Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to write a great novel

I found this thoroughly enjoyable WSJ article on the Koreanish blog.

I got a big kick out of this, considering that a small portion of the first draft of my first book consisted of emails that I sent to myself over and over again while writing at a workstation that forced me to stand up.

For some reason, there were no chairs in the workstation; I think someone stole them.

Fighting back against vandals who can't spell

Some dummy put an ugly tag on one of my favorite local murals last night.

Under cloak of darkness, the person wrote "Kil All Human'' on the corner of the mural. This surprised me. Since our local murals are beautiful examples of 'street art,' why would anyone want to wreck that?

Anyhow, when I saw this, I borrowed a cloth from a passerby and removed the ugly tag, which (thank goodness) was written in chalk, not paint.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Free pile of junky, waterlogged books

My free book luck has run out.

Near my apartment, someone left a disgusting pile of waterlogged books with suspicious stains all over them.

I was afraid to throw them in the trash (that's bad karma) so I put them in front of someone else's apartment instead. I think one of the books was Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Cheap thrills for book lovers, part XXXV: Helene Wecker, Holly Payne, Megan Kelly and Jim Provenzano

Get there early on December 5 if you want to kick back in one of the comfy barber chairs. (Yes, this reading series takes place in an actual barbershop. Not kidding.)

Thanks for the free books!

Someone left a free stash of really good, mint-condition books right outside my apartment, and the strange thing is, they were books I was planning to read anyhow: Haruki Murakami, After The Quake, James Baldwin, Another Country, Brett Easton Ellis, American Psycho. Aside from this, they left me a really nice journal and a couple of promising DVD's. I guess they fled town in a hurry.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Staunchly refusing to sell dumb products on my blog

The following people or companies have approached me, asking me to advertise their silly and/or reprehensible products on my blog:

1. A company that sells smelly foot ointment (a lotion for people with very smelly feet)
2. A company that sells inserts for footwear
3. A major car company
4. Someone claiming to represent tobacco interests
5. A company that sells lotions for people with cracking and smelly feet.
6. A company that wants to pay me an honorarium to give positive reviews for their silly, disreputable-sounding products.

My answer to all of these companies is a loud and resounding "NO!'' And please, no more queries from people selling foot-related products of any kind.

Winners of the National Book Award

Congratulations to SF's own TJ Stiles for winning the nonfiction prize.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Photo of Bigfoot art project

Thank you, J., for sending me this photo of this very crudely constructed Bigfoot sculpture, featured close to the end of The Cactus Eaters. (This is an alternative version of the sculpture.)

I know that this sculpture doesn't look very much like Bigfoot. It's hard to go for realism when you're making a sculpture out of binder clips, fake fur, metal wire, Sharpie markings, Scotch Tape, Post-It reminder stickers, cotton swabs and pieces from an electrical circuit board.

How to tip your waiter in Haight-Ashbury

Gratuitous information:

The following is an actual (handwritten) sign that hangs on the wall of All You Knead, a Haight-Ashbury restaurant.

"Attention, Foreign Travelers:
A quick guide to the wacky American custom of TIPPING.
20 percent -- great tip, great service
17 percent, good tip, good service
15 percent, fair tip, fair service
10 percent: another way of saying to your server, 'you suck and I hate you.''

Monday, November 16, 2009

Funny you shoud ask that question

The other day, I went out and saw a scary movie, and when I emerged from the theater, someone emerged from the darkness and started shouting at me (and the crowd of people walking with me.) One of the things he said was, "Has any of you ever eaten a cactus??? Don't try it!! Don't try it!!''

At first this really freaked me out, for obvious reasons.

But it turned out he was only talking about peyote.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tim Cahill: "A Travel Writer Comes Home.''

Tim Cahill, this year's Lurie Distinguished Visiting Writer at SJSU, is the subject of an intriguing profile in the Wall Street Journal. The story shows how Cahill writes about his world travels while holed away in a cabin in the woods.

The scariest burger I've ever seen

If you've done a significant amount of backpacking, you know what it's like when you hit a supply town. You will eat anything. Globs of peanut butter. A gallon of ice cream or a 17.6 ounce Trader Joes Pound Plus Chocolate Bar in one sitting. One time, after hiking in the backwoods of eastern Kentucky, I was so hungry that I ate a double patty special from Wendy's -- and when I was done, I realized, with disgust, that I had eaten the paper and foil wrappers along with the hamburger!! But someone recently sent me a link to a burger that I could never eat, even after a long slog through the wilderness. Available only in Japan, the McDonald's "Mega Tomago'' has three sweaty beef patties, two big hunks of bacon, three buns, large gobs of cheese, and, to top it off, a big, wiggly, hockey-puck shaped egg. So my two questions are: "Who would eat this?'' and "How would you eat this?'' How would you even stretch your mouth high enough to take a bite out of this? Wouldn't it dislocate your jaw?

Anyhow, don't forget that you saw it here first.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lots of Books

I'm very busy lately, but I'm making time for books. Don't miss these recent (or fairly recent) titles. Lorrie Moore, A Gate At the Stairs. Tragic, surprising and strange. The slow-food-restaurant-from-hell scene was an added bonus. Rick Wartzman: Obscene in the Extreme. Thought-provoking book about the banning and burning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, which turns 70 this year. I reread Grapes this month to mark the anniversary. Philip Roth. The Humbling and Indignation. I admire Roth's epics, such as American Pastoral, but lately he's been writing these pitiless little books that hit very hard. The Humbling is about a once-great actor on the skids, and the unexpected romance which might put him back in business or put him out of commission for good. I won't spoil the ending but if you've read Roth, you know he can be merciless with his main characters. Also by Roth: Indignation is about the price some people pay for flouting conventions. And it has the scariest panty-raid scene ever written. Speaking of Roth, Bob Morris's new memoir, Assisted Loving, reads like a light-hearted comedic twist on Patrimony. Tracy Kidder, Strength In What Remains is his best yet. This goes beyond "immersive'' creative nonfiction and (to steal a phrase from the William Finnegan blurb, right on the back of the book) turns into a work of "sympathetic imagination.'' Zeitoun. Dave Eggers. A fast-moving tale about a man who resists fleeing New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina movies in. The fate of this would-be Good Samaritan will set your teeth on edge. (The author's POV and outrage are very strong in this book, even though he avoids the "I'' and rarely announces his opinion.)

The Bigfoot pictures are here

An East Coast reader has taken several candid shots of the Bigfoot doll that appears in the book (sorry, I can't remember the page.) Now I just need to figure out how to post them. It's only a matter of time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

They Might Be Giants free concert in the Haight

If you're on a budget and have a kid and want to see an interesting free show, make sure to go to the They Might Be Giants kid-friendly concert at the Booksmith on Thursday at 4 p.m
I know they have quite a cult following. I must admit that I don't know much about this band, except for the ABC educational song "King Weed'' and of course the one about the birdhouse. Also, I look like them. This concert is just one of a whole slew of free concerts in my historic neighborhood. In the past few months, everyone from Elvis Costello to Ghostface Killah has made appearances out here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The world's least ambitious juggler

I just saw the world's least ambitious juggler. She was standing near the Haight/Ashbury intersection, juggling a single ball! (If you can even call that juggling. Really, she was just throwing one ball in the air and catching it repeatedly.) Pretty bad. On the plus side, she was balancing a pumpkin on her head, which takes a certain amount of skill, especially when you are tossing a ball up and down and catching it in your hand.

Reader finds collectible "Cactus Eaters'' Bigfoot paraphernalia

A close reader of the book has found one of the homemade Bigfoot dolls mentioned briefly in the latter portion of the book.

This particular Bigfoot is made out of glue, fake fur and binder clips borrowed from a high-tech corporation where I used to be a temp. I worked on this art project 13 years ago while I was doing legal research for the company. (priorities, priorities.)

If I can get this person to send in a photo, I'll blog it right here.