cruise had a definitive, provable homosexual encounter while shooting Eyes Wide Shut in London, and that he is eagerly and actively trying to get Victoria and David Beckham to convert to Scientology. Cruise has threatened a $100 Million libel suit.

Just like his whining has kept the hilarious South Park episode making fun of him from ever being aired again.

It’s too bad there has to be all this speculation and obsession and I would immediately discredit Morton right off the bat, but he has a pretty decent track record complete with awards. This book is sure to be a doosy.

Tom, so what if you’re bisexual? No one would really care. It’d probably be received pretty well actually. What ever happened to the old Hollywood Class? Weren’t James Dean and Marlon Brando “bisexual?” If you’re hot, you’re hot, right? That was their creed and should be yours too. There are few men who can make such an enterprise work for them and you are one of them but you’ve ruined your opportunities with Scientology.

So now America is obsessed with you because of the gay thing and the creepy cult thing. We are starving ravenous hordes desperate for authentic entertainment. You are the Real Thing.

Thank You and Good Luck.



New Books and Books in the News

January 8th, 2008 at 10:22 pm

If you’re a decent Human Being like me then you let out a horrified gasp of disbelief upon hearing that Pakistan’s opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, had been assassinated on December 27th. How could they! Those swine!!! She seemed to be Hope and adamantly for The Cause. The world is a lesser place without her. So we are left to only cower and sheepishly anticipate the publication of her memoir “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and
the West,” which HarperCollins is now rushing to release.

Tom Wolfe has left his longtime publisher Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux over money. After the dissappointment of his most recent book “I Am Charlotte Simmons,” Wolfe just couldn’t get the publisher to pony up the $5 Million he was asking. I guess those white suits are getting expensive. Time to come back down to poverty, put on your one sweater, eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and do some real writing with the rest of us, Tom.

And as if the world wasn’t a weird enough place, The Diary of Anne Frank is going to be made into, of all things, a musical. Of all the things in Amsterdam that make very intriguing, entertaining muses for musicals, I just would have never thought that Anne Frank would be one of them.

With the New Hampshire primaries upon us and the entire year of 2008 destined to be an elaborate melee of electioneering, polling, campaigning, and fund raising, several San Francisco Bay Area writers have taken it upon themselves to throw a $1,000-a-head fund raising event in support of Barack Obama. Are Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman, Dave Eggers, Tobias Wolff, and Lemony Snicket the modern day’s Bloomsbury Group?



Happy New Year

January 8th, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Happy Fucking New Year. No apologies. This one is all Mine:

Now that the season of Gluttony and Giving is safely behind us…

2007
was destined to be a questionable, unwieldy string of 365 1/4
deplorable days. With the digit 7 itself a combination of a dagger and
a question mark, 2007 was a year certain to put a knife in the
palpitating whimper that is left of your heart. I hope it didn’t
destroy your Hope. If you were ignorant enough to have any.

2007 was 200?s. Two-hundred questions without answers.
2008 will therefore be an infinity of questions with one answer. The same answer to all Questions: Maybe.

For
me 2007/? was a year of professional doubt, financial instability, and
Death. It was a year of Big Changes, little Fun, and a major step in
unknown directions. Sure, there was Passion. There was Intoxication.
And there was Triumph. But it was achieved under the duress of heavy
shelling in the fortified bunker that is my Life. I still seek Peace,
Freedom, and Authenticity knowing quite well that I will find None.

The highlight of My 2007 involved a warm bed on a cold morning
and a beautiful girlfriend. There was Not Much More.
Not that I want more. I am not greedy. It could not get any Better than
that warm bed and that beautiful girlfriend. Not that I am content
either, but I know when I am holding a winning hand. Only a fool would
fold with a warm bed and a beautiful girlfriend. I am foolish, but no
Fool.

No, 2007 was not a Pretty Year. It was a year like all the
others. A year of abuse, deceit, greed, violence, land mines, torture,
neglect, fire, destruction, war, hunger, and general strife. For those
of you lucky to disagree with me, have Mercy.

2008
will not be better. With Michael Vick behind bars, we will exchange our
Pit Bulls for Presidential Candidates. And we want blood. P.T. Anderson
is right, There Will Be Blood. But there will also be Recession,
Poverty, and Sadness.
2008 is set to be Bizarre. Welcome to The Weird. 2008 is the year of The Election. I hope you are ready. And remember that the Good Doctor told us that “Politics is the art of controlling your environment.” Are you In Control?

Abandon all
common wisdom and advice in 2008. It will not be an easy year. Alan
Greenspan is right. This is The Age of Turbulence. Buckle Up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

This is the Vicarious, Distracted Life. Cling to your flat screen televisions and celebrity infatuations. It is all you have.

Maybe I’m too young, too paranoid, too cynical, and too
skeptical.
Maybe. But can you imagine anything more Dangerous than combining Mean
with Dumb? Me neither. And that’s the World we live in. It’s dumb and
it’s mean. It’s run by bullies and cowards.

Maybe I’m too idealistic but I shall continue to agonize over whether I am reading the Right Books and doing the Right Thing.

Live Free or Die.

Think Big.

And remember that “Morality is Temporary. Wisdom is Permanent.” – HST.

Wish me Luck,



The Game by Neil Strauss

January 7th, 2008 at 5:36 pm

With a subtitle like “Penetrating The Secret Society of Pickup Artists,” I was expecting more of a how-to or an expose. Luckily I was wrong.

Strauss’ The Game is a fascinating look at an American subculture’s moment in time. It is a captivating story that rivals Hell’s Angels and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in its engrossing tale of American hubris, endeavor, success, and failure.

The book itself is beautiful, packaged like a bible with gold embossing and a red ribbon bookmark. But it is TOO LONG. And that might be the only thing I didn’t like about it because despite that, there is plenty to keep the reader entertained:

As Strauss refines his abilities as a PUA (Pick-up Artist (this book not for the AFoH (Acronym Faint of Heart))), he is assigned an interview with Tom Cruise (other celebrities who make appearances include Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Courtney Love). Strauss is immediately taken by Tom Cruise’s charisma and likability. Strauss notes that Cruise naturally exudes all the tactics and behaviors PUAs spend months and years trying to master in order to win women’s affection. Tom Cruise introduces Strauss to Scientology and Strauss further identifies the same tactics being used by Scientology recruiters to attract converts as the PUAs use to attract women. There are some really creepy similarities made between Pick-up Artists and Scientologists in this book. So now I don’t know if I’m more freaked out by Scientologists or Mormons.

And now that I have read The Game, once I read How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, there won’t be a graduate student out there who can resist my advances. Yes!

But most importantly, The Game contains the BLE (Best Line Ever):

“I want a woman I can respect for her art, like a singer or a super-hot stripper.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! Gents, next time you head out for the titty bar, tell your significant other that you’re going to an art museum. It is her art and she is dancing it for you.

And there was also this little nugget of wisdom from Neil Strauss that I found interesting:

“For most of their childhood, females are conditioned to act subservient to male authority figures. Once they grow up, a certain subset of them – many of whom end up in Los Angeles – move through the world psychologically stunted, constantly dumbing themselves down in the presence of the opposite sex. They believe that the techniques they used to manipulate their fathers will work just as well on the rest of the world, and often they’re right.”

Poor Britney.



Philip Roth

January 7th, 2008 at 5:02 pm

So now that I am in agreement, I’m going to make it official (as if there was any doubt): Philip Roth is the Greatest Living American Writer. And probably our country’s most endearing curmudgeon too.

I came to this conclusion upon just finishing The Plot Against America, Roth’s entertaining 2004 alternate history work told from the perspective of Roth’s childhood alter-ego in a country ruled by an anti-Semitic, Hitler-tolerating President Charles Lindbergh.

(I’m always amused at novels that get labeled on their cover, “A Novel.” Somewhere along the line the publisher decided, probably because of the title, that, “We better make sure people know this is made up.” So they put “A Novel” on it just in case. Otherwise they’d certainly become ensnared in some James Frey-esque duel with Oprah.)

I am not declaring Philip Roth our Greatest Living American Writer because he has won awards and writes well crafted, significant novels. No, I am declaring Philip Roth the Greatest Living American Writer because near the end of The Plot Against America, Roth’s narrative postulates an American war with Canada.

And it’s not laughable. It’s not even a joke. No, with the capable and wise words of Roth, it’s completely plausible, serious, and believable.

War with Canada! CANADA!!

Well done, Mr. Roth!!!