Audition Notice: Bring Us A Funny Woman

Hi everyone. My little comedy group, MMIP Riffs, is looking for a funny woman to join our team. (Basically, we’ve already got a Yakko and Wakko, and we need a Dot.) We’re holding auditions through September 15th, so if you know any amusing women–or are yourself an amusing woman–with comedy writing skills and a love of brain-meltingly bad movies, steer them, or yourself, this way.


Now Haunting You: The MMIP Riffs Amityville 2 Rifftrack

Yes, it’s happened. The MMIP Riffs Rifftrack of Amityville 2 is now available for purchase via Rifftrax. Just accept it. It’ll be less painful for you.

Unlike the previous comedy riffs I did with Larry, this is an audio track meant to be synced with a copy of the movie, so you’ll need to own or rent Amityville 2 to partake of the hilarity. The movie can be rented at a reasonable price from Amazon, iTunes, or from your nearest independent video store. (I recommend Scarecrow for those of you readers in the Seattle area.) It can also, perhaps, be borrowed from your local library.

There is a way to get the rifftrack free. Just use the contact form below and tell me that you’re willing to give an honest rating of our riff to Rifftrax in exchange for a free copy. I won’t use your email address for any purpose other than sending you the track, swear to Ultimate Evil.


Twenty Years Ago This Week, I Had 2nd Row Seats At the Best Concert I Ever Saw

I was six feet away from Peter Gabriel when he brought the Secret World tour to the Tacoma Dome. I’ve seen other shows, of course, but Secret World remains–and given how we treat musical memories from our 20s it’s likely to remain–my favorite concert of all time.

Here are some bits recovered from Youtube, for your Friday pleasure. The whole show’s up on Youtube somewhere, and of course it’s available on Blu-Ray and DVD. Enjoy your weekends, reading several.

After The Last Page

So what happened next?

So what happened next?

It’s fun to hear what a reader thinks happened after your book ended. I never tell a reader if they’re close to the mark or not. I gave up control of the story at THE END. Anything that happens afterwards? Well, my name’s Paul and that shit’s between y’all.

This time my partner, Venice, was the reader. She told me (SORTA KINDA SPOILER ALERT) that after the events of Summer of Long Knives, Rolf becomes addicted to morphine. He and Klara are able to ride out the Nazi occupation of France, but their marriage ends. Klara becomes an important figure in the post-war Paris lesbian scene, hanging around with the likes of Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein (though Stein and the Trotskyist Klara, would have clashed politically).

I’m not endorsing this as canon, but I do find it interesting.

What do other readers think happened after the The End of Summer of Long Knives?

If My Daughter Wanted To Do These Jobs, I’d Prefer She Turn To Porn

Damon Linker, pundit, columnist for The Week, and minor league irritant, tries to critique what he sees as creeping moral libertinism by asking “What If Your Daughter Was a Porn Star?”

He assumes I’d be “appalled at the thought”.

Well…let’s think about it.

I don’t have any children, so I have no personal stake in the question. But if I did have an adult daughter and she came to me to let me know that she’d just performed in a porn film, I admit I would be disappointed. I’d obviously want her to aim higher, to choose a career with better long term prospects in an industry better known for treating its employees fairly. I know that there are some porn performers and sex workers who make it far in life–Nina Hartley, Sasha Grey, and Annie Sprinkle come to mind–but most have to plan for a post-porn life that can be difficult because of judgmental assholes who assume that anyone who sucks a dick (or gets a dick sucked) in a video can’t do anything else. I wouldn’t want my daughter to have to deal with that, so yes, I’d rather she pursue a different vocation.

That said, there are plenty of jobs a daughter of mine could take that would disappoint me more:

1. Republican politician.

2. PR flack for the tobacco, munitions, or petroleum industries.

3. Televangelist.

4. Professional psychic.

5. Bill collector.

6. Lawyer for the tobacco, munitions, bill collection, or petroleum industries.

7. Insurance salesperson.

8. Operator of a cut-rate elder care facility.

9. Italian media tycoon.

10. Cable TV pundit.

If a daughter of mine came to me and said, “Daddy, I’m going to be a pundit on Fox News”, I’d tear my clothes, wail, and scream at the sky, “Why couldn’t she be in porn? That’s at least a respectable living!”

What it all comes down to is that there are lots of legal but morally repugnant ways to turn a buck–ways that do a lot more harm to the world than putting on fuck-me heels and making exaggerated sex noises while some guy you don’t find remotely attractive pumps you on camera. That sounds (to me, anyway) like a miserable way to keep the rain off your head, but there are less wholesome trades one can ply.

P.S. Here’s Cracked debunking four myths about porn stars.

Anybody Out There Know Anything About Riesling-Based Cocktails?

Why do I ask? Because I’ve been called upon to do a guest post as part of my book blog tour, and the request is that I write about a cocktail recipe that my protagonist, Kriminalkommissar Rolf Wundt, would appreciate. I know a little about German cocktails, mostly Gluhwein and Beer-based stuff. But Gluhwein is a warm cocktail, inappropriate for a summer tipple, and Rolf is less a beer drinker than a wine drinker. Specifically, he’s a riesling snob. But in Summer of Long Knives Rolf always drinks riesling straight, so I never bothered to research a cocktail for him.

What I need is a riesling-based cocktail recipe. Please, reading several, send me what you have by September 1st. If I decide to use your recipe in the post, I’ll be sure to credit you properly as its source.

NOTE: Rieslings come in many varieties, from dry to sweet, eisweins, late harvest and so on. Please specify type in your recipe.

On Depression and Creativity

Whenever a famous artist attempts or commits suicide, articles pop up like skin boils with headlines like, “Robin Williams’ death rekindles questions about creativity and depression“. Since I’ve been dealing with a bout of depression for a little under two years, I thought I’d look at this through the lens of the one creative person I spend the most time with, me, and report whatever insights I can.

I think we are still in the grip of a category error that leads us to confuse modern diagnoses of clinical depression with the 19th century’s most poetic ailment, melancholia. Critics of 19th century literature and art have killed a lot of trees and spilled a lot of ink defining melancholia, but one characteristic that all their definitions have in common is an intensity of feeling, whether that feeling is alienation from the self, from the perfect world of the imagination, or from nature; or whether it’s a feeling of morbid fascination with doom and decay. For the romantics, these emotions were to be pursued zealously and felt deeply, and to live a complete life one was obliged to use the imagination to conjure images that fed both joyous awe and deep despair. What has struck me most about my own depression is that it doesn’t feel like much of anything. Depression dulls my capacity to feel. Living with it is like wandering through the day on a full mind and body anesthetic. A sensation has to be extraordinarily painful or pleasant for me to even notice it. Otherwise, as Patrick Bateman would put it, “I simply am not there.” Furthermore, my depression isn’t about anything in particular. I can’t be fascinated about doom and decay (two subjects that usually get my heart started), because I can’t be fascinated by anything. Life during depression settles easily into a kind of low gray doze.

For this reason, I have a terrible time being creative in the midst of a depression. Instead, I watch a lot of television, read a lot of books, and play a lot of video games. I don’t much enjoy doing any of these things, but because I’m introverted and naturally withdrawn, these activities can keep me distracted for weeks. Doing creative work requires focus, energy, and discipline, all of which abandon me at these times. I can write while depressed, but it takes a lot to sustain, and I have little left for anything afterwards.

Things get worse still when depression’s crummy little cousin, anxiety, comes to visit. Like my depression, my anxiety is rarely about anything specific. It’s just a general state of worry that usually spins around my head a few times before lighting on a convenient topic…usually finances.

I remember a particularly irritating student of mine who freaked out at the sight of a spider that wasn’t much larger than the tip of a pencil eraser. It took a half an hour to settle him down. Visits from anxiety are a lot like my dealings with that student. I see it coming, say “Oh, shit” and know a good portion of the rest of the day’ll be wasted on it.

Together, these two insidious guests do more to stunt my creative work than any other force in the world. Their most destructive power is the one they have to limit my imagination. My depression works 24-7 convincing me that there is no other legitimate way to experience the world but through it, that the world can never change, and that I can’t change either. Anxiety is its louder partner in this, shooing me away from any experience that might bring new sensations.

When I’m thrall to depression, you could run me to the Egyptian ruins that inspired “Ozymandias” or to the alpine country village that made Beethoven compose the 6th symphony, and all I’d do is say, “Nice. When can I get back to Seinfeld reruns and Arkham City?”

Fortunately, my partner saw the signs and brought me some cognitive-behavior therapy books that have helped me recognize how depression works and how I can talk my self through it. Also fortunately, I now have mental health coverage (thanks, Obama), so I can see a therapist every other week to hone my coping skills. Thanks to them, I’ve been able to get back to productive work, and stalled projects are once again moving forward.

As I see it, depression is to a creative person what a severe concussion is to a football player, a career threatening injury that requires prompt and effective treatment. Without the treatment I’m receiving, I couldn’t feel elation, agony, or any of the other sensations that fuel the work that entertains you, the reading several. The poetic melancholy of our great-great grandparents can give birth to creativity. Modern clinical depression is its killer.