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March 28, 2005

Twelfth Book, 12th Man

Quite a feat, reading 12 books in three months. Why, that's one a week! Pretty sad, really, for a professional writer, but I have a child and Rotisserie baseball season is coming. It depresses me, as I've taken on this 50 Book Challenge for no good reason, to look at, say, Bookslut, who's on something like her 35th book, and most of those books are actually current and interesting and haven't been sitting in a pile by her desk since the winter of 2003.

With that in mind, I did finish book #12 last night, while I drank two glasses of red wine, because I'm deluding myself into thinking that's good for my heart. At least I resisted the temptation to pop half a Vicodin. This book is Blitz, by Ken Bruen, about whom I've talked here before. Blitz comes at the recommendation of Sarah Weinman, another tragically unpaid critic whose judgment I respect. She was right. Blitz is better than Bruen's other South London books. The plot is smoother and the set pieces more vivid. Still, do you have to start every chapter with an epigraph? Ninety percent of them made my teeth hurt.

In other news, while the rest of the country is going nuts over the quasi-professional biracial slave auction that is the NCAA Tournament, I'm preparing myself, mentally and physically, for the most exciting NBA Playoffs since 1993. My Phoenix Suns, now that Tim Duncan is no longer able to do Downward Facing Dog on his off-days, will definitely end up with the best record in the West, and possibly in the NBA. All you naysayers (I'm looking at you, Stephen A. Smith), had better watch out. They are going to be hoisting the trophy in Phoenix next fall. This road journal by the Suns' 12th man is the funniest basketball writing I've ever read. Paul Shirley will become the NBA's Jim Bouton, if he can get it past David Stern's prudish morality sensor. I want to know who's on Shirley's "all-ugly" team, and I want to know what percentage of NBA players smoke a little gange before the games. Hint: It ain't zero.

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March 22, 2005

Sweat

I have a new Nerve column up, this one on the world-defining topic of sex in steam rooms. Read and empathize. Or just shake your head that someone can make a modest living writing this stuff.

If you've ever wondered what it's like to have a famous Scottish band play a live show in one of your best buddy's living rooms, read this tabloid article. And yes, I was there. The reporter forgot to mention the ubiquitous fat guy who stood in front of me and shouted "OHHHH YEAHHHHH!" every time Idlewild started a new song. Also, MC Chris, from Adult Swim, did some rapping. I know that sounds square, but it really was rapping. I'd never heard of MC Chris, but then again, I'm not a stoner between the ages of 16 and 29.

Finally, this post pretty much sums up SXSW 2005 for me. Who could have written such a thing? One of the guys from Baffler's AAA social-critic farm league? Read it and hate capitalism.

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March 18, 2005

The Hounds Of Brixton

That just sounds like a song-title circa 1980 England, which is what my new favorite band sounds like. Run, don't walk, to purchase music from The Futureheads, whose album is a product of Sire Records. One of the best live bands I've seen in some time. It's as though XTC were reborn with double the earnestness and the original complement of enthusiasm.

Don't you hate it when people blog a music festival? South By Southwest is very crowded this year. How many parties can SPIN magazine possibly throw? I will proceed through the dawn today and into the wee hours of Saturday AM, but tomorrow night, I'm going bowling with my wife.

Meanwhile, I have completed Book #11, Death Of An Ordinary Man, by Glen Duncan. It was reviewed positively on the cover the Times Book Review a few weeks back. I can recommend it, but found reading it an odd experience. It's been a while since I read an explicitly "literary" novel, and though I found parts of the book deeply moving, I also thought the story moved a bit slowly and found some of the stylistic trickery off-putting. That said, I agree with the Times reviewer. If you have to read a novel about a person dying and reviewing their life from a ghostly limbo, choose this one. It's honest. The Lovely Bones is a very-special episode of The Facts Of Life by comparison.

Maybe that reference dates me too badly. A very-special episode of Smallville? Last night I quoted the Hill Street Blues catchphrase, "let's roll, and hey, let's be careful out there." My companions, two of them aged 21 and the other aged 28, looked at me as though I'd quoted Fibber McGee And Molly.

I had another such experience on Wednesday night. I was out with my friend Ben Brown, editor of Austinist and burgeoning professional scenester. We passed by Stubb's and heard the dulcet live tones of White Wedding. "Shit," I said. "I don't need to hear that. I saw Billy Idol in 1981. "That's awesome," Ben said.

My memories are becoming quaint. That night, Ben also mocked me because my cell phone still has a black-and-white display. Excuse me! Sorry I can't take photos of people with their tongues sticking out and text-message my "friends" using my phone! You kids need to do some volunteer work.

OK. I need some coffee.

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March 15, 2005

The Glories Of South By

Well, my South By Southwest Interactive Festival appearance is over. I generated slightly less buzz than Malcolm Gladwell, Ana Marie Cox, Al Franken, and every other person who appeared at the festival. My reading occurred on the "Day Stage," which should be more accurately called "The Secret Stage Behind The Snack Bar." The crowd seemed reasonably amused by my readings of rare unpublished "Bad Sex" columns, and then I dumped a cup of sugar on my shirt. Hilarious. I finished off with a segment from my memoir about parenting, which, at the rate I'm writing it, will end up being a memoir about grandparenting, but people seemed to enjoy.

For what it's worth, I've gotten my son Elijah very excited about seeing some free day shows at South By Southwest, though he says he thinks he's going to see "Spongebob Squarepants Music." I told him, "Elijah, it's rock n roll music." He said, "No, daddy, I want to hear different rock n roll music!"

Hip kids say the darndest things.

I finished Book Number 10 amidst all the excitement of my triumphant return to the lower midlist of industry convention speakers. That book is The White Trilogy, by Ken Bruen, three short novels about South London cops that lay out the perameters for contemporary noir writing. Bruen's main character, a brutal alcoholic lout named Brant, is a revelation, and I like how the villains always get what's coming to them, but never at the hands of the cops. The books actually improve as they go along. The third volume of the trilogy, "The McDead," was far and away my favorite.

Not like Ken Bruen is reading this, but I did find frustrating his incessant referencing of other noir stories and movies within his text. I almost threw the book across the room when Brant ran into Ed McBain during a trip to New York. It drives me crazy when writers over-reveal their sources. This particular narrative flaw is common in the crime genre--Carl Hiassen's characters are often loner weirdoes who like Garcia Marquez--but it's still annoying.

Nevertheless, Ken Bruen is not the kind of British Isles writer who normally gets attention in the U.S., but he's a damn sight less pointy-headed than most of the popular ones. Recommended.

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March 11, 2005

Aging Hipsters Unite!

My good friend and sometime business partner Ben Brown has once again completely succumbed to the Gods of Internet Trendiness. Now he's the editor of Austinist, a website entirely devoted to promoting his vision of Austin, Texas, as a crazy party universe where he makes all the decisions. This will backfire on him and will destroy everything and everyone he loves. If you're in Austin or will be here this week for the rock-n-roll boot camp known as South By Southwest, check out his site. If you like the twangy stuff or any music by people older than 26, though, look elsewhere. But if you want to feel both fat and relatively clean, Ben's your man. We're about to have a lot of fun.

I have returned from a trip, which I will soon tell you about if I'm in the mood. Also, I have been reading and will get books 10 and 11 up this week, assuming I can finish them over a beer or two. Now, I will begin my SXSW activities by undertaking that most rock-n-roll of feats: Buying dinner for my mother. Excelsior!

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March 4, 2005

The Pulp Is Still Alive

Please excuse the headline. That pun has been living inside me for a week, and now I've passed it like a kidney stone. To what does it refer? I've got a review this week in The Stranger of The Confession, by Domenic Stansberry, which I briefly talked about in this space a couple of weeks ago. Here I go again sounding the pulp charge. Hard Case Crime. Check it out.

There will no posts next week, as if you care. Be good.

NP

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March 3, 2005

Braaaaaaaaains!

When I was 10 years old, I wrote a short story about how the Russians invaded Scottsdale, Arizona, killing my grade-school principal, P.E. coach, and all the bullies who'd given me a hard time. My family escaped the takeover, barely, when my next-door neighbor flew over our house in his helicopter just when Soviet tanks began to roll down the street.

This story obviously wasn't true. My neighbor flew a Cessna, not a helicopter. I even turned it in for an assignment. I guess the difference between 1980 and 2005 is that I didn't go to jail for writing fiction.

Eighteen-year-old William Poole, a junior at George Rogers Clark High in Clark County, Kentucky, is being held in county jail after police discovered, in his journal, a short story that he'd written about zombies attacking a high school. Poole faces a second-degree felony terrorist threatening charge. "My story is based on fiction," he says. "It's a fake story. I made it up. I've been working on one of my short stories, (and) the short story they found was about zombies. Yes, it did say a high school. It was about a high school over ran by zombies."

It's entirely possible that Poole might be trying to work an angle here. A report in the local newspaper says that police suspect he was trying to organize a gang to stage an armed takeover of the school. And he was tipped off to the cops by his grandparents. The situation, as they say, is developing.

But at the moment, a teenager in Kentucky is in jail for the crime of writing a zombie story. When you sign on to his school's Free Speech Message Board, all you get now is a rendition of "Taps." Someone should follow through on this story, or give me a freelance assignment so I can follow through on this story.

The irony is that in 28 days, Poole will wake up in his jail cell. The town will be deserted. Or so he'll think....

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March 2, 2005

How I Spent My 35th Birthday

Party was previous Saturday. Made good use of new vaporizer and plate of special brownies. Got rid of extra Vicodin. On actual birthday, woke up at 8 AM. Met with various official at City Hall at 11 AM, re: Neighborhood safety concerns. Spent much time mentally preparing for upcoming Rotisserie baseball season. Worked on short story. Listened to album called "Puppy" by band called Fluke for this month's emusic.com column. For dinner, ate pork chop, tater tots, and Spinach salad. Stayed home with kid while wife went to book club to discuss The Bastard In The House, a bad choice in my opinion. Book is about overeducated middle-class men trying to come to terms with adult responsibility. Who wants to read about that shit? Oh. Pulling black socks up to knees now.

As regards the mandatory post-profile Foer parody, someone else did it so I didn't have to get my paws dirty. Scroll down to the second item. It is the will of Allah.

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March 1, 2005

I Shall Wear The Bottoms Of My Trousers Rolled

Today is my 35th birthday. Suddenly, Teen Spirit smells like menthol rub. Both the Arcade Fire songs have disappeared from my IPod and my TIVO is no longer letting me record Adult Swim. On the other hand, if this was 8,000 years ago, I'd have been eaten by a predatory cat by now!

There's an SUV full of Lipitor sitting in my driveway.

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