31 July 2007

And he had his appendix removed through his nose!

I guess the James Frey-Oprah story will never fully go away.

I can't help but be interested by this because I am a nonfiction writer-it's what my thesis is and what I feel like I write best.  Fiction is hard, man.  Actually, it's not.  Coming up with ideas for fiction is what I find impossible.  I find it a lot easier to write about personal experience.  Hence, nonfiction.

I'm sure I've written about this before, so I will keep my opinions short.  Frey is an idiot for thinking no one would check his "facts," especially when he reaped the benefits of an Oprah recommendation.

Oprah is a superficial blowhard.  I have no respect for what she did to James Frey or to the publishing industry in general, all to save the "purity" of her empire.  My dream would be to one day publish a great book, have her want to select it for her "club," and tell her to go scratch.

(And a note to the tools at AOL-if you are going to have a feature on the blogs that claim you can search previous entries just by entering a few words, you might want it to actually work.  I put "James", "Frey" and "Oprah" into the search and was told nothing was found.  I know I wrote about this before. I've used the search about ten times, and it never brings up anything.)

Here's the thing I have found about writing memoir: it's amazing at how often a detail that you swore happened one way actually turned out to be something completely different.  It's impossible to remember everything exactly the way it happened.  And it's not a big deal, as long as it's not a boldfaced lie.

Here's how not to do it:

1. You have to have root canal on four teeth after you've had the crap beaten out of you, but since you are a "drug addict" you "can't have Novocain."  Not a problem!  You say you just grasp the sides of the chair tightly, and the procedure passes quicker than you thought.  What, you can't take a little severing of nerves?

2. You spend three hours in jail once but it felt like it was so much longer, so you say it was really 90 days.

So yeah, James Frey was an idiot, embellishing things that are impossible to believe (I've had root canals, drugged to the max, and it still hurt like instead of a drill it was a school of piranha eating through my gums) or easily disproved over something called the "Freedom of Information Act" (hmm, had Frey been a friend of George W. Bush . . .) but he is also a phenomenal writer.  A Million Little Pieces was a great book, whether it was all true, all fake, or a healthy mix.  It's a shame that the legacy of the book is tarnished by Oprah's ego.  I'm wondering how many people who could have been helped by it are now struggling with addiction.

Usually, I don't really care about what others think of me, but I feel I must say here that I read A Million Little Pieces almost a full year before Oprah got her filthy mitts on it.  I'd never read any book based solely upon her recommendation.

My thesis is a series of essays about my life mostly since my father died.  I've written about places I have been to, people I've met and things that I've done.  I have done my best to recall things accurately, but I'm sure that at some point, I've messed something up.  Or I've attributed a quote to someone other than the person who said, or combined two people into one, etc.

I wrote about going to the top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas and watching in amazement at the thrill ride there that dangles you over the edge of the building, almost a thousand feet above the ground, and spins you around.  I'm sure it would have been much more interesting to write that I actually rode it, and I'm sure that I could have convinced readers of it.  But there are a lot of people who know me who would read it and say "I know you.  There's NO WAY you go on that thing."

And then I am nothing but a fiction writer, which is not a bad thing, mind you, but if I claim to be writing nonfiction I just lost my credibility.

I'm not a published nonfiction writer.  I hope to be some day, but even then I will wonder if I lost readers way back in 2006, thanks to Frey and Oprah.  Go away.  Please.

19 July 2007

I'm in the mood for hypocrites, simply because it's Thursday

In my opinion, the dog days of summer have arrived early this year.  I blame the cicadas.  They are all dead now, so they can't refute me.  It's quiet here.  They took the "Summer of Death" moniker with them too.

Now it's the summer of boredom. 

I'm not complaining.  Usually my life is a bit of a cluster-fudge (I hate being noble) because there is always something else to distract me (Hey! Fudgesicles!) and I spend way too much time on things that exemplify my ADD.  But lately I've been much better about keeping track of what I am doing and finishing it before I move on to the next.  I've been writing a lot, and my thesis is coming together, even though I am starting to feel like I will never finish it (irrational, I know, because I will finish it, or I'm going to get every bone in my body broken...) but it is almost oppressive, just because I am writing the same things over and over.  My advisor tells me that an essay (my thesis is a series of nonfiction pieces) is not thesis-worthy until it has been revised more than ten times.  I do not believe her, but I have been revising.  A lot. 

All the work that I have been doing on my writing has made me stop checking the billion web sites or so that I used to every day.  I'm hopelessly behind in a lot of blogs that I used to read.  I don't really miss it, actually, which tells me that I should have simplified this whole Internet thing a long time ago.  I still run across some interesting stuff though.

I love pointing out hypocrites.  It's one of my most favorite things to do.  I don't follow a lot of Washington scandals, but I love the one that broke earlier this year, about a supposed Madame busted for running a prostitution ring, because you know that her client list has to include a selection of Holier-than-thou public servants.

Now batting: Louisiana Senator David VitterThis article has the details of what his last week has been like.  Eh.  He's going to spin it like anyone else would, I guess.  But I remember Sen. Vitter for something he said in 2006, well before the mid-term elections, when people actually still cared about W's agenda.  Two really pointless parts of his agenda were creating Constitutional amendments that would ban burning an American flag and gay marriage.

(What if two burning, gay American flags wanted to get married?  That might be the dumbest question I've ever asked.)

I'm not sure what Vitter's point of view was on the flag thing (he is a Republican, so he probably wanted it) but I know what his POV was on the gay marriage issue.  Now remember that he represents Louisiana, which includes New Orleans, which was devastated by a Hurricane Katrina in 2005, because in the discussion of whether gay marriage should be banned constitutionally, David Vitter stood in front of the camera and said that the issue of gay marriage was by far the most important issue to the people that he represents. 

I for one can picture the thousands of people displaced from Katrina sitting in their FEMA trailers waiting for the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the rest of the levees so that they might make it back into their homes by, say, 2020 look skyward and praise the Lord because David Vitter is looking out for their best interests. 

Ah, the smell of hypocrisy.  There's nothing like it.  Here's a guy championing good ol' fashioned heterosexual marriage who tears down his own like it was a Category 5 moving over the bayou.

Which leads me to my next feature: I'm late in reporting this, but apparently on Sunday July 8th the San Diego Padres had the audacity to sponsor a Gay Pride Day at Petco Park for their game with the Atlanta Braves.  Predictably, several "Christian" organizations had full blown aneurysms. 

My favorite part of that rant:

"Not even an afternoon at a baseball game apparently is going to be safe for parents who want to protect their children from advocates for homosexuality, with the San Diego Padres' confirmation their July 8 game will simultaneously offer free caps to attract children, and a formal recognition of the area's homosexual organization."

Because, as anyone well knows, you recruit kids to become homosexuals by first offering them floppy hats.  Once the kids see how absolutely FABULOUS they look, they're hooked.

Forgive me, I can't resist including more:

"This action by the San Diego Padres management has greatly tarnished their record as being a family friendly organization. They have truly offended the moral and religious sensibilities of literally thousands of fans. I will never look at the Padres the same way that I have over the past 40 plus years here in San Diego, enjoying its image as being pro family. It is really sad," said Phil Magnan, the director for Biblical Family Advocates."

Hmm, Phil says that he's never going to look at the Padres the same way again.  Sounds like he's already coming around.  Hope he got a floppy hat.  Have any of these "outraged citizens" ever been to San Diego?  If so, they don't pay much attention.  There's more in the article about a certain group of vendors threatening to walk off the job during the game, and I will make the obligatory crack about them being uncomfortable placing a whole lot of foot-long hot dogs in buns...thank you very much.

Actually, I have it from sources that what really honked off these wonks is that they heard that the Padres were going to recreate the infamous "Sausage Race" that the Milwaukee Brewers feature at every home game,and well, when they heard "sausage," they panicked. 

It wasn't that kind of race, folks!

And a random 11 for those who made it this far:

1. "Ride My See Saw"-The Moody Blues.  I couldn't make this up, could I?  I hear this was sung before the Padres game on 7/8 in place of the National Anthem.

2. "Amnesia"-Chumbawamba.  Whenever I hear a Chumbawamba song I am reminded of a tale told to me shortly after Christmas lo a few years ago.  My nephew wanted this CD for Christmas and my mother (his grandmother) decided to buy it but when she went to the store she had difficulty locating it.  Finally she had to ask for help.  The idea of Mom asking someone "Where's the Chumbawamba?" is a gift from the Heavens.  I love this band because of it.

3. "Monty Got a Raw Deal"-REM.  I'm not chummy with the band, but if I were I'd demand to know that the guy's name being Monty is not just a coincidence, right?  Monty Hall, Let's Make a Deal, c'mon, it's a clever ruse, no?

4. "Pets"-Porno for Pyros.  Some songs are forever altered by a situation where you find yourself listening to it.  This is an example: last August I drove all the way from Chicago to LA to visit some good friends and as I was getting off the Freeway at twilight trying to navigate the directions I was given, this song came on.  If I live to be 123, I will always think about looking for the Monrovia Fire Station and then making a right turn whenever I hear this song.

5. "Bass Trap"-U2.  An obscure B-sides composition that, like above, will always resonate with me because of coincidental opportunity.  It's too long of a story to hash here but I was once in an airplane listening to this song when we flew over a Wind Farm, and the tempo of the song fit the movement of the turbines perfectly.  I had what I can only describe as a harmonic moment.  Sounds moronic, yes, but it was one of the most amazing moments of my life.

6. "Ain't So Easy"-David + David.  These guys put out a killer CD in the mid-80s and then absolutely disappeared.  Boggles my mind, like it was a remake of "Eddie and The Cruisers" or something.

7. "Wake Me Up On Judgement Day"-Steve Winwood.  In the fall of 1987 I was a newly arrived freshman at the University of Iowa, placed randomly into a bizarre living situation.  This CD ("Back in the High Life") saved me from going insane about fifteen thousand times over.

8. "Buffalo River Home"-John Hiatt.  I had never heard this song until last summer (on the same trip where I had the "Pets" moment) when I was driving through the Santa Fe area and heard it on a radio station which played two straight hours of great music (something sorely lacking in Chicago).  It was 98.7 KBAC "Radio Free Santa Fe" and when I got home I became a religious listener via their Internet streaming.  Alas, they stopped the streaming in the spring.  They won't respond to my e-mails begging them to start it up again.  My life may never recover.  This song makes me sob now, endlessly.

9. "What's My Scene?"-The Hoo Doo Gurus.  Don't have much to say here, other than it's fun to type Hoo Doo at 2 AM.

10. "Rafters"-Moby.  As far as I can tell, the woman who hums throughout this song is eating a big ol' chocolate cake.  Perhaps it was her birthday.

11. "Down In the Bottom"-Walter Becker.  The less-cool half of Steely Dan, but this song has some of the best lyrics ever.  I'm glad he saved it for himself, because Donald Fagan would sound foolish singing this song.

04 July 2007

Maybe it's the pondering that causes the headaches

Last Friday I woke up shortly before ten o'clock, had a little breakfast, watched some news, and made my way back to my bedroom by eleven, felled by a headache.  I pretty much spent the rest of the day sleeping and trying to sleep.  The headache would not go away.  It was not on the level of a migraine (something I have experienced only twice in my life and have no desire to revisit) but it was dominant.  I even dreamt about it while I was asleep.

Whenever a day is wasted like that, I can't help but wonder what I missed.  If nothing else, the weather was beautiful, and at the very least I could have sat outside somewhere and read.  But no; while most of the world was going on about their day, I was in bed.  And of course, a few days later, it has me thinking.  I don't remember the last time I literally spent twenty-three hours of one day in bed.

But then I recall what Friday's date was: June 29.

I had major surgery on June 29, 1976 to fix a kidney problem that I had been born with (I was nine).  I went into the hospital the night before, so when June 29 arrived, I was asleep.  I was woken up at six and in the operating room by 7.  I remember waking up around 5 that evening back in my hospital room, getting sick, and trying to watch a baseball game (the Cubs gave up eight runs in the first inning to the Pirates) before sleeping the rest of the day.

Thirty-one years later I had the same type of day, except without the anesthesia, scalpels and such...spending most of it in bed.

It's purely coincidental, I realize, but it makes me wonder about what has happened to me on days that now mean something to me, before the event that occurred.  My wedding anniversary is April 22, 2005.  I wonder if anything of significance ever happened to me on the 36 April 22 I lived through before 2005?  Or June 29 from 1967 thru 1975?  June 8 (my father's death) before 2002? 

I have no way of knowing.  I wish I had taken better notes of this life as it was happening to me.

(In the three-plus years that I have been writing here, this is the first time I have gone back and immediately thought that this would have been something Neil Patrick Harris would have written at the end of "Doogie Howser, MD.")

Independent Random 11:

1. "Little Bird"-Annie Lennox.  Like the song, but I think more of the video with all of the men running around dressed like her.

2. "Oliver's Army"-Elvis Costello.  London is full of Arabs.  Now more than ever.

3. "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town"-Pearl Jam.  Definitely the longest title I have.  Every time I hear this song, I am left dumbfounded why Eddie Vedder avoided some rhymes that would have made more sense to the story that this song tries to tell.

4. "Split Decision"-Steve Winwood.  That's Joe Walsh on the guitar.  This song reminds me of "Miami Vice"; no particular episode, just the show in general.  I have no idea why.

5. "Show Me"-The Pretenders.  Not sure why this is here.  I usually skip over it.  Preachy Chrissy Hynde is not good Chrissy Hynde.

6. "Porcelain"-Moby.  I was able to get over the fact that I heard this in the trailer for every movie released in 2000.  And that it was in 75 commercials.  I could listen to the intro 80 times.  I just did.

7. "Heartbeat"-Psychedelic Furs.  First memory that pops up in my head when I hear this is listening to this album (I believe this was the last song on side 1) as I was trying to fall asleep the night before I had knee surgery in February of 1985.  I am pretty sure that this is the only song on here that would remind me of surgery; freaky that it shows up tonight.

8. "Gone"-U2.  Nails on a chalkboard at the beginning, but Bono saves it with some of the coolest lyrics he's ever written.

9. "Just a Job to Do"-Genesis.  Phil Collins singing about being a hit-man.  It seemed plausible at the time.

10. "Slow Emotion Replay"-The The.  Makes me want to learn the harmonica.  Perhaps my all-time favorite refrain: "Everybody knows what's going wrong with the world/but I don't even know what's going on in myself."

11. "Human"-The Pretenders.  Ms. Hynde gets the chance to redeem herself.  I love the guitar riff that ends this song.  And the damage is done...


02 July 2007

Psst, Hey, King George...

Really, what took you so long?

It never bothered me that anyone of importance in the Bush White House escaped involvement in the whole Valerie Palme thing, because if Karl Rove had been nailed, he would have pardoned as soon as his conviction was announced.  So Libby will spend no time in jail (and I would say he probably deserves at least a weekend in the Big House simply for being an adult going by the nickname "Scooter" in public) but will still be a convicted felon (which means he loses his law license) and still is on the hook for a $250,000 fine (which will, like his legal fees, be paid for by Republican groups in DC).

I still think that right before January 20, 2009, Libby will receive a full pardon.

Look, Bush is a joke.  Three-fourths of the country and nine-tenths of the world feel that way now, and we are all just biding our time until the Constitution kicks in and kicks him back to Crawford.  There's no reason to be outraged by this, because if you didn't see it coming, you weren't paying very close attention.  George does what he wants.  Laws don't apply to George, and therefore, laws don't apply to people George likes.

You know who George does not like?  People convicted of murder (even those done so questionably).  In fact, George hates those people so much, he did everything he could when he was governor of Texas to se that they died as swiftly as possible.  Who cares if a few "might" have been innocent?  A few worthy sacrifices for the good of Texas, it seems.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 43rd President in a nutshell: he wouldn't consider putting off an execution even if there were a 99% chance that the person about to die was going to do so in error, and he certainly doesn't do anything to make sure American soldiers stay alive, but if you are a Republican crony who committed perjury (as long as it wasn't about sex, mind you) he'll make sure that you're off the hook.

And I continue to wish that somehow I could be around in one hundred years just so I could read history textbooks about the years 2001-2009.

On to other things: not long ago, I was ready to declare the 2007 baseball season over.  As a Cubs fan, there is a point every season where the official call is made: the team isn't going to win the World Series for the (insert rapidly approaching three digit number here) and once again, I have to wait another freakin' year.

Last year, the time of death was the first week of May.  And I almost called it at the end of this May, when they were 22-31, but for some reason I waited.  I think it was because I didn't want to give up until they played the White Sox for the last time.  Turns out that series seems to be the point where the season has turned around.  Since the 22-31 mark, they have gone 19-9.  They still have a lot of room to make up if they want to make the playoffs, and even if they did they wouldn't be favored over any other team I think, but at least as we spiral into July there is still a reason for me to watch (and be excited) about baseball.

Mock me; pity me; commit me; fail-to-understand me (Hi Honey!); there's just no way for me to convey how this team drives me.  I have a few friends who might read this and nod their heads in complete, absolute understanding.

It can still happen, boys.  And I will be here following.

If it takes forever.