10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

My friend Jerry ensnared me in a Facebook meme to catalog ten books that have stayed with me. Here’s my rundown:

dungeons-dragons-red-box1) Dungeons & Dragons: Basic Set (Red Box Edition) by Frank Mentzer and E. Gary Gygax.

The whole idea of role-playing games – of spinning something out of nothing – has always captivated me. Further, Gygax helped create an entire industry out of nothing – an aesthetic that would guide the development of trillions of dollars of books, movies, games and media. I still think D&D is the best way to teach young boys probability, algebra and other forms of math. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0042UCF52/

marisol-jose-rivera2) Marisol by Jose Rivera.  A play by Puerto Rican magical realist writer Jose Rivera. Marisol is a young latina copywriter in the Bronx is visited by her guardian angel who tells her she can no longer protect her. The angels are going to war against an old, senile, dying God. Marisol runs through the streets of New York as the apocalypse descends. Filled with biblical references like characters turning into pillars of salt. I directed a scene from this for directing class where Sara beat Rob unconscious with a golf club. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marisol_(play)

1984-orwell3) 1984 by George Orwell. Found a copy of this in the laundry room when I lived in Chicago. I had always meant to read it but figured it was an obligatory classic. Stunning. One of the few times a classic has lived up to it’s reputation. Absolutely chilling.  “Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.” Orwell got a lot right (with Huxley getting the rest) http://www.highexistence.com/amusing-ourselves-to-death-huxley-vs-orwell/

artists-way-julia-cameron4) The Artist’s Way. by Julia Cameron. Yes, it’s treacly and stuck in it’s 12-step AA style format, but has still been a transformative book in my creative life. The chapter on ‘anger as a map’ is fantastic as well as exploring how deep seated resentments block your creative channel from being fully expressed. “Anger is fuel. We feel it and we want to do something. Hit someone, break something, throw a fit, smash a fist into the wall, tell those bastards. But we are nice people, and what we do with our anger is stuff it, deny it, bury it, block it, hide it, lie about it, medicate it muffle it, ignore it. We do everything but listen to it. “Anger is a map. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. Anger points the direction.”  http://www.amazon.com/The-Artists-Way-Julia-Cameron/dp/1585421464

5) Blowback: The Cost and Consequences of American Empire by Chalmers Johnson. Written by a former spook and released to little fanfare but became an international bestseller, Blowback bascially explains how everything we do in a foreign country seems to blow up in our face about 15 years later. Followed by The Sorrows of Empire (making that case that the 700+ military bases throughout the world consitute a global empire) and Nemesis. Interview with Johnson (who passed away in 2010):

6) The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War by Andrew Bacevich. Written by a former Marine and a great companion and counterpoint to the above. Bacevich (whose son was later killed in Iraq) tears through the last several decades of foreign policy to explain why Americans are so easily led into battle by romanticized images and patrotism. His 2013 lecture at Google HQ:

backwards-forwards-david-ball7) Backwards & Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays by David Ball. One of the books I move to every new apartment. Gives you a method not just for understanding a play but stories and narratives in general. Whenever I start at the end of a story or piece of copywriting and work backwards, this is what I’m referencing. Reading a play to understand it’s production is similar to enjoy a house from its blueprints – here’s a method to understand how to read plays. http://www.amazon.com/Backwards-Forwards-Technical-Manual-Reading/dp/0809311100

empty-space-peter-brook8) The Empty Space by Peter Brook. Another book that I have packed and unpacked a dozen times over the past 20 years. Icon of western theatre Peter Brook walks through the four types of theatre and how each one is expressed on the stage today. Deadly, holy, rough, immediate. Due for a re-read. Quote: “A stage space has two rules: (1) Anything can happen and (2) Something must happen.” http://www.amazon.com/The-Empty-Space-Theatre-Immediate/dp/0684829576

stephen-king-stand9) The Stand by Stephen King. I don’t really read much non-fiction and I’m always embarrassed to talk about that. The only other piece of fiction I can say that’s haunted me is DH Lawrence’s The Rocking Horse Winner.’ I think that The Stand is going to be seen as a masterwork of American literature as it ages. King paints a rich an uniquely American tapestry of a societal collapse. Always wanted to adapt this into a two-part play (something about Dave Matthews’s ‘Don’t Drink the Water’ insidious bluegrass would need to be a part of it). http://www.amazon.com/Stand-Stephen-King/dp/0307947300/

blogwild-andy-wibbels10) Blogwild: A Guide for Small Business Blogging by Andy Wibbels. I’m not touting my own book as a masterpiece but this book transformed my life. It’s why I got my first job out in San Francisco leading to many of the things that I have now.  If any book has stayed with me – it’s the one that completed changed my life and career. http://www.amazon.com/Blogwild-Guide-Small-Business-Blogging/

Other candidates:

King Lear by Willam Shakespeare. I wouldn’t say I even full understand this play but there’s something about this play that is so hopelessly bleak and eventually we all feel like a doddering old man screaming into the rain – we all eventually become the fool. Plus, I’ve always wanted to direct the scene where the sisters blind the guy (it’d involve a dentist chair and a powerdrill).

Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Bloody, violent and vengeful. What’s not to love?

Hamlet by William Shakespeare. The Rorschach of Western Civilization. Look into the abyss and it looks back into you. And for the last time: Hamlet is *not* indecisive. This play is a detective story, dammit!

(note – I pretty much can’t stand any of the Shakespeare comedies)

The Bacchae by Euripides. A Greek tragedy where the leader forbids worshipping Dionysus and so the ecstatic god grips the women with cannibalistic blood lust and the whole place becomes 28 Days Later. I just love a story where pissing off God turns everyone you love into a monster.


Let’s Ruin Video Games

Found this rant via Metafilter:

“My name is Arden, and after a few days of thinking I’ve decided that I’m going to ruin video games.

I’m going to be doing everything in my power to destroy them completely. Walking simulators about feelings and emotions as far as the eye can see! Guns that shoot kisses! Lady characters that aren’t designed to cater to the whims of straight men! I’m hiding loving queer couples in every treasure chest instead of new armor. Every game will now be required to have at least one section that can be described as “too” personal. Fuck, if I’m feeling really bold, I might even throw some non-white characters into a game or two! I’ll magically replace every copy of every big-budget first person shooter with either Gone Home or Dear Esther and listen to the agitated shrieks of gamers.

Non-men have been “ruining” games for a long time, of course, by virtue of existing and trying to make the medium and the spaces around it more inclusive and less festering garbage.”

Full essay at http://fakegirlgamer.tumblr.com/post/95229096014/lets-ruin-video-games

Part of Ruin Jam http://itch.io/jam/ruinjam2014

Arden’s newest project is a game called Date or Die http://dateordiegame.com/

Photo from her game Kindness Coins http://fakegirlgamer.tumblr.com/post/47442539017/funny-comady-man-you-play-as-a-person-that-a

From this Metafilter thread http://www.metafilter.com/142425/Ruin-Jam-2014


Michael Brown/Ferguson Shooting FAQ

Via Metafilter:


Q: What’s going on?
A: A cop murdered a kid and his department is trying to cover up for him.

Q: Is any other part of this story important?
A: No.



Q: But what about the convenience store thing?
A: Not important. A cop murdered a kid and his department is trying to cover up for him.

Q: All’s I’m saying is, what IF Brown really assaulted a convenience store clerk?
A: We’ll have time to talk about the appalling criminality of shoplifting and shoving people after we talk about the part where a cop murdered a kid, and then his department tried to cover up for him.

Q: I heard some protestors were trying to loot liquor stores.
A: Things go to shit when the institutions in charge of maintaining civility and order completely fucking fail to do so. A cop murdered a kid and his department is trying to cover up for him. That is literally a failure of civilization.

Q: How about—
A: A cop murdered a kid and his department is trying to cover up for him.”

From the massive thread  http://www.metafilter.com/142029/Escalating-Tensions-in-Ferguson-Missouri#5701312

Image from Michael Brown’s funeral http://www.ibtimes.com/mike-brown-funeral-stepmom-says-ferguson-teen-prophesied-his-own-death-slideshow-1669250


How to Raise Independent-Minded Daughters

From a parenting discussion on Metafilter:

“You don’t have to have a degree in women’s studies or a nuanced understanding of gender politics to raise independent-minded daughters. My father certainly didn’t – he went to trade school instead of college and that kind of theoretical book-study was really not what he was into.

“But what my father did do, though, was encourage thinking in general. And he let me see that that was something in me that he valued. I’ve talked before about how Dad liked playing devil’s advocate in discussions just for the sake of getting a discussion going – I was actually one of his favorite sparring partners, in fact. I remember when I was in high school and we somehow got going on a conversation on the death penalty one night at dinner, and at one point he said something that just really got me fired up to the point that I forcefully put down the fork I was holding and said one of those “now, HOLD UP a minute” kinds of comments that lets you know that someone’s about to launch into an impassioned statement – and I was surprised to see Dad burst out with a grin like a kid on Christmas and hear him mutter, “oh, I love this.” And that’s when it hit me that Dad was excited to hear what I thought, and valued that I got impassioned about ideas.

My father valued my brain, and let me see that he valued it. He put value on me as a person rather than as a girl, and let me know that. And that’s a big part of what made me a feminist. Reading about gender theory and such can help you wrap your own brain around things, but your daughters may respond much more to having an example of a person who treats them as a whole person.”

Full thread http://ask.metafilter.com/254119/Feminist-basics-for-dads#3692024

Image from this post about Girls Who Code http://thenextweb.com/us/2013/01/24/girls-who-code-expands-across-the-us-with-summer-programs-in-detroit-san-jose-and-miami/

How Big Music Labels Fake Indie Cred

How Big Music Labels Fake Indie Cred

I’ve always told people that nobody comes from nowhere. There is no such thing as a self-styled or self-made or overnight-sensation anything anyone anywhere. From Reddit:

“You can’t pump a pop star onto the radio and have people accept it anymore, you have to tap into the rest of the market that still gobbles up that sound, but wants to avoid being force fed music.
So you put the artist in the inbox of the right ‘music journalists’, set up a front label, and let the virality do the work.

I’ve made a little hobby out of taking fast rising content in this sub, and when I can’t figure out who the label really is – I rip the song and upload it to youtube, then wait for one of the big 3 labels to claim their content.

Remember indie sensation Ryn Weaver with her song of the Summer Octohate, which she made in her basement and uploaded to her soundcloud?

She even showed up in the comments of her Stereogum piece to say how indie she is. She was on a label that was nothing more than a twitter account, turned out to be created by the famous producer that made her hit single.

To this day, there is nothing on the internet saying who her label actually is, and the only reason I know she is on Universal Music Group is because UMG claimed her content on my youtube upload This is how it works now.”


Ryn Weaver’s song :



Cornel West on The Obama Presidency

From an interview in Salon with Cornel West:

“No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free.

And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life.

You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility. That’s right. That’s true. It was like, “We finally got somebody who can help us turn the corner.” And he posed as if he was a kind of Lincoln. And we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. Another neoliberal opportunist. …

I think Obama, his modus operandi going all the way back to when he was head of the [Harvard] Law Review, first editor of the Law Review and didn’t have a piece in the Law Review. He was chosen because he always occupied the middle ground. He doesn’t realize that a great leader, a statesperson, doesn’t just occupy middle ground. They occupy higher ground or the moral ground or even sometimes the holy ground. But the middle ground is not the place to go if you’re going to show courage and vision. And I think that’s his modus operandi. He always moves to the middle ground. It turned out that historically, this was not a moment for a middle-ground politician. We needed a high-ground statesperson and it’s clear now he’s not the one.

And so what did he do? Every time you’re headed toward middle ground what do you do? You go straight to the establishment and reassure them that you’re not too radical, and try to convince them that you are very much one of them so you end up with a John Brennan, architect of torture [as CIA Director]. Torturers go free but they’re real patriots so we can let them go free. The rule of law doesn’t mean anything.

I think a post-Obama America is an America in post-traumatic depression. Because the levels of disillusionment are so deep.”

Full interview (image from the article) http://www.salon.com/2014/08/24/cornel_west_he_posed_as_a_progressive_and_turned_out_to_be_counterfeit_we_ended_up_with_a_wall_street_presidency_a_drone_presidency/


This Is The Police State

A cop writes an op-ed in the Washington Post, saying:

“here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.

A commenter on Metafilter responds:

“No. Absolutely not. I refuse to recognize the legitimacy of any police force that says this. My rights aren’t niceties too delicate for the real world. The right of the citizens of Ferguson to assemble is not something the police or anyone else has the authority to revoke arbitrarily, either.

But this is the conventional wisdom right now, and it’s deeply, irreparably pathological. This is antithetical to a free society, it’s morally indefensible, and as we know, even complete, humiliating submission to a thug with a badge doesn’t guarantee a goddamn thing about my safety, or yours, or anyone’s.

The police in America have always brutalized Black people and non-Whites disproportionately, and they’ve always brutalized some White people. But since the federal military surplus program started in the 90’s, and especially after 9/11, they’ve become ever more paranoid, violent, lawless, and have replaced their imperative to serve and protect citizens with a mission to viciously stamp out any and all perceived disobedience, no matter how unthreatening or justified it may be, to state authority. This is the mentality of the authoritarian state. This is the police state. We can stop dreading its arrival because it’s here. Now let’s do something about it.”


Photo from an ABC News story on the Ferguson shooting http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/police-deploy-tear-gas-impose-ferguson-curfew-25011848