11 Levels of Novel Writing Success

Here’s what important about this:

The only goal is not level 10.

The goal is to make sure you savor the first 6 levels.

1. Finish a complete novel.

2. Finish a complete novel that does not suck.

3. Finish a novel you actually like.

4. Someone reads your novel.

5. Someone who is not a relative reads your novel.

6. Someone reads your novel and LIKES it.


7. Your novel is published by an actual publisher.

8. People buy your novel.

9. LOTS of people buy your novel.

10. You spend the rest of your life living off the proceeds of your novel.

11. Mayyyyyybe you write another novel.

Bring Us Some Goddamn Fucking Figgy Pudding

The project this year was to recover some of the tracks from the very furst Burl album, circa ’95/’96?  (Will check timing later.)  The original tapes may or may not still exist, but the Real Audio files do, and this year they got converted to MP3 and edited into individual tracks.

This one is an original poem, written by the estimable Phil James.  We probably first heard him read this year before, at some Echo event.  And we’d certainly seen him post it long before.

I can’t remember if we asked him to record it, and he was unavailable, or not.  But in any case, I think Phil enjoyed the delivery of barely controlled pointless rage I used for this version.

I am pretty sure it is Mark who did the tinkly piano in the background.  I remember Spingo just started recording him practicing the melody.  It is almost sheer luck — but BEAUTIFUl sheer luck — that those notes ended as nicely and as perfectly timed as they did.  It was maybe my favorite part of recording the whole album, how that worked out.

Please enjoy this spoken word tale of caroling gone rageahol.

Bring Us Some Goddamn Fucking Figgy Pudding (in 7 Parts)

Manifesto di Tutti Manifesti

  1. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
  2. An ideology, in order to gain enthusiastic support, must have a positive ideals well as a negative one; it must be FOR something as well as AGAINST something.
  3. We regard men as infinitely precious, possessed of unfulfilled capacities for reason, freedom, and love.
  4. Every man, deep down, knows he’s a worthless piece of shit.
  5. Corporations … only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies.
  6. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.
  7. We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness.
  8. Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed.
  9. Don’t trust a sane person.
  10. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
  11. If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’. But if you ain’t lyin’, you ain’t tryin’.
  12. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!
  13. We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.
  14. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else.
  15. Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!
  16. Vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators.
  17. Let us be lazy in everything, except in loving and drinking, except in being lazy.
  18. Beauty exists only in struggle.
  19. We want our people to experience new things, discover new hobbies, and generally be interesting people.
  20. Stop with all the negative waves. Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change? Have a little faith, baby; have a little faith.
  21. You’re a Genius all the time,
  22. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  23. Something that you feel will find its own form
  24. Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.
  25. If you have the right attitude, interesting problems will find you.
  26. Figure out what sucks. Don’t do that.
  27. To swear off making mistakes is very easy. All you have to do is to swear off having ideas.
  28. The next best thing to having good ideas is recognizing good ideas.
  29. Always come into the scene at the last possible moment
  30. Good programmers know what to write. Great ones know what to rewrite (and reuse).
  31. Plan to throw one away; you will, anyhow.
  32. Release early. Release often.
  33. Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.
  34. Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away.
  35. What the expert is tired of today, the public will be tired of tomorrow.
  36. If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.
  37. To explain responsibility to advertising men is like trying to convince an eight-year-old that sexual intercourse is more fun than a chocolate ice cream cone.
  38. Individuals must have the ability to shape their own experiences.
  39. Try never get drunk outside yr own house.
  40. Happiness is the real proof.

Manifesting a Manifesto

The job recently just tossed out a “Creative Manifesto”.  Based on the reaction I’ve seen and heard, it was not particularly well-received.  And I have to agree with that assessment.  And being obsessed about things like that, obsessed about analyzing failures, I started to think about why.  And it was pretty easy to figure out what the problem was.  It wasn’t actually a manifesto.  The following resulted.

On Manifestos

My god, the last thing a manifesto can be is boring.

Manifestos live inside a permanently screaming exclamation point a hundred foot high, on fire with delight in its own madness.  Manifestos want to punch the world in the face.  They want to kick you in your id and make you think that your actions can alter the orbit of the world — and that you’re a horrific fool for doubting your power for a blue-hot second.

If manifestos aren’t obsessed, crazy over the top insanity, or at the very least a cranky collection of pissed-off wisdom, then they’re not manifestos.

Instead, they’re HANG IN THERE inspirational posters, based on images of cute kittens – only the kittens are wearing Ray-Bans and pretending to be gangsters.

Pfft!  Pfft!  Hsssssss.  Bang, bang!  Pyew, pyew!  I am fierce!

Niiiiice kitty.  Nice, harmless, toothless kitty.  (pat, pat)  You can haz cheezburger.

The following post is an uber-manifesto, a manifesto di tutti manifesti, a godfather of all manifestos, created Frankenstein-like from other fine examples of the form.

A form that doesn’t just promise revolution, it demands it.

Later, I will come back and link all the sources.  Maybe.


Chatbot versus The Robot

Only hours before “Rapture 2: Fingers Crossed This Time”, there was an epic showdown of a different nature between a sex/chat/bot and Clive “The Robot” Thompson, noted technology writer and bon vivant.

Impressively, The Robot beat the Chatbot on a clear TKO, boring it into silence. If there had been an cyborg referee, it would have stopped the chat fight in the 8th round.

Which reminds me…

For a while, in 1995, I wrote critical reviews of spam. I was working as copywriter, including writing emails, and thought analyzing the poor form of these amateur marketers would be interesting and useful to writers in traditional marketing transitioning over to interactive formats.

In about 3 months, the spam emails continued improving until one day, I caught myself critically reviewing an email someone on the general side of the agency had sent me.  In just a few months, the Nigerian Princes and Viagra Merchants had evolved to sound more like human beings than actual $300/hour copywriters sitting just a few floors up from me.

16 years later, a pretty simple piece of code can sound more human than 90% of posts on brand pages on Facebook.

Which gives me an idea for a business…

Brand style guide + Eliza chatbot code = Social Media Automation!

Just wind BrandEliza up, and watch the “Likes” spiral into the stratosphere!

Couldn’t be any more impersonal than half of what I see in my feed on a daily basis.

BTW, I suspect if the chatbot had been coded to respond with random quotations from Hobbes and Kant, The Robot would probably still be chatting.

Bentham56689:  “All right, sir, give me your credit card to verify you are old enough to talk about the Categorical Imperative .”

Clive:  “Visa OK?”

30 Burl: Auld Lang Syne

And finally, a song for New Year’s Eve.   Burl actually performed a New Year’s Eve show in San Francisco — crossing over from 2000, to 2002 — in Miss Max Whitney’s basement near the Pacific Ocean.

Look!  Proof!

I don’t remember all of the songs we played, except for a well-played, terribly sung cover of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, and a accidental sing-along of “The Rose”.

Turns out that every woman in North America sung that song in 8th Grade choir, and still knows the words.  (As explained to me by Terri Senft, later.)

“Auld Lang Syne” was one of the songs we practiced, I know, but only to play on the beach later with acoustic guitars.  I had been singing in my car for two years at that point, which did not have the same volume restrictions as NYC apartments.  Turns out my voice is more reliably on key when I belt it out.  However, belting it out next to Spingo’s ears in the living room annoyed the living hell out of him.

Poor bastard.  I would have thought he was used to my voice violating his ears at that point, but I guess human beings can recover from just about anything.

Hope y’all can recover from 30 Burl.

Auld Lang Syne

30 Burl: Big Red Blues

A couple weeks back, I posted a link to a dirty-ish Xmas song, sung by Miss Ella Fitzgerald.  Little did I remember that Spingo and I had done a blues song inspired by the same basic silly joke about chimneys.

I believe you can guess that joke, yes?

However, I do remember enjoying this one ins particular, because Spingo had a handheld loudspeaker, which had a handset like a cop radio.  So we stuck the speaker end of that up near a mic, and wailed away.  Still sounds cool to me, like a thumpy Christmas blues carol sung in a basement in 1953, and only recorded by accident.

Big Red Blues

30 Burl: Xmas Eve Posting

So yes, I’ve been posting like an elf, getting a bunch of files up after a week.

However, I will not be putting up a plethora of songs, including

– More Jingle Bells covers

– Covers like  “Holly Jolly Xmas”  (because I don’t like it)

– And some originals like “Happy Merry” (which has aged poorly to my ears) and “Surfin’ Santa” (because I like “Let It Surf” better).  I will link to “Big Red Blues”, though, because of our use of a loudspeaker to sing and record through still entertains me.

The final upload will be “Auld Lang Syne”, in a classic Burl thump-thump style.