1. ISN’T ONE OF the big draws of koi that they have the capacity for self-termination? I could be wrong about that. Or maybe I just like the notion so much that I’ve come to believe it. Suicide fish. A beast too dumb to avoid a dangling worm, but smart enough to know when the ennui becomes crippling. Fantastic. I was in Costa Rica a while back and we were drinking Imperials and then decided to take a nude midnight swim. It was fun for about six minutes until everyone started screaming like they were being attacked by sharks. We all ran out of the water covered in red bites. Some local guys said the beach was famous for its sea lice, which only come out at night and like to chow balls. Supposedly there was special curative mud to be found not too far off in the jungle, but we just kept drinking instead. Another notion I like is one where sea lice start reading Elizabeth Wurtzel, wearing black, and hoarding their grandmother’s Xanax.
2. Author bios are pure crap. They generally come in four well-worn iterations.
I’m a Minimalist Genius:
“Danny Cage lives in Montana with his wife. This is his first book.”
I’m Too Well-Rounded to Talk About My Writing:
“Danny Cage raises horses, volunteers with children, is a lifelong vegan, and prefers those quiet moments when he can simply sit and watch the world flower.”
The Obviously Fake Credits:
“Danny Cage’s work has appeared in such publications as Nanker Phelge Digest, The Sentence Slattern, Your Prose Sword, Fisting Times, Moldering Remainders Rag, Intro to Self-Publishing, and Just Another Ego Stroke.”
But my favorite is The Quirky Bird:
“Danny Cage thinks vegetables can scream. Cage is a believer in Ley Lines and sees the world through Stonehengic glasses. Cage is known to evacuate behind the podium at readings, loves to bake muffins with his Aunt Fred, and will die and go to heaven the day the New Orleans Hornets win the NHL title. Wittgenstein’s Purple Appendage is his third collection of random scribbling and plot.”
But, you know, mine is no better. No matter how you modest or self-deprecating you pretend to be, when you’re hawking your own wares you invariably sound like a douche.
3. The agonizing, puberty-retarding soundtrack that for years oozed through my father’s Kenwood reel-to-reel system: Seals and Crofts, Simon & Garfunkel, Peter Paul & Mary, the Mamas & the Papas, Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, Gordon Lightfoot, Blood Sweat & Tears, and the Godspell soundtrack. All of which drove me, in lockstep with my first downy lip hairs and a ferocious hatred of the ampersand, beyond the carefully packaged parental revenge that is Led Zeppelin & into the much sterner but still loving embrace of Minor Threat.
4. Cecilia broke both Simon and Garfunkel’s heart. No one should be allowed to get away with breaking any part of Garfunkel.
5. “Indie” films as we understand them don’t really exist. Most indie houses are just like big publishing imprints in that they have the identical money and structure behind them as mainstream dross but pretend to be outside the industry in the same way Kraft sells fatty shit claiming to be organic under the name Healthy Valley. Since the Jarmusch-fueled run of the mid-eighties, indie has become shorthand for a strand of sad/twee/self-consciously quirky tripe that’s just as derivative as any big budget celluloid turd. Even the ballsy anti-commercial narrative that came to be known as Mumblecore was co-opted so quickly I can’t believe Greta Gerwig wasn’t in Salt, yelling “SALT!” every five seconds next to Liev Schriber. On the other hand, any conceivable denigration of the industry is already trumped by the fact that Salt II is in the can and will be playing soon at a plex near you.
6. I think there should be a So You Think You Want an Artist Mommy? series of children’s books written by Anne Sexton. And a So you Think You Want an Artist Daddy? series written by Jackson Pollock. The collection would also include the titles:
-I Am a Canvas Hanging in a Local Cafe
-Daddy and His Pretty Assistant are Going to Spain For a Month
-You Better Win a Volleyball Scholarship ‘Cause These Sculptures Don’t Sell Themselves
-Honey, Bring Another Glass of Wine to My Studio And Then Shut Up
–I’ll Tell You Why Poetry Matters, Right After I Pass Out in The Middle of Your Birthday Party
-That’s Not Brown Paint
and, of course, the immediate bestseller
My Unpaid MFA Loan Can Be Your New Imaginary Friend!
7. I was once described as “the virgoest Virgo imaginable.” I’m not sure it makes me sound like someone you’d want to share a Tokyo apartment with.
8. Axl Rose was always a clown, so why the surprise over the antics now? GnR is clown music. Big, overblown, over-solo’d, over-screeched, over-whistled, cockrock kabuki. Which in most quarters is the equivalent of saying it’s great. Or at least awesome. I never fail to get a nostalgic shiver when Sweet Child o’ Mine comes on the radio. And I dig the sleazy riffs of Mr. Brownstone almost as much as I admire its hilarious attempt to be 1987’s signature veiled heroin opus. Guns N’ Roses are the Jager-shot of rock. You can sit there and whine about how purple they taste, or you can knock ’em back and start to get wild. Axl made a Chinese democracy’s worth of fuck-you money by throwing buckets of cliche chum into an ocean of teen-boy erections, so why get philosophical about it now? Guys like Chuck Klosterman and Steve Almond like to stake out anti-intellectual musical turf and defend it with a mixture of self-deprecation and self-righteousness. And it’s usually pretty funny. Almost anything that pierces the veil of musical snobbery is a good thing. But there’s a fatal flaw in continually arguing that Poison was a great band, or that Paradise Theater is the best album of the 80’s. It’s a brand of reductionism that nicely skewers hipster critique, but also tars with a Skid Row brush every single thing you say about any other band ever again.
9. I was lucky with the 80’s fashion hand I was dealt: jeans, black boots, angry black t-shirt. Done. Boring, yes, but an everyday uniform that makes it virtually certain there are no embarrassing pictures of me in nylon pants or red leather Thriller jackets to de-tag on Facebook. I did go through a brief trench coat interlude with overtones of October-era Bono, but even that seems forgivable in the face of Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em pants. On the other hand, if I’d had the onions to go with Culture Club bead-dreadlocks and a muumuu, I’d probably have way better stories to tell.
10. A large and intimidating woman once asked me, while waiting to step onto a bus in San Francisco, if I was Daniel Handler. “Sorry, what?” I said. The woman grinned, positive she’d nailed me. “You’re Lemony Snicket!” I mumbled that I had no clue what she was talking about, and sat way in back. She kept turning around and winking. A week later, this guy comes up in a bar and goes “You’re Steve Beuerlein!” At the time Beuerlein was riding out the end of his career as the 3rd-string QB for the Raiders. I told the guy no, but he insisted on buying me beers and smiling with his buddies from the end of the rail, occasionally breaking into a “GO RAIDERS!” chant. Interestingly, Daniel Handler and Steve Beuerlein look about as much alike as Sonny and Cher.
11. The first two chapters of The Corrections are terrible. I almost gave up. And I don’t for a second think it was intentional, as Franzen apologists now assert. But I’m glad I kept going, because there’s fantastic writing in that book. Does it cover a lot of worn territory (family dysfunction, affairs, malaise, white mid-westernism) that we are all understandably bored to death by at this point? No question. But before The Corrections came out, Franzen had two unsuccessful books under his belt and had just written a Harper’s essay essentially daring fellow authors to attempt novels that grappled with real social issues instead of the shitty meta/post-modern/ironic trend that dominated then (and, hey, still does now!) It was a ballsy move and I think he backed it up. Refusing Oprah’s imprimatur made him a household name, but before that the guy spent seven lonely years writing a multi-generational novel of manners. The only beef I have with Franzen is that he stepped off his line in the sand and apologized to the Big O. He should have gone on that show and told her to eat it.
12. Because we’ve moved to a new city recently, my wife and I have had an unusual number of “couples dinners” with people we don’t know. It’s been an eye-opener. Intellectually, I would like to think that I am equally comfortable with those who agree with me as do not, and, in fact, relish listening to views that challenge my lazier assumptions. But I keep ending up in these literal/biblical, Ayn Rand acolyte-ish, voting for Big Mitt lacunae. It’s tiresome. I simply no longer have the desire or energy to try to convince anyone of anything. And so last weekend I found myself irreparably scuttling an otherwise pleasant evening by saying “Anyone who feels, in the unfathomable ease of 2012, that they are able to make informed moralistic judgments about what other people did to survive the Soviet regime need to spend a few months eating shoes in a lightless Gdansk holding cell first.” Silence. Forks dropped. Excuses made and coats found. Do you even need to know what assertion I was responding to? Me neither. Oh, well, two less friends. Or two more enemies. For some reason you can’t make Gdansk jokes anymore.
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