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Edy's   New window
Date: Tuesday, 12 Mar 2013 00:26

In college we shared a studio apartment on Channing in Berkeley, taking turns sleeping in the closet. At night we would go to Edy's on Shattuck and eat burgers and these totally addicting shakes, the kind with fudgemud at the bottom of the glass. Then we would stay up late strumming guitars and talking about whatever.

"Life is futile," was my friend's mantra. I thought it was because he still hadn't gotten over his first girlfriend. He was a smart guy... straight A's in high school, all-conference in football, even got into Cal. Things would turn around. And yet, they never did. Eventually he sort of detached himself from everyone I knew, and went away.

Over the years I've wondered about him, even thought about looking him up. But I've heard things, and I have a feeling it wouldn't be a good idea.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 02 Sep 2012 14:27
As of yesterday, it's been four weeks since I've had a drink. I'm just slightly proud of that, and I'm still trying to figure out why.

There are several reasons why I've stopped drinking.

1. One of my parents was a brutal alcoholic.
2. Prove to myself I could stop.
3. I hate the gut.
4. When I drink, I treat the rest of my family like shit and separate from them. (I didn't realize how bad this was until I stopped.)
5. Insomnia. (Didn't realize how bad this one was, either.)
6. Lack of energy/motivation.

Those are a few. Since I've stopped drinking, I've been more productive at work and my level of physical strength and drive has doubled.

The one drawback? I'm having trouble staying motivated when it comes to fiction. I keep thinking of all the stuff that my family needs me to do. However, I'm committed to fixing this. I've gotten too far to stop. 

I didn't make any big announcement about not drinking. But most of my friends and family have figured it out by what I consume and don't consume in their presence.

It was interesting to discover at least one major urge for drinking. I really didn't think I had any -- until the day that I learned I may have to travel to a conference for work, which is something I really, really hate to do. I don't mind traveling for fun, but traveling for work, being away from my family, and having to dress up in a suit is just horrible.

As feelings of dread washed over me, that's the craving hit, badly, right in my gut.

Was I, or am I an alcoholic? I'm not sure. I haven't had any sort of withdrawal that I can think of. But of the reasons listed above, the top one and number four are the biggest. And I never want to be in the position of being asked or forced to stop.

I remember as a kid having to call the police when shit would go down at home. As a parent now myself, I've never personally flown so far off the handle. But I've had thoughts, and that's not a place I want to go.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Wednesday, 04 Jul 2012 10:04
I wish I could always say it was you, Dee Dee. But I confess: You were not my first favorite Ramone.

When I first saw Rock 'n Roll High School in my teens, I was fascinated by Joey. The ultimate outsider, he looked exactly like I felt.

When I began playing guitar, it was Johnny. Nobody would ever look cooler or more dangerous with a guitar in his hands.

But eventually, reason settled in. How could you not be everyone's favorite Ramone? You named the band, you wrote my favorite songs, you were the most punk. Sid Vicious looked up to you.

You also had the cajones to turn from punk to rap--even though, as you later acknowledged, "I'm not a Negro."

Some of my favorite lyrics:

This is Dee Dee King on the mic
A hundred and fifty pounds of dynamite

She don't do the wash, don't do the cookin
She don't have to cuz she's good lookin'.

I want to ride the surf, at ninety miles an hour.
Hope you don't get, get, sour.

I was sitting there, thinking of a caper
But no new rhymes appeared on the paper.

And my personal favorite:

I seen it all, I had a ball
Someone should make a Dee Dee doll.

I'm poking fun, but in all honesty, I love Dee Dee's first solo album, Standing in the Spotlight. There's nothing quite like it. There's some true corn, but a few decent riffs and a ton of sincerity.

Take "Baby Doll." On one hand, it's overproduced schlock. On the other, Dee Dee's singing is heartfelt and genuine.

They really should make a Dee Dee doll. Oh wait, they did.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "standing in the spotlight, dee dee king,..."
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Date: Wednesday, 20 Jun 2012 23:14
I'm sitting in the driveway right now, thinking about love and how I've been somehow pretty damned blessed in that department. I've always gotten a lot more love than I've been capable of dishing out. I don't know why this is. I think I'm one of those guys, or people, who just can't give away the whole store. Like it could crush me, or do something much worse than that.

It's totally stupid, of course. The truth is that I love some people more than they could ever imagine. I'm just too chicken to show it.

(Actually, this is not 100% true. I have a good friend, actually one of my best friends, who a while back gave me a big-ass bear hug. He sensed I needed it, and I did. We do this every time we see each other now. It's like food.)

I'm still working a lot. Income is looking good, but I'm under too much pressure for this not to be the case. I keep thinking about what would happen if something happened to me. A lot of people are counting on me. The fear is incredible, but I can't let that show.

Actually, this sort of thing got me back to running, biking and the gym. Any guy my age would be ecstatic to have my genes. I have a full head of hair, very little gray and still get carded at bars. I know different, though. I don't feel 21 at all. I knew I had to start taking better care of myself.

The sad part about all this is that I have so little energy left to create art. All my creative writing is on hold. That's just the way it is right now, I guess. Having no energy means I'm too tired beat myself up over it.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 29 Dec 2011 12:53
I have no illusions that I'll achieve everything I want to. There's not enough time.

So here it is, the stuff I intend to fail at in 2012. Mostly because there's so much of it, and I need something to post.

1. Reunite with my band in Texas and attempt to pull off an actual, live guitar solo.

2. Finish the goddamn novel. By finish, I mean get all the edits done and get it out there, self publishing if necessary.

3. Finish a second novel. Can this be done? Absolutely not. This is just goofy. If I finish Resolution #2, it will have taken three years for the first novel. But hey, dreaming is free. Just ask Blondie.

4. Get a bigger house.

5. Be able to call my own shots in my professional "straight" life. I'm actually pretty close to this.

6. Learn Spanish. This one's been sitting on the list so long it's starting to rust.

7. Get healthier. That's all I'll say, lest I incriminate myself. Look, I'm not getting any younger. It's about time to put some old habits to bed, dust off the Jack LaLanne juicer and get started on the mid-life, run-every-day health kick -- or at least something approaching it.

8. Get smarter. America is getting dumber and instinctively, I know I am, too. Basically, this boils down to hanging around people smarter than me, reading more, and watching less Family Guy.

This one's a little personal. Eighteen years later, I'm still trying to live down this faux pas:

(For the record, I can't say what kind of state I was in when I gave this quote to a Newsweek intern. But HE certainly knew.)

9. See more bands. Gotta have at least one easy resolution.

10. Meet more writers. I'm lucky to know a few great ones, but I ought to be branching out more. In fact I ought to write more, too, and submit more, and go to more readings...

And see, this is where I have to end the list, because there's always "more." I need to travel, write non-fiction, get my business off the ground, fix up the jeep, fix up the back bathroom. Blah dee-dee blah blah blah.

Just more stuff to fail at. But when it's all over, I expect I'll do better than I thought I would, which is pretty much how things go with me. And that's OK.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Blondie, new year's resolutions, failure"
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Date: Sunday, 27 Nov 2011 11:56
I've been aching for something meaningful to post for two months now, but I got nuthin'. Life has been reduced to novel revisions and work that actually pays. I have no complaints, except to say that everything is progressing much slower than I'd like.

What I do have is a bunch of unfinished blog posts. So in the interests of getting something up, I'm introducing The Sampler Plate.

RANT: One of my pet peeves has to do with panhandlers. But it's not the panhandlers themselves -- it's the people who complain about them.

First off, nobody I know -- and I mean nobody -- has been approached for spare change more than me. It has a lot to do with the kinds of places I frequent and the wandering, lost puppy dog look that I do little to hide. I'm not going to fine tune this argument except to say that I don't want to live in a society where strangers are not able to ask each other for money, or cigarettes, or whatever, and unless you live in downtown New York, I could not care less that your humdrum trip to Safeway or Starbucks was demolished by some poor soul with his hand out. Please find a constructive use for your ire, stay home, or move someplace where the the fascists have already won.

MUSIC: Five hot "new" albums I'm listening to for working purposes:

Venom - Black Metal
This three piece keeps the riffs simple and the focus where it belongs: Death, Satan and Hell.

Os Mutantes - Os Mutantes
Brazilian psychedelia that will move your brain in funny ways.

Steve Earle - Guitar Town
Avoided this guy for years because he was country. What a dope I was.

Sparks - Kimono My House
Such a fun album. Pre-Angst in my Pants, the brothers Mael were far more progressive, experimental and interesting.

The Pretty Things - S.F. Sorrow
An early concept album based on a very depressing short story that, according to some, influenced Pete Townsend to write "Tommy." Probably the most unique thing I've ever heard.

CONFESSION: I choke on my spit, a lot. Just did it again.

SHOUT OUT: To my good buddy Sean Craven, who is getting some well-deserved attention for his writing, art, and spoken word performances. Surely the world is ill-prepared for the Oaf, but the Oaf approacheth nonetheless. Read Sean's story, "Deep Blue Dreams," appearing in the Future Lovecraft anthology available for preorder in printed form here or available now via Kindle here.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 08 Aug 2011 13:13
So I finally finished writing the sucker. It took over a month just to do the last chapter, but it's done. But revisions... aye yi yi.

I have no idea how revise my work. I mean, I've read about it, and I have experience revising and editing countless newspaper and magazine articles that I wrote. But when it comes to an entire novel, I don't know what'll work best for me. I spent a lot of time on each chapter in an effort to nail things on the first bite and avoid a lengthy revision process. And on the whole it received positive reviews in my writer's group, so I'm hesitant to make too many changes to it.

But I have to do something with it, this I know. And I know myself, too. If I see a snag in the yarn, I could start unwinding the whole damn sweater. And I want to avoid entire rewrites if at all possible.

So I came up with an strategy that I think will fit my particular working style, and I'm gonna see if it works. I got the whole dang thing together and shrunk the text, eliminated the double spaces, and left a wide column on the right side of every page. I printed it out, using one side of the paper only. Then I bought a three-ring hole punch (can't seem to locate the old one) and a cheap binder.

The idea is to do line edits by pen, and use the right side column to make any extra notations or replacement text, and the backside of each page, if needed. And I'll just carry around the binder until I'm done. It's a little crazy, but considering I wrote almost the entire first draft by hand before typing it up, I figure there's no sense jumping off the ink-and-paper train now.

My only fear is that the novel is rather short, at least compared to what I understand is the recommended length for first time novelists. After researching the lengths of some other famous novels, I found it's still longer than both Fahrenheit 451 and Slaughterhouse Five, so I don't feel too bad about it. What I care most about is how it fits together as a whole.

Then again, the primary goal behind writing the novel was to simply see if I could do it. In the process, I learned how. Ain't no different with revisions, I guess.

Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 15 Jul 2011 09:08
I'm sure some folks are happy that Borders is probably closing after "what they did" to local bookstores. But I think the departure of any bookstore is sad, and I liked Borders better than most because they had a larger inventory, were more comfortable to browse in, and had coffee and reading events for kids. And the truth is quite a few Borders, Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million stores went into smaller markets there was little or no competition to begin with.

But it's now about economics, technology and market demand. And I'm partly to blame. I didn't think I'd be in this position, but I'm growing fond of ebooks, and there are millions like me and growing. I still love books and hanging out in bookstores--all kinds of them, but the bigger the better--but the fact is there is bound to be less of 'em. Obviously I'm a bit at odds over this. I'm fully aware that my grandkids could pick up a book one day and say, "What is this thing?" then proceed to give me funny looks when I say, "Well, uh, it's a book, you see, you take the page here and turn it..."
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "books, Borders, ebooks"
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Date: Monday, 04 Jul 2011 11:00
I'm struggling with the last chapter of the novel. The main trouble is trying to maintain a consistent voice from beginning to end. I know I've strayed and might not nail it on the first shot. I think that's OK.

Concurrently I'm reading a book on writing fiction that is heavy on examples, including full short stories, and writing exercises. I've read it before for a creative writing class. I want to finish it before I start revising, then go through the entire thing and ask myself whether I'm providing the right details. It will be interesting see how my first instincts play out.

I'm of the belief that fiction -- and all art -- should communicate first. And yet, it's such a weird thing writing a novel. Internally you run up against all sorts of crazy stuff -- motivation, ambition, memory, etc. -- that is all a bit mysterious.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 27 Jun 2011 08:39
Yesterday The Times had an great article on the benefits of being shy.

I've often thought that being shy is a huge disadvantage for the fiction writer. I say that knowing that writers in general are considered to be a shy sort. But particularly with regards to fiction, it seems that if you have limited experience getting to know people and finding out what makes them tick -- in real life, not through words -- you're going to have a harder time creating vivid characters with details and motivations that ring true.

(I myself have always been an introvert that was sort of lured out of his shell through journalism, alcohol, and a curiosity about other people -- particularly folks who don't fit a particular mold. I like to think I have both things going for me. But in day to day living, the results are not always pretty. I often feel conflicted in social situations and can go either way, often to my own surprise or disappointment.)

The above article (which actually has nothing to do with writing; this is my personal tangent) made me rethink my view, for reasons that seem to be totally obvious. The advantages of being an introvert -- heightened observation skills, imagination and painstaking consideration of possible outcomes -- are critical to fiction. But can they eclipse what the writer is not able to gather through direct interaction and experience? I'm still not sure.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "shyness, fiction, writing"
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Date: Wednesday, 22 Jun 2011 10:14
I've struggled quite a bit with the transition from writing non-fiction to fiction. But what made it easier is that, having spent 10 years in daily journalism, I have a invaluable and fairly transferable set of writing tools.

One of them is the strategy of "failing fast." You find this adage in business and it applies well to writing, too. It's not a new concept in literary fiction, in fact, but that's not where I learned it.

As a reporter on deadline, I didn't get writer's block. I couldn't. I simply had to come up with words and fast, and whether they were in the same key or not was something to worry about later. My individual strength, however, was being an extremely fast writer, even for a journalist. I could and often did write 15-inch breaking news stories in ten minutes or less. Not Pulitzer stuff, mind you. But the basic story was there.

This had several advantages. By writing a less-than-stellar rough draft, I was able to see very quickly what elements I was working with and what parts were missing. If I wrote my first draft fast enough, there was a good chance I had would have time to make that extra call to get the final detail or confirmation I needed.

The second advantage of this strategy was that it got me thinking about the story, whether I was initially in the mood to do so or not. Once I had something on the page, even if it was a bunch of poo, and especially if it was a bunch of poo, I couldn't turn away. It had to be fixed.

Which is tied to the third advantage: It is much easier to fix an existing draft than to start with a blank page. It's getting the hard work out of the way -- the content, i.e. the who what where when why how.

I'm not surprised to be running into this concept in fiction. Without even realizing it, this is how I approached the novel. Looking at each chapter as its own story, I found myself getting the words down first (usually by hand, which I often did as a reporter in the field), then refining it until I thought it was good enough for my writing group.

I realize some writers can lay down an entire first draft of a novel straight through, beginning to end, before tackling revisions. I don't ever see this being an option for me; with full time work and five kids, breaking things up was way more practical.

So too has been the failing fast strategy. For folks like me, there ain't no time to fail slow.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Saturday, 18 Jun 2011 10:37
Today I got caught up to speed with the drama surrounding the Medill Innocence Project, the Northwestern University-based program that, over the past dozen years, used the work of journalism students to exonerate 10 or so death row inmates who were unjustly convicted of their crimes.

It seems David Protess, who headed the program, was essentially kicked out of the university because he allegedly altered the text of an email that hid the fact that his students were cooperating with defense attorneys in the cases they worked on.

Actually, Protess officially "resigned" -- although that may be a loose definition given the circumstances. In fact the New York Times this morning had a nice wrapup on the shady mess.

The title of this post has been a question others have been asking of J-schools regarding this case. I think it's an appropriate question.

I had already left the newspaper industry for the first time to work for a niche online publisher when Protess and the Innocence Project starting getting national attention -- and attaining a sort of celebrity status in the journalism industry. But I was still captivated by what they were doing. Like many others, I went into journalism with a sense of purpose and to do some good. But saving lives? That's pretty huge.

Although Protess' fate seems to have more to do with university politics than anything else, the Times article suggests that the success of the Innocence Project -- some tie the elimination of Illinois' death row to its work -- may have led to some overstepping of journalistic bounds, which essentially stripped the students from protection under Illinois' shield laws for journalists. And by handing over their notes to defense attorneys (as well as professional journalists), it actually does sound like the students were practicing law more than they were practicing journalism, particularly since they weren't even writing their own stories.

All of which isn't really so bad, given the results -- unless this mess actually impacts those results. Here's hoping that won't happen.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "journalism, wrongly convicted, law, deat..."
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Date: Wednesday, 15 Jun 2011 10:37
I'll start off with a confession: My first dream job was "lumberjack." I don't know why, but the thought of climbing giant trees with sharp objects sounded appealing... and very manly. Tuff, as my inner Ponyboy would say.

That lasted about a year. But my second dream job, "daredevil," lasted much longer. Between the ages of 7 and 12, I was so obsessed with Evil Knievel and movie stuntmen that I would do stuff like jump out of trees in homemade parachutes and swing around on flagpole ropes (and breaking my foot in the process).

Another favorite trick was getting into a cardboard box with a bunch of pillows and having my little sister push me down a full flight of hardwood stairs -- or off the porch railing, a full one-story drop. Ah, good times.

Anyway, when I read this morning that movie stuntmen are lobbying for their own Academy Award (to be handed out before the actual ceremony), I thought, well, of course they should get one. It's about time. In fact, its a bit of a shame that 100 years of movie stunts -- the vast majority performed without the benefits of modern photography or computer effects -- will go unnoticed.

Researching great movie stunts online, however, I was happy to see that one pioneer got an honorary Academy for his contribution to the field. And to think I had hardly heard of ol' Yakima, although I have seen him in action:

A casual observer might argue that the Oscar ceremony is already too long to keep adding awards to it. Who cares? I hardly ever watch it myself. To me, it's a simple case of giving credit where it's due.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Oscars, stuntmen, Yakima Canutt, Academy..."
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Date: Monday, 13 Jun 2011 14:16
Once upon a time, noting a rise in niche bloggers who had carved out a unique identity and legions of fans online, I toyed with the idea of creating a fictional blog that sounded real.

Actually I did less than toy with the idea -- I thought about it for about 10 seconds. Then I shoved it to the back of my mind under, "Stuff I'll never have time for." And there it stayed.

Today I read about the "Gay Girl in Damascus" hoax. The whole story is fascinating, yet one that I have little time for on Monday morning. But what was most interesting is how, before blogger Tom MacMcaster revealed himself -- and even after doubts had been case that his creation, Amina Abdullah (or "Abdallah"), wasn't real, respected news media organizations accepted Tom's blog as truth.

Reported CBS News on June 8:
"Author of the internationally acclaimed blog "A Gay Girl in Damascus", Amina Abdullah, has been abducted and possibly jailed by what family members believe to be security forces of the Syrian government or agents of the Baath Party militia.

Abdullah has received attention worldwide for her bravery and resolve in the face of death..."
That was the lede. In fairness, a hint that there was some trouble with the veracity of Amina's story was in the story, but not until the very end.

No such hint in this Time Magazine piece written before "Amina's" reported "abduction":
"Inspiring the Syrian protest movement is an honest and reflective voice of the revolution: a half-American citizen journalist who, in illustrating her country's plight, risks death herself..."
Nor in this Al Jazeera piece:
"A female blogger has been abducted by armed men in the Syrian capital, Damascus, relatives and activists say..."
No, just the blog said. Whatever happened to making a few calls to check out something you found online?

Again, not a lot of time for such stuff this morning. But this story either proves that certain highly regarded news outlets are lazier than I ever expected, or that good writing can fool anybody. Probably both are true.

PS, I'd link the quotes above but I have a feeling they'll be dead by noon. Here they are anyway:



Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Tom MacMaster, hoax, news media, Gay Gir..."
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Date: Saturday, 11 Jun 2011 18:15
So I woke up this morning to find this article from the Guardian, which prompted a major gut check on my part:
Release of Sarah Palin emails angers US conservatives/Rightwingers accuse media of vendetta against possible Republican nominee and ask why Obama was not targeted too
Reading it, I felt myself starting to turn a corner on the whole media-biased-against-Palin argument.

Before today, I didn't give this issue any thought. I thought journalists were simply digging hard into someone whose political ambition far exceeded her level of competence, and who had a little dirt up her sleeve. Now I'm not so sure.

First, I do think the effort to secure Palin's emails as governor was important, and here's why.

Compared to previous major party vice presidential candidates, most voters knew nothing about Sarah Palin when John McCain plucked her out of obscurity. Of course, many voters didn't know much about Barack Obama, either. (I'll admit that. I knew he was a Democratic Senator who gave a great speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, but that's about it.) Yet Obama had far more political experience than Palin, who spent most of her political career serving a town of 6,000 people.

So no one knew Palin. Then stuff began surfacing about her that sounded illegal, unethical, or just plain wacky (i.e. Troopergate, using public funds for personal expenses, flip-flopping on the Bridge to Nowhere, shooting critters from the sky, banning books, using private emails for state business, etc.). So all things considered, the media had ample reason to dig in.

OK, but... What did they find? So far, not a whole lot. Nothing truly horrendous, at least, nor anything that Palin herself can't or won't effectively play down with folksy talk and half-truths. In fact the only major thing we've learned from all her emails is that she distrusts the media.

Of course she would, you say. But hers is not just the view of the average politician. More people every year feel the same.

In fact, most "mainstream" news sources in the U.S. – both newspapers and network and cable TV news – are facing trust issues. The number of Americans who have a favorable opinion of network TV news and major national papers have steadily eroded between 1985 and 2007, according to the Pew Research Center. Audience and readership numbers are falling, too.

The reasons may have been valid. But by going after Palin's emails and no one else's – and not just filing open records requests, but engaging attorneys, fighting for three years for the release of her emails, setting up special Twitter accounts to broadcast the findings, hiring additional reporters, and encouraging Americans to join in on the fun – well, that either means the news media has it in for Sarah Palin, or they just see her as a meal ticket. Either way, it seems biased.

And barring the discovery of something truly evil in her emails, the whole effort appears to be working in Palin’s favor by hardening her support base and making the news media look like Geraldo and The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults.

The other thing bugging me is my personal belief that Sarah Palin would make a horrible president. So did I secretly want her emails to contain some major nasties? Yeah. And I'm still waiting to see what's in the 2,000 or emails currently being withheld for “executive privilege." I don't think that's a fight that should be given up, either.

But as things stand, I don't think the news media is going to come out of this looking very good. Everyone's getting plenty of eyeballs on this story, sure. But I think it would done greater good to do the same digging into every presidential and vice-presidential candidate -- Obama, McCain and Biden. Expensive? Absolutely. Impractical? Probably. But not impossible. And such a strategy would have both dismantled the appearance of bias and increased the chances of finding something newsworthy about the three other candidates.

So how is the news media handling the criticism that they're biased toward Palin? Here's Mike Oreskes, AP’s senior managing editor for national news:
“Palin is one of many officeholders whose public record and leadership the AP has sought to illuminate by obtaining emails, memos and other documents … She's maintained a sizable profile in the current political scene and may run for president. We are pressing to obtain the records of other presidential contenders in the months ahead.”
Sounds a bit hollow to me. Um, where are Biden's emails? Plus Palin isn't even an officeholder anymore.

(Man, I better watch it. I'm going to start sounding like one of them.)

Anyway I think Charles Mahtesian, Politico's national politics editor, was a bit more frank on the issue in The New York Times:
“I think there’s some truth in what the critics on the right say about a double standard for Sarah Palin ... Having said that, she is an incredibly compelling character. And anything she says or does will have a bearing on the 2012 presidential election cycle. So it’s a pretty easy call as a news story.”
And there you have it, I suppose. The eyeballs win.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 10 Jun 2011 15:43
I've always thought there was a correlation between temperature and my writing production. I thought I can't be the only one. But when I went to look it up, the first thing I found was this, from WiseGeek:
"According to at least one study, office temperature does influence worker productivity. A study at Cornell University found that office workers in a warm environment are more productive than they are in colder spaces..."
No, no, no! You've got it all wrong! Warmer temperatures equals LESS productivity! Idiots!

I don't know about you, but I can't write or perform any strenuous mental activity when I'm too hot. So when the summer hits, everything from my regular job, my creative output, my energy level, dips. Worse, my sleeping time -- what little there is to begin with -- crashes.

How warm is too warm? In my case, it's anything higher than 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Pathetic, right? Yeah, I know.

The odd thing is, summer was always my favorite season, by far. At least it used to be, when I didn't have school or kids or a full-time job, and I was in shape and could go skating, surfing and hooping for 12 hours a day. But that was the hyper, more physical Lutz of the past; today the majority of my pursuits are related to thinking. And I dont know what it is, but I have trouble thinking, let alone writing, when I'm too warm. Which I don't point out as an excuse, but as a plea, to the ether, for empathy.

Oh, here's some: This article from AbsoluteWrite, while not 100 percent relevant to my predicament, offers some advice. In the meantime, you can find me with my head in the refrigerator, watching Pengu cartoons on my Droid.

Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "productivity, Pengu, writing, temperatur..."
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Date: Monday, 06 Jun 2011 08:21
Yesterday I picked up Janet Burroway's book, "Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft," which I understand is something of a staple in creative writing courses. I used to have another copy of it somewhere, or maybe I loaned it out and forgot about it, I don't know. I think I'm on my third copy. But it was worth buying again.

It's a dense book -- not physically, but thick with information and examples. You can tell a huge amount of effort and thought went into it. It's not easy reading. Anyway, I cracked it open again and ran into this bit from an extended quote about fear, from author Dorothy Allison:
"...The best fiction comes from the place where the terror hides, the edge of our worst stuff. I believe, absolutely, that if you do not break out in sweat of fear when you write, then you have not gone far enough..."
This made me think of something Scott Kempner of The Dictators said in "Please Kill Me, The Uncensored Oral History of Punk." Kempner was talking about The Stooges and being "psychically wounded" watching Iggy Pop perform:
"...Iggy put life and limb into every show. I saw him bloody every single show. Every single show involved actual fucking blood.

"From then on, rock & roll could never be anything less to me. Whatever I did -- whether I was writing, or playing -- there was blood on the pages, there was blood on the strings, because anything less than that was just bullshit, and a waste of fucking time."
As I was thinking about these things, I was reminded how -- a bit of knowledge I picked up from my straight gig -- most small businesses fail. I don't know what the exact stats are, but the vast majority do no better than break even. Yet among the over 100s of CEOs and small business owners I've talked to over the years, most seem to have a practical outlook toward failure that I think writers could learn from.

I suppose it depends what your idea of failure is, of course. But I'd much rather fail than create something that was "just bullshit." Because my worst fear is doing exactly that.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Stooges, CEOs, fear, writing, failure"
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Insomnia   New window
Date: Thursday, 02 Jun 2011 23:47
I can't sleep. It's too hot.

Couldn't stand the kids tonite. I played with them like a madman, throwing Sonny and Deck all over the living room, then got sick of it and sort of shoved them away. Felt pretty bad about it but I had very little sleep the night before and was totally fucked. Of course I had to hike four miles in 100 degree weather Sunday and nearly died of heat stroke. Still recovering from that.

It was so hot I couldn't cook, so I ordered Domino's. The driver was on drugs. I did the online ordering thing and saw that it took him over a half an hour after the pizza was done to get here. He called to say he was running late, I'll give him that. When he arrived, though, he smashed right into all our empty garbage cans. They went all over the street. Mary happened to be following him as she came up the hill and saw the whole thing. I'm sure he was out scoring. He had the same tone of voice and bullshit patter that Mary's brother has when he doesn't do what he says he's gonna.

The pizza was still warm though, so I tipped him anyway. I thought about complaining but figured you can't really rat out someone who delivers pizzas for a living. I mean how much lower can you sink? If I had that job, I'd probably be on drugs too. Plus his arms were covered with these really shitty tattoos. I felt bad. I did, however, give him a dollar less than I usually give the old Chinese guy from Round Table. That guy is funny and seems genuinely happy to have a job. Plus he actually acknowledges the presence of my kids. That's gold to me.

I should have tried to sleep but He Got Game was on. I'm a sucker for sports movies and I like Spike Lee and Ray Allen. Ray is one of my favorite players and Spike's movies are very drippy but he's got certain style and I dig how his characters are riddled with imperfections. Then I noticed it was almost 2 a.m. so I talked myself into driving down to 7-11 and getting a Mickey's tall boy, thinking it would help me sleep. So I came home and watched the end of Carrie--because it was on and you sort of have to. Now I'm energized, but only blandly so, in a I-can't-sleep-but-I-should-do-something sort of way. So I made a to-do list and now I'm writing and maybe I'll get back to Tropic of Cancer.

It's been so fucking hot out these past couple of days, it's ridiculous. It was over 100 yesterday and probably close to it today. I have a hard time working when it's that hot. I have to totally psyche myself up for it. Part of the problem is that I sweat like someone with much darker skin. Always have. Throughout school I played sports during lunchtime and came back to class completely soaked. Now it pours down my arms and down my nose and right onto the keyboard. The only way through is to strip down to my boxers, surround myself with fans, position the laptop "upstream," and focus on some deadline like my ass depends on it.

Music helps. Lately I've been going through an old school punk thing. Germs, Stooges, Saints, etc. Sort of coming to terms with the fact that I'm not a huge Minutemen fan. I listened to them back in the 80s and now I understand why I stopped. I dig who they were and what they were about and their originality and talent. If I was a friend of the band I'd probably go to every show. Everything I've read and seen about them makes them out to be really swell guys. But easily four out of five of their songs I could do without. That other one-fifth is some pretty awesome shit, though.

OK enough of this...
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 02 Jun 2011 11:33
I have ebooks on the brain pretty bad. I hardly thought about them six months ago, but now I can't stop thinking about them. (I just did a search of my blog to see if I've even mentioned them before and came up empty. Talk about being out of it.)

Anyway, are they good or bad? I don't know -- but something pretty amazing is happening and it could either be the best or worst time to be writing a novel. I am, however, seriously considering publishing Denny as an ebook, and not the least of the reasons is financial.

For a long time I wanted to write a novel to say I could. (To me, it always said something about somebody who could write a novel, though I've never been able to pinpoint what that something was.) That was part of the reason anyway -- when I started writing, I wasn't even thinking about getting an agent or getting approval bestowed upon me from some publishing house in New York. I saw friends struggle with these sorts of challenges, and I was still busy writing, so I filed them away in the back of my mind as necessary yuckies to deal with later. Who writes a fiction novel for money, anyway? I knew before starting out that my changes of being published were slim.

But nearing the end of my journey (sans rewrites), I looked out and saw colossal shift has taken place. Amateurs are selling hundreds of thousands of ebooks; professionals are selling millions. (Hatchette Book Group just announced today that James Patterson has tripled his ebook sales in less than a year.) While I haven't figured it all out, apparently the revenue cut for the author is a lot better on Amazon than with most publishers. And when you've got five kids and you're running yourself ragged with multiple jobs to make the bills, the thought of actually getting paid for your art is -- well, it'd make my wife feel a lot better about me going off to my writing group every week, for starters.

Again, I'm just starting to figure it all out. Which is a little frustrating, because I feel as though I'm way behind the curve on this one. But then, I've been busy writing. And no matter what happens, I can't stop doing that.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "self-publishing, ebook, James Patterson"
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Date: Tuesday, 31 May 2011 13:11
Next to music, the short story has to be the most perfect art form ever to exist. So I'm naturally drawn to any top ten list, if for no other reason than to find an unearthed jewel -- or rediscover an old one.

Last week, One Story came out with a Top 10 Short Stories of All Time for Flavorwire, which I just had time to look at. The One Story blog has a "long list" of other stories considered, along with comments from readers. (Turns out I wasn't the only one to find the absence of anything by Hemingway a little strange. Even on the long list? Really?)

Most of my favorites weren't mentioned; "Sonny's Blues" and "The Things They Carried" stand out here. But it was nice to see Denis Johnson's "Emergency" on the Top 10. I just heard Tobias Wolff read it on a past New Yorker fiction podcast recently. Still odd, funny, and totally mesmerizing.

One of the things I'm very interested in is what makes a short story's value last through generations of future readers and writers. While it's helplessly subjective on one or more levels, One Story's list does nothing but boost my intrigue -- well, that and give me more stories to check out.
Author: "Lutz (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "One Story, Denis Johnson, short stories,..."
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