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Old Notebooks

For years, I've kept little notebooks in which I've jotted down whatever happened to be rattling around in my head at a given moment: mostly quotes from books I'm reading, occasionally flavored with pithy little epigrams and half-baked ideas. I've got dozens of the damned things. Mostly, they exist to remind me of how much pot I smoked in my twenties — "Christ, I was stupid, twenty years ago" is my usual reaction when going back and re-reading them today.

I assume this website will give me the same reaction, twenty years from now. I hope so, anyway.

Still, every once in a while I'll find something that isn't completely stupid. I think? I can't tell, of course. Here are examples of bits from the notebooks that don't embarrass me just yet...


Turn a Robert Williams painting inside out and you've got a Frank Frazetta painting. Turn a Gary Panter drawing inside out and you've got a Jack Kirby drawing. Either way, one is left with the inescapable conclusion that the work of these two artists is van art for nerds. Air quotes and irony: These are the only things keeping your favorite art from turning into Molly Hatchet album covers.


"In common with all Protestant or Jewish cultures, America was developed on the idea that your word was your bond. Otherwise, the frontier could never have been opened 'cause it was lawless. A man's word has to mean something. My theory is that everything went to hell with Prohibition, because it was a law nobody could obey. So the whole concept of the rule of law was corrupted at that moment. Then came Vietnam, and marijuana, which clearly shouldn't be illegal, but is. If you go to jail for ten years in Texas for a joint, who are you? You're a lawbreaker. It's just like Prohibition was. When people accept breaking the law as normal, something happens to the whole society, you see?"
- Orson Welles, from the book
My Lunches with Orson


Rich people are laughing at you.
Rich people are manipulating you.
Rich people are afraid of you.
Rich people are imitating you.
Rich people are plotting against you.
Rich people are fantasizing about you.
Rich people want to be a version of you, but without all that body odor.
Rich people are apologizing to you for things their great-grandparents did to your great-grandparents.
Rich people are dividing you into just and unjust victims.
Rich people are explaining you away.
Rich people are looking for solutions to your existence.


You know you grew up poor when you can be given an almost existential case of creeping shivers with the words "salisbury steak."


"It is a frequent vice of radical polemic to assert, and even to believe, that once you have found the lowest motive for an antagonist, you have identified the correct one."
- Christopher Hitchens, from the essay
"Edmund Burke: Reactionary Prophet"


Why exactly isn't Siouxsie Sioux a drag icon?


Art that isn't driven by its content is merely design.


"We live in the twilight of the old morality: There's just enough to make us feel guilty, but not enough to hold us in."
- John Updike


What an odd coincidence: A little earlier, when you weren't looking? I threw up a little in your mouth, too.


A recent page from my sketchbook, drawn from images found in old issues of Life Magazine.


You aren't being haunted by ghosts — it's the ghosts that are being haunted by you, and you just won't let go.


Why was Dodo Marmarosa's "Lullaby of the Leaves" such a mainstay of all those early pirate-MP3 websites of the mid-to-late 1990s?


"The four most beutiful words in the English language: I told you so."
- Gore Vidal


I've never found a definition of High Art that didn't ultimately boil down to "people with money flattering themselves." But then, the same is true of Apple computers.


It's hard to watch television without getting the impression that every woman in Los Angeles has the same pair of breasts.


"Q. What is the difference between ignorance and indifference?
"A. I don't know and I don't care."
- Saul Bellow, from the novelThe Actual


My vinyl would weigh a ton if it weren't all made out of zeroes and ones.


Feed your demons... but feed them baby food, and never let them out of the crib.


"I repeat for the last time: To understand me, you'll have to swallow a world."
- Salman Rushdie, from the novel
Midnight's Children


If you can see the king, you can kill the king.


October 24, 2016   •   Back to essay listings


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