Tuesday, October 30, 2007

There it is, take it

It is discouraging, if you are a member of the Nation of the Undiscovered, to find ANYTHING AT ALL resembling your work under somebody else's name. The name of this blog, for instance, a slogan of mine since 2003 or so, was very nearly independently stumbled upon by Tom Tomorrow on his (vastly more read) blog earlier this month. I like Tom Tomorrow very much. It would have pained me no end to wish that he meet his end at the hands and teeth of a pack of rabid, chainsaw wielding raccoons (don't let the washing thing fool you-- they fight dirty because they are dirty)-- but wish it I would, because , dammit, Faster than the Sped of satire is MINE, and you can have it when you can pry it from my cold dead career. Wait a minute, no, you can't have it, not then, not ever.
One of the things that keeps me pumping out all of this black gold, this Texas tea, is not swimming pools and movie stars, but a kind of wanna-be starlet's belief that success is just around the corner. Someday, I will walk into some lousy coffee house, and the performers will be all abuzz. What's happening, I will ask. Flo Ziegfeld is in the audience, they'll say, looking for a star for his new revue, here to find the leggiest comic mind with the pearliest smile, and I will open my notebook confidently, and drape myself in its sexy-makingest little number, and blow Flo away with my wit and crack timing and something that may even be called wisdom, and ride off to fame and fortune in his Pierce-Arrow touring car while my contemporaries rend their garments in that mixture of joy and despair so particular to the aspirants of show bidness.
Notice first, how this fantasy unfolds in some out of the way Mustache Pete, and not in any well-known venue (no triumph at the Palladium for me, that's too easy. Any man-Jack can get discovered at the Palladium). Note second how I go with Florenz Ziegfeld instead of, say, Simon Cowell, which by itself probably explains why I am not headlining the Palladium. Which by the way is closed for two years worth of renovations. But i'm getting ahead of myself again.
What I'm saying is, it is difficult to keep up an empire when these latecomers keep planting their flags in territory I've already claimed for myself. Their fame indemnifies them against any charge of plagiarism, and while I could mount a defense, complete with documentation, I would come over like Lenny Bruce reading his court transcripts, without ever coming over (as far as the general public is concerned) like Lenny Bruce not reading his court transcripts. The thought of being the Elisha Gray of the satiric American community has very little attraction.
But wait, why settle for being like unto the man who almost patented the telephone? Dammit, maybe I'm the Leonardo daVinci of this here age. Maybe hundreds of years from now, people will be decoding the impenetrable scrawl in MY notebooks, realizing that here was a meditation on race done with paint swatches that was YEARS ahead of The Daily Show's, and that somehow I, Nosmo King, had drawn skeletal diagrams of jokes uniting quantum hydrodynamics, Britney Spears (some things will never go out of style) and the male glans (ditto) IN WAYS THAT WERE STUPEFYINGLY AHEAD OF THEIR TIME EXCLAMATION POINT TIMES THREE. I mean, if you're going to dream of failure, then dream big. And if you're going to fail, fail big. It's probably time to start mailing stuff out to agents and publishers, instead of in self-addressed stamped envelopes. What happens to me is probably not so much plagiarism as eminent domain. Even if I get a stack of rejection letters as long as my sad-sackiest face, my notebooks could still be like those of daVinci. Who, it should be pointed out, never finished most of his projects either. The comparison holds, or will once I've finished this portrait of my friend Mona. Lady, I don't know what that ***t-eating grin means, but I like it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

SERIOUS non-writing

So, I spent part of the day breaking the sidewalk in front of our house into chunks, armed with my trusty sledgehammer “Bess” (named after Harry Truman's wife, for reasons I cannot divulge, or remember) and a gardening tool called a Mutt. Then I ate a delicious sandwich for lunch, took care of a couple of personal items, paid my cell phone bill, read the entire blogosphere, checked out a couple of things my girlfriend sent me in emails, almost took a shower, but instead ended up doing the dishes in the nude-- an idea I so DID NOT get from Cosmo, OK, so just stop even thinking that. And now, finally, I find myself writing this, the all-important second blog post, the one that has to keep you people engaged to the same level if not higher as the previous efflorescence of my creative genius did, and asking myself the question, what will I do in order to not write. The answer, I believe , is anything and everything.
The list above is a pretty good guide to how serious I am about not writing. In fact, there are very few things I work harder at. But still, some literary output manages to dribble its way out. You'll just have to trust me that soon that will be gone for good, and that this place will stand like an abandoned gas station in the desert, a stylish ruin from a more hopeful time. Vintage candy racks will line the dusty counter, a premise sitting there just waiting to be used, as though the “writer” had just stepped away for a cup of coffee and a swallow of laudanum, and had been waylaid in his return, perhaps by angry coyotes (hmm, coyote wrestling, must remember to try that one the next time inspiration is striking.) Yet somehow, I keep crawling back to the word processor, (parenthetically again, is there any worse term for a writing program than “word processor”? Last I looked, which was just milliseconds ago, I'm the one doing all the word processing here. All the program does is meekly ask permission to complete an odd word here and there incorrectly, and then save the file to somewhere it can't be found. Which makes the program just like a subpar temp, but not quite as cheap.) like Charlie Brown to the football, drunkenly braying for my lady Literature to take me back, that things will be different now, I'm ready to dance with her and only her, no more coyote wrestling, nude kitchen chores, whatever. And she takes me back, the foolish good-hearted woman, because she's a concept, not a person, and the only heart I've been breaking is my own.
Because I have more words than Webster, more words than Oxford Unabridged, a great near -Joycean harvest of syllables, piled on the syllabus, careening its way to market, a steaming slab of fatback Funk and Wagnalls just waiting to be got on the goodfoot, if you know what I'm talking about, and I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I am talking and that's the point. I have always loved words and language-- too much even when I was a kid. I couldn't do baby talk, I waited till I could make my own sentences . I am meant to string words together, and send them up like multicolored box kites dancing in the firmament of ideas. When I found words I felt like Paganini with his Amati, Mondrian with his grid, Rodney Dangerfield with his self-deprecation. I was in my element. So where the hell have I been, and why haven't you heard of me, and I'm from Missouri and you're gonna have to show me.
I know, I know, I get this a lot. Mostly from myself. And I have no answer, still, for why I became the most serious non-writer I know. Perfectionism, depression, erectile dysfunction, seasonal affective disorder, the dog ate it-- you name it. Maybe I just can't resist a sidewalk that needs to be smashed. There is more to life than writing-- in fact, the more life one lives, the more one has to work with, in theory. All I have to go on is theory. And I have wrestled, and pulled, and dragged, and spat, and indeed hacked my way through some very difficult lies in and near the stream of consciousness, to get to this point. Which is a start. And, thankfully, nobody cares where one starts, it's all about where one ends up. Afterwards, if anything comes of this, they can scour my notebooks, dinner napkins, and credit card envelopes for the swamp that gave rise to this howling banshee. And for the first time in along time, I will shut up. Because there is no answer to the question “Where did this come from?”. There is writing and there is not writing. One can do a lot of the latter and still find time for the former.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Down these Mean Streets

Hi. This is my first piece for the new blog-- New Blog, meet First Piece, Piece, Blog-- good. No fighting, OK. There's plenty of everything for everyone(which, if you think about it, is the promise and the tragedy and the threat of modern-- nay, postmodern existence. But I'm getting ahead of myself. It's not a bug, it's a feature. Anyway--). You're probably wondering why I've gathered us here today. I'll tell you why, or at least which of several shifting and contradictory rationales I'll be using to justify this invasion of your internets. It is not a search for weapons of mass instruction; nor because of the fabulous oil wealth this humble web address hides. It is because down these mean streets a man must go who--

Well, who likes to use titles and phrases that others have used already, for one thing. (One of my stories that I'm happiest with is called “John Carter, Warlord of Mars”. It's not the one you're thinking of, and it may well appear here. At some point. Not this one.) This is not Piri Thomas' searing account of growing poor in Spanish Harlem (if there's one word everybody agrees on here, it's “searing”.). Nor is it that part of Raymond Chandler's celebrated essay “The Simple Art of Murder”, toward the end of which he discusses the moral imperative of creating a detective very like Philip Marlowe. This after he had already written four novels featuring a detective who actually was Philip Marlowe.

That's the problem with foundational manifestos-- they describe reality much better when written after the fact. Even better if you can create a moral imperative for your fictional creation. Just ask Raymond Chandler. Or George W. Bush.

Bush and his henchmen, by the way, have indirectly provided the name for this little corner of the world wide web. I can go on and on about this, and probably will at some other point (not this one), but (for a brief, true example): when Dick Cheney is given the “Architect of Peace” award… at the Nixon Library… presented by Henry Kissinger-- that's when you know that the explosion you heard last night was not a backfiring ice cream truck or a gangland hit, but the sound of the planet crashing, Chuck Yeager-like, through the satire barrier. We are now moving-- wait for it-- “Faster than the Speed of Satire”. I can't tell you how many times I've written the most scathing funhouse mirror distortions of the events of the day, gone to sleep thinking that I would finally be recogniz'd as the Jonathan Swift of our day (hence 17th century spelling there, a few wyrds back), only to wake up and hear my jape on the news, as an actual fact on the ground. Maybe, like George W, or Kim Jong-Il, I should give myself credit for creating reality through the power of my ideas. But I don't. Nor should you.

So what does a satirist do when the very notion of satire becomes obsolete? Simple, Watson-- he blogs. About the shape of the world (still round, though not on the set of “The View”, apparently.). About the Haves vs. the Have-nots (Have-nots not even covering the spread.). About the fall light in the evenings in Los Hollyangeleswood, this most minor yet most elusive of the United States' Outlying Islands (we have more grinding poverty AND more millionaires than you. If you don't live here now, you will soon.). The hawks that circle the air here above my hill. Music, art, fruit desserts. You know, stuff.

When I can come up with a moral imperative that justifies these invented truths and repurposed lies, you'll be the first to know. Until then, why is today different from all other days? Because, today, I am a blog.