I’m pretty late to the party on Cat Marnell. Until yesterday I had never read her columns and had only heard her name ring out within the last month. 

And that’s not because she’s unimportant. This is simply the disconnect from culture that seems to happen naturally as you edge to middle age. Marnell is a bridge between the Gen X nihilism I grew up with and whatever the kids are into these days. 

Her writing style seems like critics would get the knives out on it, and it might grate on some people, but I think it’s original and well done. Critics seem impressed. She captures the patois of the party girl and it’s unexpected oscialltions between high literature, riot grrl politics, club drug culture, and celebrity obsession. 

The last of that list is somethign Marnell handles interestingly. For her, this TMZ INTRRZONE we sleepwalk through is another mood altering substance. Another way to mainline excess. Crank your neurosystem up to the max, then pump it full of digital decadence. This is a powerful form of ephemeral dope and she nails it. 

I wonder what the person, not the character, Cat Marnell thinks about all this. I wonder if what Hunter S. Thompson said about the pressure of being Hunter S. Thompson is true for her. 

If she follows the memoir formula laid out by Mary Karr, her next book is going to probably track some sort of redemptive tale. How dreary. 

I hope she finds something new.


I know better than to believe in magic, but I find twinkling coincidence seductive. The above image is one Zdenek Burian did for a 1937 edition of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I own a very expensive leather bound version of this book. It is unread for now. 

The year of this illustration’s creation is the one where Amelia Earhart and her navigator disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. This connection is interesting today because last night, out of nowhere, a story idea tapped on my window and I was able to make it come inside, if only briefly. 

The tale is a simple “what if?” kind of thing. What if Amelia Earhart survived a crash landing on an island, was discovered by Captain Nemo, and then teamed up with him to fight Nazi submarines in the Nautilus? 

This story kind of came to me out of nowhere, but it’s probably related to reading another shipwreck tale, Heart of a Samurai, earlier this week. The stories have little else in common. 

This is the kind of fun synchronicity that always seems to occur when I’m working my way through The Artists’s Way exercised. That book is firmly rooted in the idea there is magic in creativity and pursuing art is a blessed activity, especially if done with devotion. 

I maintain a cautious agnosticism regarding these asserted metaphysics. Yet the idea becomes more alluring the more I observe and do on this path. 


When I was fifteen, my dad hired me to bartend private events at the hotel he worked at. Louisiana had some weird child labor laws and since the liquor license was in his name, I was allowed to pour booze. Or at least that’s what I was told at the time.

His bar was inside a Holiday Inn out near the New Orleans airport, which is actually in the neighboring city, Kenner.

Before I could work for him, I had to get hired by the hotel itself. I was excused from the drug test, but I had to take a long personality test. I have always prided myself on being honest, even when it wasn’t a good idea, so I answered the question as one might if he were not planning to be hired.

Is it sometimes necessary to cut corners to get the job done? Yes.

Would you keep a secret from management to protect someone’s job? Of course.

Is it sometimes necessary to lie to customers? Isn’t that what advertising is all about?

The general manager of the hotel looked at my answers and excused himself. I remember feeling extremely proud. Surely, he was off to tell my dad how unbelievably happy he was to have someone like me there. My dad walked back in with a new questionnaire.

“Less honest this time.” He was clearly amused.

“Why? Don’t you want to know the truth?”

“No one wants to know the truth. Just fill it out like you would if you were trying to get away with something.”


My second go around I imagined what a real square would write. The general manager came back in, shook my hand and invited me to join the team. Later he told me that they looked for lower scores when hiring management and that I had the lowest score of all time, but since I was just working as a banquet bartender, the rebellious attitude was unwanted.

I’d forgotten all about Stephen King’s earliest writing efforts, his self mimeographed stories sold to classmates in grammar school. The idea of making a work for my fellow students occurred to me, I made a comics featuring my friends and our enemies, but the idea of charging never did. 

To his day there seems to be a weird block in my mind about making money writing. It’s not a case of imposter syndrome exactly, lots of people approach me for work, so I know I have talent. At least enough to be a good copywriter. 

Copywriting is really more process oriented than writing stories and the results are measurable. Did the thing sell better after the words I wrote were attached to it? Great. 

Even though it’s the main goal for me, getting paid to write things I make up seems like borderline scamming. You can get paid to do something you’d do anyway? People do, so why not me?

My wife works hard and likes to relax listening to comedy. I love this about her, but I can’t read when people are talking. She refuses to wear headphones, the best solution, so I wear mine. 

Most of the time I just listen to white noise. I like the engine sounds of WW2 bomber planes and science fiction ships like The Enterprise and The Galactica. They’re quite soothing and do a solid job of muffling whatever is coming out of Mrs. Lott’s computer speakers. 

Lately I’ve been pairing classical music and movie soundtracks with my reading. Sometimes you can pick a movie with similar themes to what you’re reading and it makes for an enjoyable experience. 

I just finished reading a book about whaling titled Heart of a Samurai. I wanted something adventurous and nautical so I chose The Master and Commander soundtrack. It worked well for the most part,  but since the book has no sea batttles in it (at least with other ships), the more dramatic sections of the score don’t quite work as well. The Mozart violin concertos are ideal, though. I’ve really gotten quite a taste for his stuff lately. 

After I finished the whaling book I started re-reading Stephen King’s On Writing again. He’s so much a part of weird Americana I wanted something peculiar, kind of 1950s rock and roll, and upbeat, but in a queer way. So I picked some surf rock compilation of David Bowie covers. It might not be the combo for you, but damned if it isn’t the right selection for me. 

I’ve read this book several time since it came out. I even remember reading the original columns from The New York Times. Each time I find that I’m doing more and more of the things King recommends. I’m not sure if it’s progress or just me copying. It seems to be working. 

Usually I re-read this book with The Artist’s Way at the same time. I don’t know if I’ll do that this time. I’ve gotten the lessons down and I never find myself stuck. However, I do procrastinate. Which is why I gave myself a month off writing if I wanted to (I didn’t, but I am parking self promotion for now). 

On March 16th it’s a page a day of writing about goblins until I’m done. After that, the self promotion machine is back on, turned up to eleven. 

About every fourth book I read is something that’s well reviewed, but not something I’d normally be interested in. I pick authors with very different backgrounds than mine. I’m almost always delighted by these books. Though there are always exceptions. 

I thought The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz was going to be great, but it was totally flat. I could tell you the plot, however, the characters were so dull I can’t even recall their names. Maybe something was lost in translation. 

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell looked like it was going to be too adolescent for my tastes. I was amazed to find it so thoughtful, the young lovers are well crafted and believable. 

When is was young, I would fully immerse myself in a single author at a time. Now I move from subject to subject. I was on a WW2 kick for a while, now I’m traveling through some young adult books. I did read two Neil Gaiman books in a row recently. There are a few books of how I haven’t read and I think I’ll be hitting them up soon. 

I wish I could read as quickly as Johnny 5 did in Short Circuit. Every book I read feels like food and its nourishing my brain, making me a better writer, a better thinker. A better person. 

One of my favorite things to do is start a book in the morning and finish it my evening. I usually only get to do that when Mrs. Lott is occupied with work and doesn’t have a list of bullshit chores to do. I swear to god the moment I’m rich I’m done with cooking and cleaning. I hate both activities with the passion of a spoiled child. 

Anyway. Hopefully I can finish the book I’m reading today, The Heart of the Samurai by Margi Preus. After that I’m either going to pick up Stephen King’s On Writing again or read Bruce Springteen’s bio. 

I’ve ordered about 50 books in the last month. I’m kind of obsessed right now. 

Milo Y. made an appearance last night on Bill Maher’s show. As is the modern way, everyone is either way too happy or way too angry about it. 

It was a mediocre performance for Milo and the panel mobilized weak rebuttals to lazy trolling. It seems all this noise leads nowhere except the applause or jeers of the divided masses, who ultimately only show up to be entertained. 

Maher said to Milo, “You remind me of a young, gay, alive, Christopher Hitchens.” I see how a casual viewer might have that impression, but it absolutely surprises me that Maher would have it. Hitchens was on another level. 

Hitchens’ main goal was not to shock. He never opened with hostility or rudeness. Sure, if given even the slightest opening, he would eviscerate an opponent (poor Mose Def!) but it was never the endgame. Hitchens’ career was not based on clicks and YouTube views. It is impossible to underestimate the influence of the click economy on modern political discourse. 

However, Hitchens’ legacy is not immune. His most ascerbic assaults are collected in videos and dubbed “hitchslaps.” Even someone like myself, who loved Hitchens when he spoke about literature best of all, can spend hours watching him dismantle charlatans like Al Sharpton and Deeppockets Chopra. I guess I’m just as bad as everyone else. 

I wish we could see more actual debate and less insulting. Who knows? Maybe Milo will evolve. Maybe we will. 

Don’t hold your breath, though.