Thursday, June 26, 2008

New One Up at Austinist: Aphid Asses and David Sedaris

Here's a link to my Austinist column this week. I had the great joy of seeing David Sedaris in person last week. One thing I didn't get to work in was his list of recommended reading. Last time he was in town he recommended this wonderful, utterly depressing book called Random Family. So this time, I asked him to recommend more. Among others, he suggested No One Belongs Here More Than You, a short story collection by Miranda July, who did that cool movie-- I think it was called You and Me and Everyone We Know. I'm listening to the audio of the book now and it's really terrific. She's an actress/performance artist in addition to being a writer so she really has a great delivery. Check it out.

Love Mix #10

It's time for another monthly installment in the Love Mix CD Series. Here's the set list:

1. Another Beautiful Day Ori Sofer
2. Interlude Cue Music Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back
3. Mercy fratellis
4. Ma Sheba Ba (What Comes Around) HaDag Nachash
5. Surprise Gnarls Barkley
6. The Odd Couple The City of Prague Philharmonic
7. That Summer Feeling La Buena Vida
8. That Summer Feeling Jonathan Richman
9. Chinese Translation M. Ward
10. Fidelity Regina Spektor
11. Two Ryan Adams
12. She Doesn't Laugh at My Jokes Jonathan Richman
13. LookLookLook Ori Sofer
14. Can't Take My Eyes Off You Frankie Valli
15. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Ennio Morricone
16. Hine Ani Ba (Here I Come) HaDag Nachash
17. I Touch Myself Divinyls
18. The Whole of the Moon The Waterboys
19. Keep It There The Weepies
20. Anything You Can Do Ethel Merman & Ray Middleton
21. Crumb By Crumb Rufus Wainwright
22. Una Fuerza Alla (A Higher Power) Jonathan Richman
23. California HaDag Nachash
24. All I Want Is You U2

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

July Dick Monologues SOLD OUT. August Date Announced!

Happy to announce that weeks in advance, just like the good old days, the next Dick Monologues has SOLD OUT! Hooray. We just added an August date-- August 27th, 7 p.m., Hyde Park Theatre. Tickets are $12. Email to make reservations.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Favorite Leonard Cohen Quote

It's Father's Day and everybody's wounded... LC

Who knows how he intended it, but I've clutched that Leonard Cohen quote tight for decades. For those of you who feel the way I do about Father's Day, I highly recommend the documentary Surfwise about this narcissistic father of nine (technically father of eleven but "only" nine kids are featured in the film). The entire family lived, full time, year round, in a 24 foot RV, and surfed every single day. Sounds lovely for a fantasy, but the reality, and what this upbringing did to the kids, is hardly fantasy.

This one hit so close to home that, despite the fact I took anxiety meds yesterday (which I only do on really bad days, and it was an especially bad day), and despite the fact these meds usually flatten me out so I can't cry no matter how sad I am, I bawled my eyes out at the movie. The featured dad is a Jew devout to his own brand of Judaism. My father-- also the father of nine was a hardcore Catholic devout to his own brand of Catholicism which was extremely heavy on the You're Going To Hell message.. Both of these guys narcissists through and through with nutty ideas that outsiders might view as mere eccentricities but the insiders could tell you come with a lot of abuse.

Other interesting points-- there was mention of Galveston (with an illustrated map) the beach I most frequent. And lots of footage of Hawaii and Israel, both of great interest to me. And a devoted wife/mother who, in her memory (the kids beg to differ) mostly remembers raising nine kids with not enough resources as just a lovely thing. Oh, and they had eight sons and one daughter. My parents had eight daughters and one son.

I really hated the part when the kids talked about not ever having enough clothes. It recalled for me how people at our church would send over bags of shitty clothes for us to sort through and wear. Being the fourth kid, not only did I have a lot of hand me downs, but they might be hand me downs that originated in these bags of hand me overs.

They also ate a really weird diet. We ate a diet heavy on the cheap ground beef, macaroni, and white bread. To this day I spend far too much in restaurants and on organic foods, a habit I have no intention of changing, due, I am certain, in large part (maybe entirely) to the fact that to my mind, having very good food is some kind of signal that I am doing okay. I don't give a crap about clothes, material objects, fancy houses, jewelry or any of it. But I will always have good food.

Interestingly, just about all of the nine kids decided to live "normal" lives upon reaching adulthood and a number of them have had a decent measure of professional success. But at what cost? They are mostly estranged from each other now. And as one of them put it-- their parents raised nine "only children." Here's a spoiler: there is a reunion at the end. But one review I read had the reviewer wondering if this was more for the documentary than a true desire on the kids' parts. This recalled for me my father's recent funeral, which I had forever planned not to attend, but wound up going to at the last minute. That was the first time all nine of us kids were together in I don't know how long, and it might just be the last. And why is that? Because yours truly can barely stand to go back and remember all the bad stuff.

Uh, happy Father's Day to everyone who survived the crap.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Big Red: Punks vs. Beats

Awhile back I participated in a debate-- Punks vs. Beats-- at the Alamo Drafthouse downtown as part of the Dionysium debate series. I got to represent the punks. I was pressed for time and, I confess, inspiration. I mean, I had an idea of what I wanted to do but the words just weren't coming to me. I asked Baby Daddy, aka Big Red, to help me out. He came up with a stunning array of arguments in favor of the punks. I added on to his list, but I have to say he by far did the heavy lifting.

In honor of Big Red's birthday, which is tomorrow, here's are the points we (mostly he) came up with:

[First, some jackass is probably going to ask you to define what "punk" actually means. Is it a music movement? A way of life? A certain attitude towards life? I suggest you not get bogged down in a bunch of windy definitions and just say that it means whatever you say it means and you'd be happy to whip anybody's ass who wants to argue with you about it, and you don't care if this is a fucking debate or not, bring it on motherfucker.]

1. Punks beat Beats in death. Jack Kerouac sinks into a mire of alcoholism and becomes more pathetic with each passing day and eventually, finally, dies at age 47 of internal hemorrhaging caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Sid Vicious stabs his girlfriend to death and then OD's on heroin provided to him by his mom. What an incredible way to go out! Advantage: Punks.

2. Punk fans way less embarrassing than Beat Fans. I can only imagine the horrified looks on Harlem residents' faces after "On The Road" came out when they began seeing hundreds of affluent white people stream into their neighborhood searching for an authentic "black" experience. Or "negro" experience, actually. Advantage: Punks.

3. The influence of punk has been far more widespread and long lasting than that of the beats. Many people actually listened to punk and continue to do so to this day. Converse still makes a fortune off of Chuck Taylors more than thirty years after punks made the footwear fashionable. This in turn supports the Chinese economy and keeps the cost of the shoes affordable. And ask any sixth grader to define “punk” and odds are high that sixth grader, outfitted in a mainstream Anarchy t-shirt from Hot Topic and possibly sporting a blue mohawk, can tick off at least four punk rock bands. As for the Beats—by applause, how many of you here have read or can even name a Jack Kerouac book other than On The Road, The Subterraneans, or the Dharma Bums? Now, by show of hands-- Has anyone here ever finished a book by William Burroughs? Junky doesn't count, cause it's really short and it makes sense. And Ginsberg? Did anyone here even finish 'Howl'? Fuck that poem is long. Come on, fess up. You read the first page of it with the stuff about "I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed... and then struggled through another page and finally said "The hell with it, I’m watching a The Wire.”

4. Inspired punk amateurism beats inspired Beat amateurism
There have been a lot of great songs written by people who don't actually know how to play whatever instrument they are banging on onstage. The Do it Yourself ethos of punk has yielded some incredibly great songs that will last as long as people do. The DIY ethos of Beat has yielded a lot of beret wearing loudmouths at coffeehouses ranting their nonsensical gibberish to an uncaring and/or horrified audiences that just wishes they would go away.

5. Hey, Jack Kerouac- Jack Kerouac isn't directly responsible for Natalie Merchant, but he's obviously a big influence and that's enough for me.

5a. Punk was gender equal, embracing androgyny, nihilism, addiction and rage for both sexes and offering us hot boy and girl punks including the Ramones, Jonny Rotten, Joe Strummer, Patti Smith, Wendy O. Williams, and Exene Cervenka to name a few. Name me one hot Beat chick. The only woman regularly remembered as being part of the beats was Joan Vollmer, who married William Burroughs, who later shot her in the head “BY ACCIDENT.” She never wrote a thing.

6. "There's no way of knowing this for sure because he's dead, but is there anyone here who doesn't think that William Burroughs was a bigger fan of punk than he was of the Beats?"

7. Diluted punk gave way to stylish new wave and fine references to sex in songs about masturbation including She-bop by Cyndi Lauper, Turning Japanese by the Vapors and Touch Myself by the Divinyls. Diluted beat poetry gave way to Potsie on Happy Days reciting: Little Bird with your face pressed against the bakery window, there is no food for you today, only death, and Monica Lewinsky going down on Bill Clinton in a Beret as opposed to, say, a more tasteful fishnets-and-leather pants combo.

8. Punk rock elevated the status of safety pin from cheap, utilitarian household item to a multi-purposeful fashion statement slash home piercing device. The spread of safety pin usage also kept manufacturing plants in several small factory towns on both sides of the pond in business allowing hard working blue-collar laborers to save their poor crippled children from succumbing to a Tiny Tim-esque fate.

9. When the Sex Pistols sang God Save the Queen it was brilliant, rage filled irony exemplified. When Allen Ginsberg sang out God Save the Queen it was just another bit of self-referential narcissism as he made a toast to himself in a gay dive bar in North Beach.

10. The punks had an immediate, accessible clarity whereas the beats were a foggy headed nightmare as easy to plod through as a built in pool full of Vaeseline. To wit:

Allen Ginsberg said: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

Whereas the Ramones, cutting to the chase, said:

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be sedated
Nothin' to do and no where to go-o-oh I wanna be sedated
Just get me to the airport put me on a plane
Hurry hurry hurry before I go insane.

11. Even on religious matters the punks were so much more clear cut.

Jack Kerouac said, "In myriad pricklings of heavenly radiation I had to struggle to see Dean's figure, and he looked like God."

Whereas The Clash put it right on the table: He who fucks nuns will later join the church.

12. The Punks had far greater prognostication skills than the Beats, particularly regarding the environment and global warming. Where as the Beats irresponsibly encouraged people to fill up the tanks of their enormous gas guzzlers and drive hither and tither across the land with no regards of the cost, in blood, of oil, the punks were, to misquote the Sex Pistols, “the Anti-Chrysler.” And with their insistence on wearing torn and vintage clothing, they were a catalyst for today’s reuse and recycle ethos. Not to mention that, with such incredibly tight pants, there is little doubt that they “cut off their circulation” if you know what I’m saying, and did not contribute to overpopulation. The punks FOR the people. The beats: selfish self-important pseudo-intellects choosing to hide behind a hip label and some finger snapping rather than taking the time to learn proper punctuation.

To the tune of London Calling:

Jack K. hitching to the faraway towns
Now Beat is declared, but it’s full of clowns
Jack K. searching with a hungry cry
Come out of the cupboard you tasty pie
Jack K searching, now don’t look to us
Phoney intellectualism is stirring up dust
Jack K. is calling but he aint’ got no swing
“Cept in the Hips of that Ginsberg thing

The Beat Age is coming, cars zooming in
Don’t they know bad grammar’s an awful sin
Brains have stopped running, but they have no fear
They’re drowning like Narcissist down by the river

Ginsberg’s howling to the imitation zone
Forget it, brother, you can go it alone.
Ginsberg’s howling to the zombies of death
Cause Burroughs’ wife just took her last breath
Ginsberg’s howling, all he does is shout
But while he was talking, we all nodded out
Ginsberg’s howling cause he ain’t got no high
Except for in William B’s yellowy eyes.

The Beat Age is coming, cars zooming in
Don’t they know bad grammar’s an awful sin
Brains have stopped running, but they have no fear
They’re drowning like Narcissist down by the river

Cassady’s calling, yes he was there, to
An you know what he said? Well none of it was true!
Cassady’s calling, he’s just out of jail
He’s giving a smile, his girl put up bail
Cassady’s calling

They always sound so much alike alike alike….

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sarah Bird Sarah Bird Sarah Bird!

I love Sarah Bird! I wrote my latest Austinist column about her. She's an astounding writer and her new novel comes out today. She's got a book signing tonight (Tuesday) at BookPeople at 7 p.m. And, lucky lucky me, she's a star in the Dick Monologues. Pat Beach, a friend of mine and Sarah's, wrote a piece about her that ran in the Statesman this past Sunday. In the piece, he twice refers to the show as "The Monologues." Not even "The D*** Monologues." Just "The Monologues." I'm certain this was an editorial decision. But really, how stupid of the editors to make this choice.

Anyway, setting aside the stupidity, I invite you to join me and throngs of Sarah Bird fans tonight. It'll be an awesome reading.

And we are just about to sell out for the next Dick Monologues, which is on July 2nd. I have a few tickets left. If you want one or some, email me at

Friday, June 6, 2008

Improv This, Baby...

So tomorrow night I'm the invited Special Guest for some improv excitement over at Coldtowne. My own Saturday Night Live. I'm supposed to tell some short stories from real life and I guess these will be interpreted and acted out by people much younger and physically fit than me. Than I. Whatever.

Please join us.

Here's more info

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Next Dick Monologues: July 2nd!

Hey Y'all,
The next Dick Monologues is July 2nd at Hyde Park Theatre. Show is at 7. Tickets are $12. The last show sold out. So if you want to be sure to get a seat to the next show, please email me asap for reservations:

Hope to see you there. And please help spread the word.