Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In 5-words, what's your relationship like with your mom?

I'll mail a copy of Termite Parade to the person who posts my favorite 5-word description of her/his releationship with their mother.

An example: Wondrous love scabbed with masochism.

Another: Floundering freedom for hypocrisy ticket.

And one "happy" riff just so nobody says I'm merely a glass-half-empty-sorta-guy: Your dad made me bald.

No rules, except c-bombs = disqualification... maybe. Although, sometimes c-bombs really work.
Mothers from Courtney Love to Michelle Obama want to know your answer!

The Visiting Suit - Arrest

Here is the first chapter from Xiao's memoir-in-stories, The Visiting Suit: Stories From My Prison Life. And below are two more paintings from his series that coincide with the book: 'Arrest,' which is from the first chapter of the book; and 'In the Women Inmate's Farm,' which is from a story where the male inmates were sent to assist the female inmates, who worked in the fields, during the busy harvest season.

We are currently printing galleys for Xiao's The Visiting Suit. If you would like to receive one, please write to brian[at]twodollarradio.com.

Monday, June 28, 2010

More Bay Area Readings for Termite Parade

Has it seemed as though there's something looming on the horizon, creating a tangle of anxiety in your guts? Assuming it isn't acid reflux, it might be the anticipation of Termite Parade, which is released this Thursday.

The book release party will be at City Lights on July 6th, and the SF Weekly was nice enough to post this about our shindig:

"Mohr's insistent prose propels the novel's surreal investigation of guilt, love, and duplicity."

Love the Weekly! In addition to the reading, the night will also be a "post modern" birthday, as I'm turning thirty-four on the 8th. What makes it post modern is that I'll be giving presents to people in the audience--chances are I forgot your birthday anyway.

In addition, I'll also be reading in Sausalito on the 8th as a part of the Why There Are Words series. The incredible line up includes Glen David Gold, Jason Roberts, Elissa Bassist, Tatjana Soli, and Anne Raeff.

Then that Friday, the 9th, I'll be at Pirate Cat Radio from 8-10pm. We'll do an on-air interview and I'm told a kick ass band will play. Then we can sit around and giggle. If you've never been to PCR, it's one of the Mission's best kept secrets.

I'd love to see you at one of these events!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Kakapilo bat haiz, kabroi!

Santutxo still uses an answering machine. He enjoys listening to his messages, which he occasionally posts on his YouTube page (see below). In case you don’t speak Basque, they’re on the order of: “Hey dumb ass - you better watch your back. We know where you live!” and “You’re a pile of shit, asshole!”

Excuse my French, as it were…

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Arrano Beltza by Negu Gorriak

I've become slightly obsessed with Basque punk rock.

Negu Gorriak recorded this song in 1993 - which of course preceded Santutxo's total excommunication from the ETA. You know, his nom de guerre was Arrano Beltza - the black eagle, symbol of the Basque struggle. Now they more typically call him Txotxolo - the dumb ass. This is actually the name he prefers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Movie Stars

For a legendary revolutionary figure, Santutxo displays a surprising curiosity about pop culture figures. He loves to read the gossip on the Yahoo! homepage. He follows all the items about Scarlett Johansson. He told me once he thought Cameron Diaz seemed like an interesting person.

In this respect, he bears an uncanny resemblance to his former student and close friend. Seriously. Maybe you didn't know this, but the brilliant spokesperson of the EZLN, the man who's been dubbed "a postmodern Che Guevara," El Sup - has a raging, slightly delusional crush on a movie star.

The revelation hit the blogosphere about two years ago: "El dirigente de los zapatistas mexicanos, el 'Subcomandante Marcos,' afirmó estar soltero desde su separación hace cinco años, pero confesó 'amar con locura' a la actriz estadounidense Angelina Jolie."

He sent her an invitation via intermediaries to a secret meeting of the EZLN, but she didn't show. In an interview, he said he was sure it was just a glitch in communications, and that if she'd gotten the message, she would have gone.

Really. He really said that.


Eric was so nice as to let me blog again about another of my characters. This week is dedicated to Santutxo Etxeberria, the legendary Basque separatist. He’s featured in the excerpt from the novel which is in the current issue of BOMB.

So, you may recall from a prior post that I confessed to having recently stalked the philosopher Slavoj Žižek. I was trying to get him to disavow any connection to Santutxo. In the novel, there is some indication that Santutxo attended a dinner party with Žižek, Analia Hounie and Gayatri Spivak. Of course that didn’t really happen. Santutxo is a fictional character.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get Žižek to make a public statement on the subject.

Santutxo, however, was happy to post his own:

Friday, June 18, 2010

More Visiting Suit Paintings

Here are two more paintings by Xiaoda Xiao that collaborate with his forthcoming book, The Visiting Suit: Stories From My Prison Life.

Top is a painting from the story "The Devil's Trill," in which Xiao's mother brings him his violin and the only place he is allowed to play is in the lavatory, earning himself the nickname "lavatory violinist."

The bottom painting is from the story "In the Prison Hospital."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Termite Haiku Contest

Post a haiku that uses the word “termite” either in the comments field on the blog or on my Facebook wall.

The best one will win a free copy of TERMITE PARADE (even before it’s in stores!) – plus glory and bragging rights. Obviously.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Orange Eats Creeps Contest!

So, we're sponsoring a contest with Grace Krilanovich as the almighty Judge.

The winner takes home a personalized, signed copy of The Orange Eats Creeps as soon as the book arrives from the printer (or, roundabouts early August -- 1 month before the publication date) AND a Two Dollar Radio tee shirt of their choosing.

According to the source (Grace Krilanovich):

"I started writing The Orange Eats Creeps as a wager with a classmate that I couldn’t whip up some wild stuff for a few of the storylines I’d pitched to him -- mostly themes, types and situations picked out of a hat, then strung together like some plot-oriented refrigerator poetry. Slutty Teenage Hobo Vampire Junkies (the original title of the book) grew out of that, even though I dispensed with the strict adherence to those categories as soon as I got my bearings in the story, in this strange world with its slutty, teenage blah blah blah occupants.

"I’m a big fan of the use of constraints in writing fiction, especially in the beginning. Who can write a word when the options are limitless? This is something the Surrealists and Oulipo understood. Adhering to a predetermined set of rules that severely limited your options, paradoxically, your mind was opened to all sorts of crazy hitherto unthought possibilities. Apparently the human brain just can’t come up with such originality on its own, hobbled by its own inability to sift through the endless combinations of words and situations, all hanging right out there in the open.

"To that end, I’m going to help you out. Here are three titles for stories of the future, drawn from my vast repository of Roger Corman-esque plotlines (i.e. picked out of a hat):"

1. Parisian Anarchist Courtesans On Strike!

2. Celibate Wiccan Rock ‘n Roll Commune

3. Confessions of a Baptist Nightclub Janitor


Prudent details:

- Length of the piece is up to you. It could be a sentence, a paragraph, a page, five pages (!).

- Pieces should be based one of the above supplied prompts as chosen by The Judge.

- Deadline is July 15, 2010.

- Entries should be included in the body of an email sent to: twodollar[at]twodollarradio.com.

- Winning entry will receive a personalized, signed copy of The Orange Eats Creeps, a Two Dollar Radio tee shirt of their choosing, and their entry will be posted on this here blog.

The Visiting Suit Painting Series

In addition to being a tremendously talented writer and violinist, Xiaoda Xiao is also a wonderful painter. His new book, The Visiting Suit: Stories From My Prison Life, chronicles Xiao's arrest at twenty years old for tearing a poster featuring 'The Great Leader's Image,' to his release from labor prison five years later.

Xiao is at work on a series of paintings depicting scenes from The Visiting Suit. Three of the paintings are completed: "The Visiting Suit" (title story, painting also featured on the cover to the book); "A Thorough Materialist Has Nothing to Fear"; and "The Devil's Trill."

The plan is to celebrate the release of The Visiting Suit with a gallery showing of Xiao's artwork in November. More details to come.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Santutxo Etxeberria in BOMB; Nixon's Nose in Guernica

Dig it, some sneak peeks at forthcoming Two Dollar Radio titles:

The summer issue of BOMB Magazine is now out. In it, you will find an excerpt from Barbara Browning's forthcoming THE CORRESPONDENCE ARTIST, called 'Santutxo Etxeberria.'

Browning will be reading with other BOMB contributors July 13 in Tompkins Square Park.

In other reading news, Francis Levy will be reading tomorrow (Tuesday) night from his new novel, SEVEN DAYS IN RIO, at the Writer's Room in NYC.

If you missed it, Guernica Magazine excerpted THE VISITING SUIT: STORIES FROM MY PRISON LIFE by Xiaoda Xiao in their June issue. The story, titled 'Li Minchu - The Cost of a Dream' in the book, re-dubbed 'Nixon's Nose' at Guernica: "In Maoist China, a political prisoner feels his way through a Kafkaesque tableau of rumors, betrayal, interrogation, and execution."

Read 'em at the beach, at the lake, or with your feet dipped in the ankle-deep water of a kiddie pool.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Livin' in the alley with the rest of the trash...

Hey you guys! Did you hear? They made a live-action version of Heathcliff! With humans!

Thrift Classification: The difference between estate sales, yard sales, flea markets and digging around behind the big Goodwill in Lincoln Heights

Estate Sales: The belongings of the aged are redistributed into the community. Every object in the house has a price tag on it, situated in pretty much the same way it had been when they lived there, for 50 or 80 or however many years. You pay one of the family members in the living room -- where they will most likely be sitting on the couch watching TV behind a card table full of costume jewelry. There’s a reassuring kind of constant at these events: jars of washers in the garage, enameled saucepans in the cupboards, housecoats in the closet.

Yard Sales: Beware of tarps piled high with baby stuff. Drive on by. That sale will feature zero items from before 2002 and will be boring and sparse. A tip, no matter what kind of thrifting you’re doing: Show the cash. Here’s how it’s done: If I want to buy a stack of Tepco restaurantware cups and saucers and I’m given a price of $20 I will ask if the seller will take $10, then flash $14 when they balk -- ‘cause they will, you’re asking for a big discount. Show the cash. They will take it. Another thing is to have small bills. If you’ve talked somebody down on the price, don’t then proceed to give them a big ol’ bill to break, so they can see you could have paid the full price.

Flea Markets: Best in off-the-beaten path areas. Some of the more interesting stuff can be found in towns like Palmdale, South Lake Tahoe, Yucca Valley, etc. Places where stylists don’t go (that often). The Rose Bowl is cool and all, but I don’t like the pre-sorted, boutique-y aspect of the primo flea markets. I like junk-for-cheap that might surprise me. Pretty much sums up the whole endeavor.

Church Rummage Sales: Get there in the waning moments when everything you can stuff into a grocery bag is a dollar. There’s no point in getting to a church rummage sale early, it’s just the same crap. I’m not going to take a chance on this BanLon scooter dress for $6 early in the day. I’m going to wait till the end, stuff it in a grocery bag and pay .08 cents, then who cares if it doesn’t fit?

Digging Around Behind Goodwill in Lincoln Heights: People do this all the time. Every time I drive by people are out there, digging around. What do they find? Who knows? It’s a real thing. There’s no organization, no bins or anything. Goodwill just dumps stuff out on the pavement to be sifted through. What gets left behind is basically trash, littered scraps of shattered plastic, cloth and raw, just dirt… eaten-out-of to-go containers and stuff like that.

The Only Cat Post

This is it, the one cat post I’m allowed for my whole blogging life. Hope you like!

The cats’ motto: "Close, but not too close."

More than most animals, cats carry within them the knowledge of all cats that have come before.

Hemingway called them "love sponges." To me, cats are more like bagpipes. A burrito covered in fur, if you will.

If a cat blinks slowly while looking you in the eye, it is saying, "I adore you."

It is important, just as practice being an ethical human, to attend to a small furry creature’s everyday needs -- selflessly, silently -- in the midst of what may appear to be the creature’s aloof scorn for your efforts. Repeat every day for the duration of its unique existence. Think of a cat as a trans-mammalian empathy-training device.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

This Is No Place to be Addicted to Another Place: How to write about your hometown – and should you?

Santa Cruz, I love you and I hate you! There’s something to be said for writing fiction about your hometown, but just displacing it several hundred miles to the north, to a place that’s kinda like the other place but not exactly. If you've never been to Santa Cruz, CA, here’s a helpful little video tutorial on what it was to be a Santa Cruz youth in the 80’s and 90’s.

Not to get all McMurtry on you (ha! as if) but growing up in a small town skews your perspective on the rest of the world. And, despite the beautiful and cosmopolitan UC campus, Santa Cruz felt like a small town, where “The Valley” referred the San Lorenzo Valley (the woods where aging hippie bikers raised their families), where going downtown was a day trip and you only went “over the hill” – to San Jose – once or twice a year, maybe to buy your prom dress at Valley Fair mall (except I didn't) or to attend Lollapalooza at Shoreline Amphitheater (except I wasn't allowed to back in '94, the fest's best year).

And of course for the last several years there has been a campaign to “Keep Santa Cruz Weird." The high cost of living has forced out most of the old school, good-natured weirdos -- the ones with public cats, unicycles and mismatched converse -- so now all that’s left are bourgeois New Agers, guys who work in sheet metal and true teary-eyed psycho tweakers... Still, walking out to the cliff’s edge on a moonlit night, the slight breeze matching your body temperature, you peer out into the seductive, twinkling abyss of the Monterey Bay, knowing that the skin of the Pacific Ocean is hiding the fullness of its rare depths (the two-mile depth of Monterey Canyon is equivalent to that of the Grand Canyon). You wonder: Can any of this be real?

Preview: The Orange Eats Creeps Playlist

It’s true that I incorporated a lot of references to bands and clubs that are reminiscent of the '90s Pacific Northwest scene into The Orange Eats Creeps. The idea was to sprinkle the narrative with near misses, doppelgangers, etc. – not necessarily to depict any specific band.

Given that, here’s a sampling of some real-life scraggly long-haired sounds from a certain time and a certain place that I count as a pretty big influence – a sneak peak at an expanded OEC playlist that’s in the works:

THIS WEEK: Los Angeles-area happenings

For me, Los Angeles is that big damaged bear that lives on a ranch for retired circus animals, dozing in the shade. Because I love LA in all its crappy, self-deprecating brilliance, here’s a rundown of the city’s entertainment options for the week. Y’know, like Lee Ving says, “New York’s alright if you like saxophones.”

Ongoing: “Superclogger.” From June 1 to September 25, artist Joel Kyack will stage puppet shows in the back of a nondescript white truck while inching along LA freeways during rush hour. The truck is equipped with an FM broadcaster, so motorists can tune into the puppet show’s soundtrack on their car stereos. Follow Superclogger on twitter: twitter.com/superclogger10

Opening Thursday: Photography exhibition by Bruce Kalberg, the notorious creator of punk fanzine NOMAG. Reserve Gallery, Fairfax.

Friday: Aaron Rose moderates a panel discussion of the legacy and artistic impact of Sister Corita, featuring former students and "rebel nuns" of the Immaculate Heart Community. Skylight Books, Los Feliz.

Saturday: Black Dragon Reading Series with Matthew Specktor ("That Summertime Sound"), Marsha Hopkins, Joseph Mattson ("Empty the Sun"), Steve DeJarnett and Jon Bernstein Jancar Gallery, Chinatown.

Culver City Artwalk
, Sat.

Psychic Reading Jamboree at SoCal Psychic Institute, Santa Monica. Saturday, June 5

Arshile Gorky Retrospective at MOCA. Opens Sunday, June 6

PCC Flea Market on Sunday, Pasadena

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Sublime Boring Interiors

Pretty. So-so.

The Orange Eats Creeps Title Explained (Barely)

[Above: the shortlist, circa 2004]

There was once a low-fi garage band called Unicornface. Its members were Nickole and Grace. Like Steely Dan, they were purely a studio creation. They were prolific, cranking out three cassette EPs in the span of a year. Each of their initial pressings (of 25 tapes, 30 tapes and 44 tapes, respectively) sold out in months.

Unicornface appeared on Santa Cruz Pirate Radio in March of 2003. Their manager, fearing a unicorn backlash, convinced the band to change its name to Lifetiger for the third and final EP release, “Suntan Creep.” Shortly thereafter, in the spring of 2004, the band went on indefinite hiatus. All that is left of Unicornface is this lonely Myspace page...

Unicornface had a song called “The Woof Eats Creeps.” I started writing a novel that summer called “Slutty Teenage Hobo Vampire Junkies” after a friend suggested I write a TV pilot based on a couple ideas I’d pitched to him (the other idea was “Ancient Egypt High School”). After working on it for a while the STHVJ tag began to feel ill-suited for a story that was finally transcending its Roger Corman-esque origins. So I messed around with some other options, mostly recombined GG Allin song titles. I liked Gypsy Motherfuckers, I liked Urchin Mystic, I liked the Woof Eats Creeps, but I wanted something more vague and all-encompassing.

“How about the Sun Eats Creeps?” said Nickole, wrapping some mango chunks in sheets of nori.

“Uh...maybe. Maybe ‘orange’ like the sun?” I said, going for one notch less obvs.


“Yeah, okay, I like it.”

And the rest is history, dudes.

[The only known photograph of the band Unicornface, taken at Tiny's family restaurant at three in the morning.]

The PennySaver: An Appreciation

You know you want it; maybe you already get it but haven’t given it much thought. But people: how else are you going to know where the estate sales are? Where to buy a rabbit? Who to hire for your apartment’s dangerous wiring problem? This cute stapled newsprint circular closely resembles the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, but less hip, more like the Fearless Flyer’s flame shirt-wearing cousin who drives a '90s Buick Roadmaster. For the uninitiated, the PennySaver is a weekly compendium of coupons for Lasik surgery and Hawaiian BBQ, listings for yard sales, pets, collectibles, jobs, rentals and the inevitable “Free Stuff” column (for those who want to save 100% of their pennies. You need firewood, right?), specific to your neighborhood, sub-neighborhood even. A couple tips: Don’t read it while you’re eating. Clip the Free Stuff column for a little found poetry.

If you don’t already get the PennySaver every week, and you would like to, I’m sorry to inform you that it’s basically impossible to subscribe. You can go to the grocery store and see if they have any lying around, but they’re usually outdated. You can’t buy it -- you just have to wait until the PS decides to enter your life. And once it does, expect your ration of weekly newsprint to keep rolling in like the endless waves...forever...

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

To All the Corporate, Spilling Their Coffee

Japanther pretty much tore the roof off the motha. We're big (big) fans.

I Don't Want to be Your ATM

Here's a video of Care Bears on Fire performing at last Tuesday's Wrrrrock On music concert and social for NYC literacy crew, Girls Write Now. Can you believe they're just 15???

Girls Write Now Wrrrrocks

Mentor Emma Straub and mentee Stephanie Nolasco speak to the merits of Girls Write Now at Wrrrrock On 2010.

Xiao's Solo

The day after Book Expo America, I drove with a filmmaker friend and Brian up to Amherst, MA, to meet Xiaoda Xiao (author of The Cave Man) and to shoot an interview with him which we hope will help promote Xiao's memoir, The Visiting Suit: Stories From My Prison Life.

Xiao is an incredible human being: a beautiful painter, a warm person, and an incredible violinist.

I shot some behind-the-scenes footage with my handheld camera of Xiao playing. Not captured in the frame were my goosebumps.

An excerpt from The Visiting Suit appears in the new issue of Guernica Magazine.

The Gallery at the End of the World: Phantom Scribblings and Shiny Objects from the Thrift Underground

Whether you frequent swap meets, estate sales, rummage sales or thrift stores (and we’ll get to the classification of each later in the week), people always ask, “What are you looking for?” Well, for me, that’s a complex question. Everything and nothing. My mind is blank and brimming with encyclopedic wish lists at the same time. I’m looking for a copy of “The Vegetarian Epicure” and also any pre-1965 size 8.5 suede pumps that might be left in the world. I may not want any more, but a sense of fan-obligation to the movie Mulholland Dr. compels me to buy those brown curvy coffee mugs whenever I see them, so now I have like 20. On the whole, you’ll have a better time if you keep an open mind and just let the shit enchant you. If you’re hellbent on finding, say, a Wiccan’s dream journal or a vernacular photograph of a 1920s bedroom, you will be constantly frustrated, not to mention missing the point. Just keep digging till something clicks.

That said, if I had to narrow it down to a couple categories, I’d say I look for small shiny objects and phantom scribblings. “Shiny objects” play into that simple, soothing kind of bird habit of raking through objects that are colorful and clanky, reassuring in their sensory fullness. And then there are scribblings, conveying the allure of antique secrets, the privilege of holding a small container full of a phantom individual’s interior thoughts -- put down in their own hand. Maybe one of the last remaining traces of a person’s time on earth. At any rate, the singularity of a letter, a snapshot, a diary, is not to be taken lightly.

Here we have doodles...


records kept...

and one person's pre-xerox style of copying helpful articles...

Who were these people who lived so long ago?

Orange Week at TDR Noise

Hi everybody, how’s it going? I’m gonna settle in, turn this thing into something resembling my teenage bedroom. I think I’ll put some freaky posters up, throw on some 45s; I’ll even shoo the cat off the only chair so you can sit and stay a while…