there I go; turn the page

A week ago I was at Fraley’s birthday dinner at the Burren, right up the block, and another attendee mentioned his attempts to sell a book. I had just given Fraley a copy of Joel’s book, Your Religion is False (hilarious, I assure you), and used it as a conversation piece: how Joel had gone to LightningSource for print-on-demand publishing; how he’d marketed to other humorous/secular blogs; how he’d used his own blog as a point of audience contact, etc. Since the other attendee was trying to sell a non-fiction book with a narrow niche in its own right, I suggested he might try a similar path. He took copious notes.

This conversation, along with some recent reading I’ve been doing (more on that in a later post), got me thinking about publishing again. Self-published non-fiction is easier to market than self-published fiction. Non-fiction audiences congregate in easy niches (rock climbers, quilting enthusiasts, frequent travelers, etc): just find the popular blogs and offer them review copies. But fiction crosses broader channels. It doesn’t help that the fiction niches which are easiest to identify – sexy vampire novels, historical romance, conspiracy theories turned into prose – are also flooded with crap. Compare the Fiction and Non-Fiction sections of your average bookstore: one market is saturated, the other isn’t.

Those hurdles aside, the following things are still true: it has never been easier for a writer to publish and market his own work than it is today, and breaking into the traditional publishing market is really hard. An editor (or an agent who sells to editors) might turn down a manuscript for any number of reasons: it doesn’t fit their current publishing schedule; they think the market has no taste for the subject matter; they can’t afford to give the book the push it would need to be profitable; the book’s just garbage. Of those, self-publishing can help bridge the first three hurdles and is no good on the fourth. Part of the reason I’m going to Muse and the Marketplace this weekend is in the wild, unreasonable hope that an agent or editor, having read the first twenty pages of Eminence, will decide yes, this is saleable and we want to buy it. This will render all my speculation about self-publishing moot, for a time. But a larger reason is also just for feedback: just to hear if pros think the manuscript is any good at all. If it is, there’s that fourth obstacle overcome.

broke down on the brazos

Original content forthcoming, I promise. To tide you over, consider this most excellent blog, Concurrent Sentences, writing about how the war on marijuana drastically expands police powers:

So marijuana has become a law enforcement go-to for probable cause. It is the result of an officers completely subjective sense of smell. It is often supported by marijuana found during the subsequent search. If marijuana is not found but other contraband is, the contraband is unlikely to be suppressed because the probable cause for the search would still be subject to the officers “good-faith” belief there was marijuana contraband present. And in my (very limited) experience I have found the alleged odor of marijauana to be a common and reoccurring basis for probable cause and not found in the search. I have read lots of police reports that go something like these scenarios:

1) Officer smells marijuana, searches, finds a gun.
2) Officer smells marijuana, searches, finds some stolen property.
3) Officer smells marijuana, searches, finds some prescription drugs.
4) Officer smells marijuana, detains suspect and runs ID, and suspect has a protection order in place that they are violating in some minor, technical way.
5) Officer smells marijuana, detains suspect and runs ID, reveals an existing warrant.

If you’re looking for something a little lighter, then how about this entertaining AV Club interview of Danny Trejo?

I would just go with the extras and the director would see me. I was always Inmate No. 1, and I always had one line like, “Kill ’em all.” [Laughs.] It was like, “I can do this.” I remember a director handed me a shotgun and he said, “Kick in this door and take control.” There was a poker game going inside, and the director said there would be a couple of stunt people inside. He said to improvise. So I kick in the door, somebody jumps up, I bash them with the shotgun, and I ask this guy, “Oh, you wanna die, huh?” This lady starts screaming, and I put this gun right in her face. So the director yells, “Cut! Cut! God, Danny, where did you study?” I said, “Let me see. Von’s. Safeway. Thrifty Mart.” [Laughs.] So all this stuff I was doing, I just knew. You’ve got to remember, I was Inmate No. 1 for the first five years of my career. So shit, I know how to be an inmate.

That should tide you over.

the white asshole’s burden

New post up on Overthinking It today, in what’ll hopefully be the first post in a series overthinking Treme: The White Asshole’s Burden:

Since these are problems that affect black people, even if they’re not “black problems,” the temptation must have been strong to create a Great White Hero who would swoop in and save the situation. But Simon, Overmyer and Mills ducked that temptation. The black residents of Baltimore and New Orleans rise or fall based on what they can pull together. And the White Men who show up to help are not noble. They’re comically ignoble.

Also, if you live in the Boston area and you have yet to see my incredible cast perform Discount Shakespeare: “As You Like It” in Forty-Five Minutes, tonight is your last chance ever. Tickets still available; get them at the ImprovBoston box office or go to the website.


Shorter Will Wilkinson:

If it’s about pluralism, it’s about pluralism. It’s as simple as that. It ain’t about that at all. It’s easy to sum it up if you’re just talking about pluralism. We’re sitting here, and I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we’re talking about pluralism. I mean listen, we’re sitting here talking about pluralism, not justice, not liberal justice, not justice, but we’re talking about pluralism. Not the justice that Rawls and Nozick went out there and died for and wrote every book like it’s their last but we’re talking about pluralism. How silly is that?

in your eyes; the light, the heat

In the morning: my sinuses squeak open like a rusty gate. They literally emit a pitched squeal, like someone deflating a mostly-full inner tube by sitting on it. My eyes are Ping Pong balls trapped under a couch for six months and just now retrieved. My throat scratches. Nothing I do between April 2nd and May 31st will prevent me from waking up feeling like this.

I stumble for the kitchen cabinet and take my daily dose of generic allergy medication (free of pseudoephedrine). I bought this while drunk at the CVS around the corner a few months back. It’s a year’s supply: works for 24 hours, supposedly, and contains 365 little white pills. Given my typical schedule of suffering, this should last me for at least five years. Unless I upgrade from “buying allergy meds while drunk” to “consuming them while drunk” and drop twenty in a panic. Is it even possible to OD on allergy meds – not counting the ones that make you drowsy? Picture two uniforms, a plainclothes and an EMT standing over my corpse. “His body couldn’t handle having sinuses that clear. Wheel him out, boys.”

Living in the densely urban but unpredictably cold American Northeast, my allergy season runs somewhere between April and May. I can count on the odd cold snap to startle trees into silence, but once it gets warm there’s nothing I can do but suffer. I have stylish new glasses to ease my contact lenses, and I’ll soon have a decent vacuum to keep the apartment pollen-free. But until Memorial Day passes I just stagger through the morning and go to bed before midnight.

It could be worse.


Soulja Boy.

That was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it?

show them how funky and strong is your fight

NPR did a story last week on bands who make their living off of YouTube (hat tip to crasch for the link). The big example they use is the two-person remix/cover act Pomplamoose:

While I love the phenomenon of bands making money in new, exciting Web 2.0 ways, I really wish these people weren’t the example NPR cited. Because they’re everything I hate about hipsters.

Watch the video I linked to above. What goes on?

First, the entire focus of the video is on process. We get close-ups of kickstands pounding on bass drums, fingers dialing on mixers to get distortion. We see exactly how the artists created that hypnotic three-part harmony on the chorus: they just recorded Nataly singing the same line three times! When the piano comes back in, we get a shot of Jack playing the piano. Like clockwork. Everything arranged just so.

Pop music is of course produced with exactly this eye to precision, but the beauty is that it appears spontaneous. When you watch the original “Single Ladies” video, you see a tightly choreographed but unpredictable dance arrangement. You don’t see the days of rehearsing that went into getting it just right. Ditto any other pop classic, like “Hey Ya” or “Womanizer” or “I Saw The Sign”: the result looks spontaneous, even if it came about mechanically.

But hipsters – especially hipsters with access to new media, like YouTube – are all about process. If you can duplicate the rituals of your forefathers just so, you can produce the same kind of inspirational art they did. It’s not about passion or creativity; it’s about following the steps. RTFM, n00bs!


Second – and maybe I’m just sensitive to this because I read a TigerBeatdown post last week on how guys have a hard time dealing with girls in bands, but – what the hell, Pomplamoose. Your video consists of a man really enjoying himself: look at him hammer on those drums! look at him bob his head while he plays guitar! look at him tinker with all these cool sound-effect toys! And then there’s a girl who looks terrified. She stares blankly at the camera, moving her mouth as little as possible. She’s so washed out by lighting and makeup that she looks like a hostage. Not only is she not rocking out as hard as the dude is, she doesn’t look like she’s enjoying herself at all.

I’m not saying she’s been coerced into that. I’m not suggesting that she was locked in a basement for a week, then dragged into an attic studio and forced at gunpoint to sound like Regina Spektor (though were that the case, would it look any different?). I’m saying this is a style that the hipster subculture rewards. Guys get to be enthusiastic; girls have to be cute. Guys get to play with all the cool technical toys; girls make pleasing sounds into a can.

(Note that I’m judging the image Pomplamoose chooses to present, not the reality behind it. Maybe Jack’s only sorta technical. For all I know, Nataly mixed the entire video herself with Logic Express while chaining Nat Shermans and banging her head to the Stooges. But the video doesn’t depict that. The video depicts Jack rocking out and Nataly standing very still)

And this wouldn’t gall me half as much if (A) I hadn’t just read that TigerBeatdown post and (B) they were covering less rockin’ songs. But come the fuck on, Pomplamoose! “Single Ladies” is one of the most bold, positive music videos of all time (of all time!). It features a strong woman, confident in her femininity, not just deflecting an ex-boyfriend’s butthurt but throwing it back in his face. “If you like it, then you shoulda put a ring on it! If you like it,” etc. To bleach the passion out of that song and handle it with sterile gloves is a crime.

And “Single Ladies” isn’t the exception. Here’s their cover of “Beat It,” probably the hardest song on Thriller. Remember the knife-fight in the garage? Remember Michael Jackson strutting around an empty pool hall, pumping his fist and straining his face with anger? Remember that sweet Eddie van Halen guitar solo? Well, screw that garbage, hipsters!

I won’t begrudge Pomplamoose any of their newfound Internet success. I just wish they weren’t afraid to rock out.