New Year’s Wishes: George Plimpton at Elaine’s

Apropos of New Year’s Eve, Flavorwire’s Emily Temple collected 20 Excellent Photos of Famous Authors Partying. Temple did an awesome job but I submit that she missed the shot below of George Plimpton, the charming and erudite forerunner of New Journalism and a founder of the Paris Review (among so, so many other accomplishments), as photographed by Larry Fink. Plimpton, in sunglasses and blowing a smoke ring after tugging a from a freshly lit cigarette, is not only surrounded by beauties and sparkling wine, there looks to be half empty fifth of gin on the table. Were they mixing their own French 75s? The lack of lemons and sugar suggests, in fact, upon closer inspection, it looks like Plimpton may have been drinking the gin himself if the glass nearest him is any indication. Continue reading “New Year’s Wishes: George Plimpton at Elaine’s”

The Favours of the Moon by Charles Baudelaire

I want this poem to live here tonight. Baudelaire’s estate and heirs can find me if they care/dare. This bit is my go-to when reflecting on the beautiful and the mad souls I’ve had the privilege of knowing. Goodnight, C.

THE MOON, who is caprice itself, looked through the window while you were sleeping in your cradle, and said to herself: ‘I like this child.’

Continue reading “The Favours of the Moon by Charles Baudelaire”

How to Fail-Proof Your New Year Resolutions

new year resolutionsWhen it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I’ve learned to aim low. Real low, like low enough to shoot myself in the foot. Because that’s what’s going to happen, metaphorically-speaking, if you believe a 2007 University of Bristol study that found 88 percent of resolutions fail.
That we haven’t seen such a study since leads me to believe that the researchers resolved to “do it again next year!” but fell victim to their own statistics. I speak not with derision but with empathy. I’ve never made a resolution that lasted more than a fortnight. By “fortnight” I don’t mean the few hours that your parents allowed you to build a fortress made of couch cushions. I’m talking about two whole weeks of earnest resolutionizing, which, not coincidentally, are always the worst two weeks of the year. Continue reading “How to Fail-Proof Your New Year Resolutions”

Jonathan Lethem on Being Outre

This seriocomic quote from Jonathan Lethem, author of Men and Cartoons and The Fortress of Solitude, succinctly sums up the pervasive sense of outsider-ness many creative types of my generation (x) experience to this day:

“Listen, you can’t imagine what a freak I was. I worked in used bookstores as a teenager. I grew up with hippie parents. I lived in a ten-year cultural lag. At all times. I had not the faintest idea what was contemporary. When I got to Bennington, and I found that Richard Brautigan and Thomas Berger and Kurt Vonnegut and Donald Barthelme were not ‘the contemporary,’ but were in fact awkward and embarrassing and had been overthrown by something else, I was as disconcerted as a time traveler. The world I’d dwelled in was now apocryphal. No one read Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell, the Beats were regarded with embarrassment. When all that was swept away, I stopped knowing what contemporary literature was. I didn’t replace it; I just stopped knowing.”

— Jonathan Lethem in The Paris Review, 2003

Via The Atlantic.

An Unexpected Nod from My Hometown Press

I Heart SonomaThanks to my Google “vanity alert,” I learned that Petaluma360 gifted me some post-holiday cheers in a nice round-up piece on Petaluma authors. Pasted below is a fine quote about having gotten my start in the chapbook trade back in the day (anyone remember Deluge Six or perhaps Ballad of the Saxon’s Daughter and the Book of Job?), which Copperfield’s Books in my hometown of Petaluma, CA, was kind enough grant some shelf space. When you’re a 17-year-old wannabe writer, such gestures mean the world and I remain grateful.

I Heart Sonoma

Daedalus Howell’s “I Heart Sonoma: How to Live & Drink in Wine Country” offers irreverent, but loving verbal snapshots of “Wine Country” depicting the world of vineyards, tasting rooms, and wine aficionados, taken with a dark and comedic zoom lens.

Howell, 40, was born in Santa Rosa and grew up in Petaluma. He credits Petaluma’s Copperfield’s Books Store with providing him his first validation as a writer. In his early teens his writing took the form of homemade pamphlets called “chap” books. They had card-stock covers and were held together with two staples. Copperfield’s allowed Howell and other young authors-in-the-making to display their novice efforts in a professional retail setting. Howell’s “I Heart Sonoma” is available through Copperfield’s Books and in paperback and Internet versions at

Thanks again to Petaluma360 for the press! Click through to meet my colleagues via


How to Avoid Hooking up at the Company Christmas Party

Office Christmas Party FailAh, the proverbial company Christmas party—where one must suffer the indignity of white elephant gifts, off-brand booze and mistletoe hanging over one’s head like the sword of Damocles. Spending an obligatory evening with the water cooler crowd feigning holiday cheer is trying enough, so why up the ante by waking up next to one of them in a cheap motel? A recent survey found that the embarrassment of having had sex with a co-worker ranked only below hangovers and the flu as causes of holiday absenteeism. To avoid an inter-office hookup this holiday season, I offer three simple rules to help keep your Secret Santa in your pants… Continue reading “How to Avoid Hooking up at the Company Christmas Party”

The Charlie Brown Christmas LSD Conspiracy (in my mind)

My young son is enamored of Charlie Brown and the woebegone world he inhabits. He likes jazz (courtesy of Vince Guaraldi) and he likes the fact the characters play baseball. The only cultural connective tissue I can draw between jazz and baseball is Ken Burns and his documentaries, Jazz and Baseball. If the Peanuts characters became Civil War re-enactors, the kid would probably grow to believe Ken Burns and Charles Schultz were his real parents. That’s fine – they can pay for his college. I’ve already dropped enough dough on Amazon Instant Video streams of the various Charlie Brown holiday specials (Schultz and Hallmark must be in cahoots making up new holidays out of which to squeeze money – “It’s Secretary’s Day, Charlie Brown!”).

The streaming specials were only the beginning of a retro-digital-transmedia-redeployment of the “round-headed kid” and his cohort. There’s an app. In fact, the young actor who originated the animated Charlie’s voice does the narration on a repurposing of A Charlie Brown Christmas, that features some modest interactivity while flawlessly capturing the melancholic vibe of the source material. My kid loved the iOS version until this happened:

Peanuts App Fail
Peanuts App Fail

Notice how Charlie and Linus’ arms have come off. Imagine trying to explain that to a horrified child. Good grief, indeed. Later, my wife turned up with a “Look and Find” book entitled Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown that takes scenes from A Charlie Brown Christmas with with random objects thrown in (a stuffed camel, a maraca, a pipe – basically the decor of the average freshman dorm), which young readers are meant to find. Seeing the kaleidoscopic holiday landscapes of the Peanuts’ otherwise humdrum world in static printed form makes apparent just how psychedelic they were. Like this one:

Charlie Brown on Acid
Charlie Brown on Acid

The above scene could be captioned: “Maybe we shouldn’t have dropped that acid, Charlie Brown.” Look at their expressions. This is the precise moment before a bad trip starts. This also accounts for how Charlie ended up with such a famously crap tree. He was trippin’ balls. In fact, LSD explains a lot of the Peanuts world – from hallucinatory flashbacks of World War Two (featuring trippy rotoscoped footage of D-Day reminiscent of Yellow Submarine) to kite-eating trees and Linus’ Syd Barrett-style burnout fixation on a mythical pumpkin.

Rumor is if you turn down the sound on A Charlie Brown Christmas and play the second side of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon simultaneously, Brain Damage track comes on just when Charlie Brown takes his totally f’d up Christmas tree out into the winter night.

“The lunatic is on the grass” syncs wonderfully with the image of a dazed and confused Chuck carrying around his ailing green plant. Naturally, his eyes are big black pupils when he stops to watch the surreal light display on Snoopy’s doghouse, then bails, disconsolate over his comparatively shabby tree. That’s when his hippy-ass pals show up, wave their arms around (“You rearrange me ’til I’m sane”) and suddenly the twig Charlie Brown ditched becomes a proper Christmas tree. Evidently everyone is high. The kids start caroling in time with the backing vocals on the chorus. All true. Ken Burns is doing a documentary on it.

It’s a holiday treat one will cherish (for about 8 hours at 500 micrograms).

The Top Ten Top Ten Lists You’ve Never Heard Of

About this time of year, most editorial calendars feature an annual “top ten” list. This achieves a couple of goals: Thanks to frequent use of numbers, bullets, line breaks and sundry other non-lexeme typographical devices, lists tend to eat up column inches without burdening the writer with too much writing. Also, lists are like crack on the Internet where these posts enjoy an eternal half-life.
I thought I’d be cheeky and write up “Top 10 Top 10 Lists” but a quick online search reminded me that great hacks think alike. I discovered more than a few Top 10 Top Tenners, which is why I lowered the bar further and decided to write up the The Top Ten Ten Lists of Which You’ve Never Heard. Admittedly, this is a murder of a headline but I can’t stand to a sentence in a preposition, which brings me to number one… Continue reading “The Top Ten Top Ten Lists You’ve Never Heard Of”

Winter Moth

At first I thought it was a typo, or dyslexia, or a poorly rendered statement of the obvious – it is December, after all. And though “winter month” did somehow make sense, “winter moth” is what I actually read. Having learned up on it, I decided that the winter moth will be my “totem animal” for at least the next few weeks. Normally, I’m not one for totems or animals (and most weeks, though especially in Spring). All of them seem too fleeting, or require too much care or… You get it, I’m a curmudgeon not easily enchanted by precious notions – especially those my colleagues think “writerly.” And lately, the concept of “totem animals” has been coming up far too frequently. Continue reading “Winter Moth”