Dream On

I have amazing dreams. I consider myself very fortunate, as I know a great many people who tell me they don’t remember their dreams well, or dream in dissociated fragments that don’t cohere, or have dreams that seem irrelevant or insignificant or just plain dull.

I tend to dream full Technicolor $500-million special-effects-laden Hollywood extravagonzos, which can be a Bad Thing if you tend to have nuclear holocaust and plane-crash dreams (which I used to have quite frequently, but which have abated in recent years, a lessening I attribute either to the zeitgeist or to just not being so damn worried anymore). I’ve dreamed stories that I’ve later written (my short story “Emerald City Blues” came from a dream of Dorothy Gale’s house landing on a plain of green glass). I’ve dreamed I was in the middle of scenes from novels I was working on, or that I’ve had conversations with the characters. Those are wonderful dreams.

After my father died I dreamed I was waiting for a train with him at Union Station in Los Angeles, and when it arrived it was this great sleek black Art Deco train and he got on it and waved as it left the station, and I woke up crying and happy with the understanding that I associated my father very strongly with the Great Depression, and that I’d just had my own private goodbye and bon voyage.

I woke myself up laughing one night after I dreamed that Mattell was going to be producing a Tourette’s Syndrome Barbie.

When I wrote The Architect of Sleep I did a lot of research on dreams (oneirology, for y’all nomenclaturists), and I kept a dream journal. I found that the more I wrote down my dreams, the more clearly I remembered them from night to night.

I’ve had serial dreams a lot of times, where some subsequent night you resume a dream where you left off. I’ve read some speculation, though, that this is a neurological phenomenon similar to deja vu in which the brain thinks it’s resuming a previous dream and can remember the earlier scenes, but no prior dream really exists. It’s an artificial memory within the artificial experience of the dream itself (good lord, we’re in Philip K. Dick land every time we close our eyes!). I’m inclined to think this is true because it provides a neurological explanation, but leave it to neurologists to take all the fun out of everything.

I’ve also had a lot of dreams where I remembered that I’d written a novel some years ago, and found a way to rewrite it that would really make it fly, and I’ve even awakened with the title in my head and gone to look for it only to realize moments later that of course I’d never written any such thing. Now that’s friggin disconcerting.

More about this tomorrow.

Here Comes the Run Again

One of the great ironies of my popular Podrunner podcast of fixed-BPM workout music mixes is that, in the last year and a half or so, I have been so busy splitting my time between producing it and working on novels that I’ve had very little time for exercise. For most of the last couple of years I’ve gotten by on about four hours of sleep a night.

Now that the novels are published and we’ve moved to the SF Bay area, things have settled down a bit, and one of my resolutions has been to get back to working out. Not exactly great PR for the Podrunner guy to be a large soft doughy thing. In a year and a half I’ve gotten laughably out of shape. I miss doing yoga (well, actually I miss martial arts, but that’s another story. Yoga is a wonderful substitute; it’s like slow-motion martial arts).

I’d say I’ve missed running but that wouldn’t be the truth. The evil reality is that I really don’t enjoy running all that much. I’m not remotely built like a runner; I have a long torso and short legs with disproportionately strong quads that burn oxygen like mad. I run a mean 50-yard dash and then I’m done done done.

But I started up again about two weeks ago.  Ye gods.  When I was doing this regularly I was doing three miles three times a week. Clearly 18 months ago was the halcyon days of my vibrant youth, cuz two weeks after taking up running again I’m up to two whole miles, and an ugly two miles it is, too. And the only thing that gets me through this, funny enough, is the Podrunner and Podrunner: Intervals mixes. Exactly because I’m not crazy about running, there’s no way in hell I’d be out there doing it without the fixed-tempo music (and electronic dance music at that, which is always Fine By Me).

So I don’t just own the company — I’m also a client.

Digital Writes

My guest post, “The Schlock of the New,” on Richard Curtis’ wonderful E-Reads blog is now online. E-Reads is essential reading for anyone who wants to stay abreast of new innovations in publishing. This is the first of my “Digital Writes” series of guest posts for E-Reads centering around New Media and the implications and effects of new technology on writers, readers, and publishing in general under the rubric “Digital Writes.”

This first post is a smartassed epistolary (two words I’m suddenly delighted to use together) addressing the god-given right to stay working in a trade that is assumed — not coincidentally — by the practitioners of that trade. Those poor slide-rule makers. We really did screw them out of existence.


I have a kind of weird history as a DJ. I didn’t come up through house parties and then bars and then small clubs to larger clubs, which is the fairly normal route. I went from house parties to megahuge podcasts to clubs and conventions. More people download my mixes in an average month than the most popular DJs will play in front of in the same period, but because I didn’t come up through typical channels, club promoters and other DJs don’t have any idea who I am (and why should they), so my gigs tend to be intermittent. I’m the Rene Magritte of DJs: My work is pretty well known but nobody knows who I am.

I’m not remotely putting on airs about this. Downloading free mixes and paying to hear a DJ at a club are two very different things. My name at the top of a club flyer ain’t gonna pack ’em in. And I’m not really frustrated by it, either. I’m a really good club DJ, but believe me when I say that I’m aware that John Digweed has earned his status as a major club headliner in a way I never will.

All of this is preamble to saying that, after playing conventions and Vegas clubs and some smaller but well-known Hollywood clubs, I played my first-ever bar gig last Thursday, at The Rellik in Benicia, California.

Bar gigs are a very different animal. At a club people expect the DJ to guide the night, to read the tone of the crowd and reflect that in the music and then take it somewhere. A club DJ gives the night a sense of structure. He tries to take the room on a kind of journey.

Bar DJs are generally viewed as a kind of meat jukebox. People come up to you and say “I want to hear Beyonce,” and at some point soon you’re supposed to play Beyonce. A bar DJ who looks and acts like he’s spinning at Pacha in Ibiza is going to look like a jerk and bomb like a Rush Limbaugh sitcom.

Nonetheless I have no preparation for how to react when confronted with The Beyonce Question. In the first place I don’t own any Beyonce. In the second place I can’t imagine a situation where I’d play it. The bar owner wants a DJ night with a housey, laidback club vibe, and I spent the night playing funkyass house tracks with a retro Parliament Funkadelic / Sly Stone kind of sound (sort of my trademark) and remixes of pop from the 60s through the 90s. Here are some dialogue exchanges from the evening.

“Are you going to play something that isn’t techno?”
I haven’t played any techno. But what would you like to hear?
“Michael Jackson.”
The song that’s playing right now is a remix of “Thriller.”
“This is techno. Don’t you have any music people know?”
The song that’s playing right now is a remix of “Don’t Stop Believing,” by Journey.
“Why are you playing all this pop? Don’t you have any dubstep or techno?”
See those people over there? Go ask them. They asked for pop and no techno.
“Well, don’t you have anything with more bass in it?”
I’m the first DJ here who’s ever brought subwoofers. Any more bass and we’ll be breaking glasses.
“Well, if you knew what you were doing your dancefloor wouldn’t be empty.”
“Hey, play some rap.”
The description for Thursday nights says no rap, no hip hop.
“Then play some hip hop.”
“Let me see your playlist.”
There isn’t one. I have five thousand tracks with me. I make it up as I go.
“Well let me see them.”

“Can you play Michael Jackson?”
Sure. Give me about 15 minutes.

“Why haven’t you played Michael Jackson yet?”
Because you asked me three minutes ago.

“When are you going to play Michael Jackson?”
This is Michael Jackson

“This is GAY Michael Jackson.”
So then it’s Michael Jackson. I’m also playing the black Michael Jackson. Is that not okay?
And my hands-down favorite:
“It’s really hard to drink cabernet to this music.”

For a while it seemed that the lesson I learned was that bar DJing is a kind of boxing match. Then I found out that in fact most people enjoyed the night, and the bar owner asked me to play every third Thursday, so I landed a monthly gig. So I think the lesson is what I call the Amazon Review Effect: Your perspective is skewed because people who have a problem with you are more likely to say so than people who like you, who generally don’t feel obliged to tell you that they do.

Or at least this is the lie I tell myself that lets me get through whatever book I’m currently writing.

Saturday Morning at Steve & Mo’s

Maureen is wrapped in a blanket on the easy chair in our living room, drinking coffee and reading texts from her halfsister about an axe found in her basement with a Frankenstein monster face painted on the blade. I’m on the couch nearby, drinking coffee and reading and slowly waking up. Or trying to read, anyway, because Murdoc is playing under the blanket where I have made a little tent space for him, which he usually finds irresistible, and I need to keep him from also eating the couch. The coffee is Peet’s Major Dickason’s, roasted one day ago and sent to us UPS and made in our hilariously Rube Goldbergian Capresso coffeemaker that makes the best coffee ever.

Alexander is on his perch in the living room watching Power Puff Girls and making cute toy-animal sounds and imitating sound effects. He loves Power Puff Girls and Dexter’s Lab.

When we are finished with our morning ritual I will catch up on email and check to be sure my Podrunner newsletter has gone out successfully. Then I’ll carve out space on my desk and in my day to work on revising Ferry Cross the Mercy, the next novel I’m turning in. Then I’ll work on my guest post for my agent’s blog.

Right now though I’m basking in the moment. In the realization that I’m happy.

Ode to the Air Shaft

Let us take a moment today to honor the humble air shaft, without whom many of our favorite filmic moments and plot devices simply would not be. The air shaft enables clever escapes, crucial infiltrations and rescues, mysterious hostile movements and attacks, convenient storage, and overheard conversations of relevant magnitude. In fact I would like to proclaim today, March 4, as International Air Shaft Day.

Whenever you see an air shaft employed to just such ends in any drama high or low, don’t take it for granted.  Raise your glass and take a moment to thank the special breed of Hollywood air shaft employed to just such clever ends. Why novelists, radio dramatists, comic book writers, playwrights, and other, less innovative media scribes have failed to recognize the miraculous qualities of this engineering marvel is quite beyond me.

For the Hollywood air shaft is accessible with a makeshift screwdriver or simple banging with a palm, vented large enough to enter and exit, at least roomy enough to crawl through, sturdy enough to take an adult male human’s weight throughout its length, and thoughtfully sound baffled so as not to disturb occupants as its user traipses along its metal length from place to place. Without the highly evolved and carefully engineered Hollywood air shaft, so many of our favorite films, classic and otherwise, would falter, requiring their creators (if you’ll pardon the exaggeration) to concoct some hitherto unexplored means of sneaking from place to place within a structure.

Why has the humble air shaft gained predominance over the the lesser employed but similarly convenient, accessible, and roomy sewer drains that clearly pervade Los Angeles (and thus by extension the remainder of the civilizable world)? I submit that our arboreal roots (yuck yuck) take precedence. We weren’t conscious when we rose from mud but we were getting there when we began to swing from tree to tree.

For the same reason we should honor the myriad films whose heroes and villains duke it out at the top of a building or analogous structure , often a framework under construction, to establish for the other primates who the real alpha male is after all. Here’s to you as well, framework building or analogous structure! Long may you wave — for certainly long shall you.

We Have Ignition

It’s taken me longer to settle in and adjust than I figured (unusually optimistic of me, wasn’t it), which is one reason my posts have become a bit sporadical lately (no, I haven’t blogfaded), and I’m just now starting to get involved in local events and suchlike. On Sunday I went into San Francisco with my friend Scott, who is visiting from L.A.. It was the first first clear and sunny day since Maureen & I moved up here a month ago. It felt like spring and the whole city went outside. Golden Gate Park was bustling and fun, and god knows I ate too much. When I worked for Pixar some years back I gained 12 pounds in three months, largely because I couldn’t resist the many great restaurants of San Francisco.

Today I’m headed to the city again to attend Ignite, O’Reilly Media’s

high-energy evening of 5-minute talks by people who have an idea—and the guts to get onstage and share it with their hometown crowd. Run by local volunteers who are connected through the global Ignite network, Ignite is a force for raising the collective IQ and building connections in each city.  And, via streaming and archived videos of local talks, local Ignites share all that knowledge and passion with the world.

It’s part of Global Ignite Week, and I think it will be fun. It’s a great way to meet people in an area largely new to me, and to see what sorts of interesting things are going on hereabout. Los Angeles has a similar monthly event called Mindshare that I highly recommend.