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Filing chapter 331: 10 yearz after, hash-slinging & (g)host-reading Bleeding Edge

Dear Internet,

... or perhaps we should introduce these with chapter numbers ... that's what these 'posts' are after all, are chapters. Chapters in an ongoing, real-time, serialized novelization of our life, casted live. We just went back and counted the number of chapters up until now, and there's been 330 (not including the twittery quotidian). That would make this chapter 331.

331 chapters in 10 years. Alhough we didn't register this domain until 2005 or 2006, we started to post some stuff on calamaripress.com & sleepingfish.net towards the end of 2003 that we eventually jury-linked to 5cense.com. In fact, serendipitously (keep reading) this month, this week, marks the official 10-year anniversary of Calamari Press & Sleepingfish.

10 years & we're still not sure what this is ... Blogject? Journal? Reading notes? Travelogue? Publishing log? Process document? Flâneuristic impressions? Proof of our existence? 10 years & some 250 books read (that we've mentioned here anyway) ... 10 years & 42 books published ... 10 years & who knows how many places we've been. In consideration of our recent homeland security flaggings, a few days ago we applied for the U.S. 'Global Entry' program. In the rather detailed questionnaire they had us list all the countries we'd been to in the past 5 years & by rough count it was at least 30. So per year, on average, that's 6.0 new countries visited, 25.0 books read and 4.2 books published.

Which brings us to today, October 11, 2013, roosting in our Manhattanville perch looking south. Since returning from Amsterdam last week, we've been mostly reading/editing Calamari Press manuscripts in the hopper. Did the cover & interstitial art for Elizabeth Mikesch's book ... perhaps we'll show some of that at a later date. Read through (with an editorial eye) Beth Seidle's manuscript & as we speak we're finishing the first round of edits of Brandon Hobson's manuscript ... but again, perhaps we'll talk more about these at a later date. Suffice to say, while we were reading Hobson's manuscript we got word that he & his wife had a baby ... like, a real life one, weighing 7 lbs 13 ounces. His name is Holden ... appropriate enough as in many ways Hobson's manuscript reminds me of The Catcher in the Rye. Happy 0th birthday, Holden Hobson.

Bleeding Edge over the UWS

Bleeding Edge looking south over Riverside Park towards the Yupper West Side

For pleasure, we've been reading Bleeding Edge. And it is indeed pleasure reading, perhaps even guilty pleasure. More on the trashy side of the spectrum than literary. Why is it that no one ever criticizes Pynchon? They automatically assume whatever pulp he churns out is brilliant. In fact, we wonder if anyone bothered to edit Bleeding Edge? Or perhaps the sloppy, low-brow feel is intentional. In usual fashion, Pinchon is given creative free rein to mispell at will (not just in quoted dialog) ... he even misspells other peeple's names (for example on page 124 he sez «maybe there's a Cy Twombley or two»). And we are only on page 125 & didn't bother to mark the other typos we noticed. Even the jacket copy has typos and/or awkward/poorly ritten frasing.

In fact, it's so slop-happy & cliché, we'd venture to guess that Pinchyn didn't even right it. That a ghost-writer rode it (maybe the poseur below). Ether that or Pichyn is brain-dead, on auto-pilot, parodysing himself, running on fumes ... humbolt hash fumes slung over from a decade ago. Or maybe he coded some software to write the book for him, which makes cents considering the nature of the book—which we shouldn't need to reiterate here because shirley you've already read about what it's about. Even the trailer tries to come off as lo-fi, cobbled together in DiY fashion, but we're guessing it was all calculated & cost more than a pinchin' penny.

Don't get us wrong ... it's a smart book & fucking funny & interesting to read (so far) & beats 99% of the crap on bestseller lists. Especially for us, we can relate, being that we moved to NYC right around the time the novel takes place—the early nought/aught years before (& after?) 9/11. Tho we're not quite sure we're ready to feel nostalgic about the 00s, weather enough time has passed. But maybe that's what defines these naughty years, is the sacrifice of nostalgia for instant gratification. Digital cameras, instant publishing & the lack of heavy vetting.

We recently re-read Vineland while we were in Northern California, for nostalgic reasons—both because the book takes place there but also because we read the book some 3 decades ago when we were living in them parts. Since then (living in Vineland), apparently Pytchin has been hiding out in plane site, in Manhattan ... the Upper, or Yupper West Side to be specific, or somewhere between the UWS & Silicon Alley, which we think is safe to say is now passé to say.

When we moved to NYC in early 2000, right after Y2K (there's something that we are perhaps ready to feel ironically nostalgic about), right off the bat we had a dozen interviews with various dotcoms in Silicon Alley. This, even tho our resume was far from impressive, working as a lowly programmer/tech writer for small-town companies with silly names like Automation Centre (shockingly, we just googled & they are still kicking & using some of the same unsightly designs we are embarrassed to say we had a part in).

We arrived in a borrowed car with everything we owned, all the way from Tucson, and in the first week we got an apartment & a job. In May of 2000, the job part was easy (the apartment part on the other hand...)—back then the dotcom companies wined & dined you with all sorts of outrageous perks, stopping short of the happy ending on the promised in-office massages. We landed at Universal Music, which was not really a dotcom & not really in Silicon Alley (it was on West 54th), but close enough that we can relate to a lot of what Pitchin is talking about in Bleeding Edge. We worked on a digital music platform called Blue Matter that eventually turned into Pressplay, which eventually got rebranded as the legitimate Napster—(perhaps another word we are ready to file in our memory banks as nostalgic kitsch of the digital variety).

We didn't live in the 'Yupper West Side' until later (2006—2008), after our requisite time spent slumming it in the LES & East Village ... unless you count our stint on West 57th (2002—2004) as UWS. When we first arrived we were low on the totem pole & all we could afford to get into was (dare we admit) the Upper East Side, Yorkville, a block from Gracie Mansion. On page 122 of Bleeding Edge, Maxine (the heroine) finds herself (gasp) on the Upper East Side. Amidst a debate with the cabdriver about Jews & Jesus, he says to her: «... Everybody knows Jews don't wear sandals, they wear loafers. Honey, you must be from way out of town.» To which Maxine responds: «You know, I must be.»

Ah, the kozmo.com reminiscing. Were those the days? Before keeping this, this ... whatever this is, we kept a journal of the more traditional & privatized type. So we have the ability to flash back to any date we want when in need of such reminiscing. Reading Bleeding Edge & thinking about what we were doing 10 years ago, got us to poking around in our files, and this, the below, was the first thing we opened, that we include here unabridged & unedited [except for the bracketed commentary]—for your reading pleasure ...

October 10, 2003 — LA to NY 

We launched the Napster beta on Wednesday night and now I’m on my way back. Cruising altitude. Been in LA all week. Hopefully this will be my last trip [it wasn't ... for the better part of the year we spent a week of every month living in West Hollywood]. I really am starting to dread these trips and am becoming more and more disillusioned at what Napster has become. Last week things were already reaching a boiling point. Everyone simmering to the brim. I was becoming more and more disenchanted with all the lack of direction and kept asking myself why? I have very little contact with Daniel [my boss] and when I do he is so ... what? passive aggressive. He made a casual reference for me to follow up with Stan, the new artist that I guess I am now more or less responsible for even though that was never clearly communicated to me. I kept trying to call and left messages and emails but couldn't get a hold of him. The next day I get this disciplinary email from Daniel, saying how he warned me three times and expects this will never happen again ya di ya di ya, and first I just said yes sir, but then thought about it and stewed, so wrote him a nasty email back. That got escalated to Glenn [the creative VP] and Debbie [HR], as I expected because Daniel is too weak to handle things himself. So had a long closed door talk with Glenn, who now has a full-on mohawk and looks ridiculous. I told him that I wouldn't take the blame for mismanagement at a higher level, or the fact that Stan wasn’t calling me back. Of course this was hard to say because Stan is a good friend of Daniel and Glenn. And Glenn just chuckles & tells you not to worry as he rides his skateboard & plays with the toys in his office like some sort of boy genius. There is so much nepotism going on its ridiculous. I’m over it and am starting to look for another job, the problem is there's nothing else out there. So in the meantime I just have to suck it up & put up with this bullshit.

The good news is that I have my press up and running. I got the domain name www.calamaripress.com and have Mining in the Black Hills and 23 Text Tiles available for sale using PayPal. And I have a submission call posted on www.sleepingfish.net. Here we go. We’ll see what happens. Printing the chapbooks myself is no easy chore with an inkjet printer. Probably not the most cost-effective way either. But we’ll see if I get enough demand to get a laser printer. I layed both chapbooks out on legal paper, folded in half, so the books are 8.5 x 7. Getting regular paper is easy, but decent legal paper above 28 lb. stock is not easy to come by, and cover stock ... nowhere in town. Ended up ordering from www.paper.com. Ordered some book on the logistics of self-publishing, but it hasn't come, so figure fuck it ... will just figure it all out on my own. Got the ISBNs and everything. On the back cover of Mining in the Black Hills I am using a picture from Touch the Sky: Climbing in the Black Hills, so I sent Paul Piana an email to ask permission, he in turn referred me to this woman whose name I can’t remember, who is the surviving spouse of the guy who took the picture and she said yes. Speaking of the Black Hills ... so Jess and I are at a Realistics concert [that we blogged about at the time but never linked up to 5cense] last week at the Bowery Ballroom, and we were at the front waiting for them to go on, when this woman comes up to me, who looked oddly familiar but I couldn’t remember from where. We had just been at Glenn’s opening and met a bunch of people so I thought maybe it was someone from there. I thought she said her name was "Mary," and I was probably giving her this look like who the fuck are you. Ends up it was the girl, Marit, I dated briefly before leaving the Black Hills [in 94]. She introduced herself to Jess and there was some awkward silence & all I could think of to say was "What are you doing here?" She excused herself even though we offered for her to come hang out up front with us. It was weird. She looked like a soccer mom or something, all grown up.

Glenn [Kaino]’s opening was strange as well. The centerpiece was this huge installation spanning two rooms, in one room there was a magnifying glass and a tiny origami swan against a postcard backdrop. A string was tied to the swan’s wings that was gently moving in tiny movements. The string wrapped around a small pulley and went through a hole in the wall. When you went around the corner, the string was connected to more pulleys and chains and levers, which escalated into this complex contraption involving a spinning Astroturf carousel with a stuffed jackalope, and attached to that was a huge waterwheel of putty gray dentures fed by a giant showerhead, all feeding into a kiddy pool. Much as I am starting to despise Glenn and his ways, it was pretty brilliant. Glenn’s Mohawk was spiked up and he was wearing a CBGBs shirt ... trying to play the part. He was all flushed and red from drinking wine. Saw Andy Schuon there and other Napsterites were there, Sue Rae and her new beau, Marc and Robin, Avery and his new girlfriend. It was the same gallery that did Glenn's last show [a stone's throw away from where we are now in west Harlem], but they had moved down to 57th St. There was quite a turnout, probably a few hundred ... DJ, open bar, etc. Afterwards a bunch of us went out to some crappy Indian restaurant on 6th street just because we couldn't think of anything else. Then after that Jess and I went to The Realistics, where we ran into Marit.

Monday morning I left for LA. Been working seriously 18-20 hours a day. Til 2 or 3 in the morning, and then back at work at 8 or 9 a.m., and even when I am sleeping (at the Beverly Wilshire), sleeping with the cell phone and blackberry under my pillow. Insanity. The night of beta launch we were getting ridiculous requests like we were asked to post these pictures of Chris Gorog and a bio and everything. There was like 8 pictures and he was all airbrushed and wearing dark glasses, posing under the Napster sign, or in the studio with his sleeves rolled up, looking like a dick. It was sickening. I was reluctant to do it and showed the pictures to Stan and he agreed. I have not really made an opinion about Stan yet. Definitely a flakey kid, pretentious, maybe even a junky, seems to have Hong Kong mafia connections. We called up Noel and said we wouldn’t do it, post the pics of Gorog. She told Seth and we were off the hook. But we still had to post all these press releases last second, and build the consumer site which was basically nothing a week before. We were still building unfinished stuff and fixing bugs, when we find out that unbeknownst to us they were pushing the code live! We were live. It was all very anti-climatic, and frustrating because shit was half-finished. We were scrambling til odd hours of the night trying to fix shit on the fly and patch up what we could as the big press release was the next morning in NY. And of course us sherpas were not a part of the launch party, but we saw the streamcast of it and it was sickening. Seriously sickening, unclean. It started with Chris Gorog walking on stage and saying "Yeah, baby!" I couldn’t fucking believe it. He exuded geeky arrogance. He had sent out this email to Napster-all before this, thanking all the senior management people, but failing to mention key people, people that actually did anything. He kept calling it "Our Baby". It's like we are the sports car he bought for his mid-life crisis, to make up for his receding hairline. But Napster is not a sports car ... Napster is a service with people behind it. He has done nothing to earn our respect. You cannot buy respect and you definitely cannot buy hipness. Napster will fail because of this reason alone. He spoke for a while and then Mike Bebel came out and demoed it with Laura behind the wheel. Mike was nervous, but I'd rather have nervous and sincere then smug like Chris fucking Gorog. And then they introduced the geeky Samsung guys. And finally Ludacris, who really put things in perspective. Of course all he cared about was promoting his new album (Chicken-n-Beer), but he gave some speech that Seth had written for him, and i guess it sounded fairly natural and genuine, but in the context of the whole event, it was just so fake and white and trying so hard to be hip. As ludicrous as his name. I was truly embarrassed to be a Napster employee after witnessing that (even by streamcast) and it only reaffirmed my pursuit of a new job. Didn’t feel like doing much of anything after that, but still kept finding bugs and working on shit. It was like there was no closure. No celebration (at least not in LA). All this just for utter disappointment and demoralization. Time to move on ...

Perhaps we should've left out the names of real people, but enough time has passed that they should be able to laugh at this point. At the ridiculous hyposcrisy of it all. And if they can't laugh, well, then fuck 'em.

Oh and speaking of ISBNs, we just ponyed up for a batch of 100. Got sick of getting reamed for buying in batches of 10. So if you need an ISBN & don't want to pay $125, let me know & i'll spot you one for, say $10. And speaking of identifying digits, i have a new phone number if you are so telephonically inclined (inherited j's old iPhone).

On page 137 of Bleeding Edge, a converstation goes:

"I click into it now and then."

"You may have read some harsh comments, like every day, about my company. Any idea why she's doing this?"

"She seems to distrust you, Mr. Ice. Deeply. She must believe that behind the dazzling saga of boy-billionaire excess we all find so entertaining, there lies a darker narrative."

"We're in the security business. What do you want, transparent." [SIC]


"She's got you that worried? Come on, it's only a Weblog, how many people even read it?"

Exactly. And yes, these were the days we spelled out Weblog. The time that Pynchon writes about (2000—2001) was before the above Napster launch post. After the dotcom collapse, but before 9/11. We managed to weather the crash at the expense of watching 75% of our co-workers laid off (when we still called it Blue Matter). Those of us left by 9/11 huddled on west 54th street, high enough up that we had a clear view downtown to the burning towers. But we haven't gotten to that chapter in the book yet ...

  >> NEXT: #332: kitchifying malaise whilst covering for Hobson & Mikesch in the still bleeding shipping lanes

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