Monthly Archives: September 2009

Please don’t blame Jeremy Piven.

Here’s a piece of news that will annoy some and delight others.

I’ve been writing this blog since March, sticking to it pretty diligently, as a matter of fact, and attracting quite a few regular followers along the way. Thanks, everyone, for that. Although I secretly wish we’d soared into hundreds of thousands of hits each day – that would have been amazing. Somehow I lack the time and the marketing skills.

And it’s “time” that I’m writing about today. I have to take a small break from the blog. There’s other stuff I’m writing and I must apply myself to that for the next few very important weeks. It’s an obligation thing.

jeremy_piven_shirtlessIt’s not, contrary to what many may think, because of Jeremy Piven. Or because, no matter what else I put on here each day, that story I told months ago about spotting Piven in a clothes store trying on shirts still gets the vast bulk of the traffic. That’s not it at all.

There are simply too many other things to be done.

I will continue to post stuff now and then. Interesting videos, odd points I feel need making. Check my website for updates on everything else.  AND of course you can still get a hold of me through Facebook and on Twitter  @cashpeters. So relax, all is not lost.

But for now, we’re done. The Swami is rolling up his magic carpet, storing it in its special cupboard, and retiring into the shadows, from where, obscured by darkness, he will sit staring out at you spookily until he’s absolutely sure you’re gone.

My emotions at this moment are probably best expressed by this year’s Eurovision Song Contest entry from Iceland.

Bye for now.

www.cashpeters.com

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Once, but never again.

In case you’re wondering, the book-reading went horribly. I was like an eight-year old self-consciously reciting nursery rhymes in front of class. Four people walked out. The rest was a stony silence. Shuffling feet. Pitying stares. Embarrassed coughs. 

I read the funniest bits too. At one point I thought maybe no-one in the room spoke English, because not only did they not laugh, or even smile, but some of them seemed to be in agony trying to follow it. Oh god. 

There were four readings altogether. I went last. Before me, a young lesbian poet with a Simpsons overbite reeled off her bizarre catalogue of sonnets in a curious hushed monotone…

“Crab, nab, stab, flab,

Feeling a rush, trip over a bush.

Hub, tub, club, rub,

Mellifluous undertow of ripening bananas, eating me, eating them.”

Or some nonsense like that. Occasionally, she’d freak out, shouting a word like BOOOOOM! so loudly into the mic that it almost blew the amp,  startling everyone. I thought as I was listening to her, “Jeez. Well, I have to be better than this, surely.” 

“Esophagus punctured,

Lobster love, divinely compacted down to nothing.

I wait, not breathing. Janet is risen.”

Stuff anyone could write just by jotting random words down from a dictionary. I think she had a bit of a nerve calling it poetry, frankly.

Afterwards, she told me she’d done about a dozen readings of her sonnets before this one, and felt happy about how it went. I began to say something else, but she turned her back and walked away. Wow. You know you’ve put in an appalling performance when someone who is even more appalling snubs you like that.

This was my first book-reading and, believe me, my last. Either my work is terrible, which I don’t believe it is, or I simply suck at reading aloud, which is way more likely. Either way, I’m done.  Ugh, the horror. 

To keep my spirits up, I found myself surfing Amazon this morning to look at books doing worse than mine. There are some, apparently. Somewhere down the charts, at around the 3,500,000th level, I found this one. And for some reason I felt better immediately.  

cat book

But even the sight of a bizarre grinning cat called Maude shopping for cake still wasn’t enough to reduce the nagging itch of failure or brush away the twin contaminants of hopelessness and feeling third-rate. I’m contemplating drowning myself today. I’ll decide once I get to the beach. Have a great weekend.

www.cashpeters.com

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Panic, anxiety, fear, sweating – and fun.

No blog today. I agreed to do a book reading tonight at the Skylight naked bookBookstore here in Los Angeles, therefore it’s imperative that I spend the day panicking. Pick which bits to read, rehearse them, change mind about which bits to read, rehearse those instead, pace up and down, take Advil, regret saying yes to this in the first place…I have a full schedule.

Plus, I nurse this weird, terrible premonition that I’m going to be attacked. Physically. By someone in the audience. Or heckled.

Why that is I don’t know, because my book is hardly controversial. But I forget sometimes that I’m on the radio, and there are people out there who just hate my stuff, plain and simple. Or I’ve criticized them in the past and they’ve been waiting years to meet me in person and get their own back. (Thank god my family lives in Britain, quite honestly!) Maybe subconsciously that’s why I never do public anythings: I’m terrified of my audience.

Oh, and I get embarrassed really easily, that’s another major factor.

I have an Alarmed Friend. She wrote a few days ago to say that she and her husband would be attending tonight as a show of loyalty and love. Well, naturally, I discouraged them. Friends, in the audience, watching me sweat and mess up?  Please, no.

“Goodness, you don’t wanna do that,” I told her. “I’m reading for twenty minutes only, and there are three other authors….you’ll have to sit through their work too….and I bet the seats are hard….and these bookstores, they don’t have good ventilation very often… and I hear it’s a gay event – you’re not even gay…” and so on.

I really laid it on a plate. In the end, they both pulled out. A wise move.

Now, though, I’m having second thoughts. I regret putting them off. I mean, what if someone in the audience does decide to attack me? Or I get verbally trashed by an unknown assailant holed up in the Philosophy/Psychology Section? What then? I might welcome an ally in the crowd, someone who goes over and shuts them up. And believe me, my alarmed friend is just the person to do that. She don’t take no crap from nobody, y’know what I’m sayin’?

For once, I’m entirely exposed. Naked. Not safe in a radio studio, the way I usually am, or sitting at my computer at home, or on the other side of a camera, where I can’t be touched. I’m right there among people. People who are fickle, and only six feet away, close enough to see the blackheads on my nose, and who could leap up on any pretext and grab me and drag me to the floor and pummel…

No, I have to stop this!

It’s a book reading, not the WWF. I’ll be fine. Twenty minutes. Reading. From. My. Book. That’s. All. It. Is.

Seriously, what could possibly go wrong?

www.cashpeters.com.

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The Fifty Buck Challenge.

I had a fabulous idea. I’m calling it The Fifty Buck Challenge.

Those of us who are lucky enough to not only work regularly, but who actually love what we do, never really have to ask ourselves the one question that troubles so many other people:

money2How hard is it to make money?

In our neighborhood, we have four guys sleeping rough. Unwashed, unkempt, thoroughly disgusting to look at, and you never want to stand downwind of them, the smell is outrageous. They don’t do anything, these people. They spend all day sitting on walls, sprawled under trees tanning, or they just keep busy yelling at traffic – a favorite pastime, apparently. Such is their rage at the calamity that’s befallen them.

Nevertheless, I pass by every day, feeling incredibly sorry for them. Beyond sorry, guilty. Enough to slip them cash.

At the same time, though, I find myself thinking two things: first, please god, let this never happen to me. I could NOT live outside; I have special needs – dietary, hygiene, comfort. I mean, if I’m sleeping behind a hedge, where am I going to find a mirror so I can put my contact lenses in? Won’t the goat’s milk for my hemp cereal go bad without refrigeration? How can I spray my teeth with grapefruit seed extract last thing at night if there’s no power for my Water Pic? These things concern me deeply.

Oh, and by the way, I’ve decided that, if the worst ever comes to the portapottyworst and I wind up homeless – sometimes, when you work in public radio, this seems like a distinct possibility – I would instantly commandeer one of those portable toilet thingies that builders use (portapotties), clean it out, turn it on its side, and sleep in that, so that my stuff is secure and the coyotes don’t get me. Then, next morning, refreshed, I’d simply put my lenses in, tidy up the place, lock the door, and go. Within twenty minutes I can be panhandling outside Starbucks or yelling at traffic. The day’s my own.   

The second thing I think of when I see the local bums is this: “Why are you just sitting, sprawling, yelling there like that? Why not use your free time – and it’s all free  time – more fruitfully? If you just gave half a day each week over to some kind of work, you could earn a few dollars, and that would then buy you a haircut, food, blankets, a Water Pic, whatever you need.” Right? 

Okay, maybe this isn’t realistic. When you’re at the bottom of the heap, it must seem like a virtual impossibility to get yourself back on your feet again. Plus, some of them have drug or mental problems, which makes things worse. All the same, the question is still valid: how hard is it to make money?

Gripped by fascination, I decided I would find out. 

Maybe you want to try this too, see what happens. 

Most people, when you mention making more money, envision something life-changing, a whopping raise of thousands of dollars, say. But what if you just kept it modest? How about $50 extra in one week to begin with? It’s not a lot, but it’s still fifty bucks. And everyone can use fifty bucks, right? You could even take it and give it to the homeless, basically doing their work for them. It’s up to you.

Then, the next week, or whenever you try the experiment again, you up the stakes to $100, then $200. You can make the money any way you like, but it has to be:

  1. Above board. No peddling drugs or going on the game, or selling your eyes to science while you’re still alive, anything stupid like that;
  2. Unconnected with your usual line of work, if you have one; and
  3. Something that doesn’t involve theft or anything shady. That means not fishing through public fountains for coins after dark. And there’s something in the rules about not staging bank-raids or breaking into cars either. Keep your nose clean.

money2This week, then, just for fun, I embarked on The Fifty Buck Challenge: that is to say, I set out to make a straight $50 over and above anything else I might normally bring in. 

And…bingo!

Right out of the gate I sold a lovely piece of artwork on Ebay. That was twenty bucks right there. Then I made a grapefruit tart, which was so absolutely scrumptious that I almost ate it myself, screw the challenge! But no, I’m on a 100 days of raw food at the moment, I couldn’t – so I sold it to someone else, a woman who was having a party. She paid $45.

And that was that. Simple. I almost wished I’d set the first week’s target a bit higher, because I made $65 with practically zero effort, just a little ingenuity. 

Of course there’s tax to pay, I guess (something the homeless don’t have to consider), and I like to give a percentage away too. (In fact, I’m making that an integral part of the challenge: 10% of whatever you make has to be given away to someone who needs it right now, as seed money for future efforts. It’s good karma, people.) Plus, the ingredients for the tart cost a fortune. Still, not bad, eh? And that is just the first attempt to get the wheels rolling.

Also, let’s not forget – money’s green, which is very much in tune with the spirit of the times.

Anyway, incredibly buoyed up by this – who knew that making pocket money could be so exciting? – I plan to do it again very soon. Next time it will be $10o, though. Enough for a downpayment on my portapotty. Well, you never know. Radio’s a fickle business.

www.cashpeters.com

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I wrote this. (Not really.)

Something funny.

I have a wonderful, but alarmed friend. Not long ago she forwarded to me an email that showed very vividly how American society can only function on a daily basis because of socialistic principles. Very clever and intriguing. So I posted it here on the blog

Well, since then, many other blogs have linked to that post.

But here’s the problem. Each time they do, they attribute the writing of it to me, which of course is not the case.

Worse, it’s now gone viral, which is another way of saying it’s out of control, turning up on social networking sites all over the place, always with a link at the end to TV Swami. With the result that, by now, everyone on the entire planet believes it originated here.

Nice.

But it didn’t. That’s not my work. It was merely a cut and paste job – albeit one I did superbly well, I thought, and for which I should receive accolades galore.

owlAnyway, yesterday I received another great and wise piece from my alarmed friend, which once again I’m ready to have attributed to me. It’s about all the misinformation and made-up irrational fears surrounding healthcare reform being circulated by Republican hard-liners (all of whom are in some way funded by the healthcare industry, of course; it’s totally corrupt).

A writer called “Hunter” on the Daily Kos website wrote a magnificent piece outlining what might happen if the US Postal Service were run by a big, greedy health insurance company.

He says, for instance:

“First off, if health insurance companies ran the mail service you couldn’t actually expect to send mail anywhere. You would have a list of addresses it was OK to send mail to, and if you wanted to send your packages anywhere else you’d have to deliver it your own damn self.

If health insurance companies ran the mail service, you wouldn’t know what it would cost to mail a package, because nobody involved would be able to tell you, even if you spent the better part of a week on the phone with them. You would know what it cost you one only after you received the bill for mailing it. This bill would come one month later, but additional charges would be added a month after that, more additions would come two months later, the total would be revised again in four months, and would be adjusted again after six months. If you want to complain, knock yourself out, but chances are you won’t even remember what it was you mailed back in the summer of 2008 or whenever-that-was.

If health insurance companies ran the mail service, it would cost you money to mail a package, but it would also cost you money to not mail a package. That’d be the fee for possibly mailing a package, in the future, and it would go up by twenty percent every year under the “just because” clause of your contract.

If health insurance companies ran the mail service, your contract to have packages delivered would stand a chance of being revoked if you actually mailed one.

If health insurance companies ran the mail service, between twenty and forty percent of packages simply wouldn’t arrive at their destination because delivering them wouldn’t be cost effective, so bite us.

And your package delivery service wouldn’t just idly sit by and send what you wanted them to send. They’d tell you want you wanted to send. Flowers are nice, but couldn’t you just send a card? Cookies are a bit much, don’t you think?”

Hah.

This healthcare debate has served two purposes: it’s brought us closer than ever before to making sure everyone in America has access to a civilized, reasonably priced system of treatment should they fall ill; but more than that it has written across the sky in huge bright lights the extent of the greed, manipulation, and corruption rife among big businesses right now. Capitalism has been hi-jacked and turned into a heartless monster, working to line the pockets of the top 1% at the expense of the rest of us. It’s a shocking state of affairs. No wonder Republicans are running scared of the right information getting out.

To read the rest of the article, go HERE

www.cashpeters.com

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Oh look: an author making an idiot of himself.

An alarming thing will happen at the end of this week.

Alarming for me, anyway. I’m making a public appearance. Something I never do. But what other choice is there?

Here’s the thing. One of the many duties you have as an author is to publicize your books. The principle behind this rather antiquated idea apparently being that if people don’t know your book exists, then how can they buy it?

Hm. Well, okay. I see their point.

But where do I draw the line? Isn’t it enough that I wrote the thing in the first place? That I presented my material in an amusing, highly readable way, and went through about twenty different drafts of it in various forms as they arrived from the publisher? So much so that, if all copies were suddenly lost, I could rewrite every single chapter word for word from memory, footnotes included? I mean, come on. By that point isn’t the author off the hook? 

Isn’t it up to the publishing company – I had to pick mine at random, so naturally I chose Random House – to then step up, grab the baton, and go crazy-mad with their marketing dollars, flinging them from rooftops if they have to, to let the public know their latest product is available in stores, and it’s a doozy?

Well, no. Seems not. Seems I’m being wildly optimistic on that front. Publishers publish books; they don’t see it as their responsibility to let the public know that they’ve done so. That would be outrageous.

SkylightTherefore, this coming Friday at 7pm I’m going to do something I don’t like doing at all. A book-reading. My first, and with any luck my absolute last.

I’ll be at Skylight Books in Los Angeles, at 1818 N. naked book 2Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz, as part of a four-author event, where I’ll be rattling off a couple of sections from Naked In Dangerous Places, my latest travel book, with one eye on the page and the other scanning the room for the nearest exit. 

I’ve only ever agreed to do one other reading before this. At Barnes & Noble GTin Santa Monica a few years ago, when Gullible’s Travels was published. Big ads in the window drew a large crowd, the meeting room was filled; the only person who wasn’t there was me. Much to everyone’s annoyance. It was a huge mistake, I realized afterwards, and I apologized profusely. Still, it demonstrates how strongly I feel about this issue. About doing nothing.

Now comes this. Another one. And exactly like last time, the organizer of Friday’s event told me to get the word out. “Let people know about it. Ask them to bring friends.”  

“Ooh, okay,” I chuckled. “Whatever you say.”

So that’s what I’m doing. Except that, in what might seem like a spot of reverse psychology but isn’t, I’m saying to you (and only you; keep this under your hat), don’t bother. Stay home. You’re busy; I’m sure you have other plans. I know I do. Only, in my case I’ve had to give them up to do a stupid book-reading.

And yes, yes, yes, Mr. Organizer, I will show up this time. Promise. Under duress, naturally. Sweating profusely with nerves, sure. And expecting the audience to number between – how many shall we estimate? – three and five people, all of them there to hear the other authors. But I will most definitely swing by.

And you – well, you join us at your peril.

Here’s what the fuss is about:

www.cashpeters.com

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P.S.

This is a post script to an entry I wrote over the weekend. I’ll keep it brief.

My father replied to my birthday wishes!

dovesOh sure, the message was terse and unsigned, contained no indications of affection or love, and was a masterpiece of self-restraint at only eight words. But you’re missing the point.

It was also pleasant, featured no booby-traps or  bitter attacks – seriously, none at all – and for once didn’t even leave room for ambiguity, any of the usual, “Hmmmm, what did he mean by that, I wonder?” double-layered comments that I’m used to. Heaven only knows how long it took him to craft it.

The man – my dad! – said quite simply that, yes, he’d had a pleasant day on his birthday and thanked me. Wow.

halleluja

Now, to you, eight words might sound pretty meager, almost an insult. “That’s it? That’s all he could be bothered to write?”  Me, I’m overjoyed. In my world, given his track record, that’s a true home run. And a solid breakthrough.

So no blog today.  Instead, I plan to get drunk on Martinis by 9am and stay that way ’til sundown. In fact, come to think of it, why stop then?  

 

My little movie Fast and Very Loose is now on YouTube. Watch it HERE.

www.cashpeters.com

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