Among the subplots Joshua Cohen cut from Witz:

a Spinoza section, set in seventeenth century Netherlands; a section written entirely in transliterated Yiddish; a section written entirely in Hebrew (untransliterated, which is to say with Hebrew characters); a section set in (the nonexistent Jewish) Heaven, which I severed to form my previous novel, A Heaven of Others; at least three other recipes, two scenes set at the White House, two in “Palestein,” and numerous recurring conversations between trees or people named for trees (this was never quite clear: Apfelbaum, Birnbaum, etc., straight through to Zitronenbaum), of whom only a Feigenbaum remains.

As for when I knew the book was finished: I’ll only know when my father finishes reading it.

Twilight of the Superheroes

Last night I was in the Powell St. BART station returning home after seeing Twilight because when I am hungover and unslept I turn into a fourteen-year-old girl. For a couple of years now this station has almost exclusively run single-product campaigns, e.g. with every single billboard and pole-poster–at  least several hundred throughout the station–devoted to a single product. My fellow hungover friend knew the official term for this strategy: station domination.

The brand currently dominating the Powell St. station is Pepsi, in one of those campaigns that never states the product’s name — just an oblique URL (““) and Pepsi’s redesigned logo, which takes their old red-white-and-blue-balled lozenge and torques it:


It looks more like a airline logo now — and, of course, like the symbol for the Obama campaign. As I type this, I feel there must be at least 114 Bay Area and New York City–area bloggers writing identical posts about this very issue. Pepsi begs for the comparison — not just the logo tweak, but the campaign’s text: Refresh Everything and the attendant catchlines (several contain the word “change”) could have easily gone on an Obama/Biden bumper sticker. It all makes me want to play that classic parlour game,  Imagine What the Advertising Agency’s Meeting About This Campaign Was Like!!

  • Our logo is a lot like Obama’s. We need to turn this potentially diluting liability into a “positive” by co-opting the logo and the slogan. Change becomes refreshment, in every sense of that word: mouth-refreshment, cultural refreshment, political refreshment, spiritual refreshment. It’ll be a poppy, punny, sunny campaign: several billboards (and the TV spots) have the word POP (with the logo as the O) repeated with no context, so the meanings multiply: pop as in Midwestern for soda;  pop as in the Apples in Stereo track that accompanies the spots. Populism? Popularity? This country is behind Obama, and we’ll run the campaign where his support was strongest. The new Pepsi will be what fuels and refreshes this nation’s new Change-thirsty citizens.

The campaign is so obvious that it feels dumb to criticize it. It’s hard to imagine anyone missing the connection. Is this worth fighting against? Should we boycott Pepsi? Is there an editor who’d want an angry letter? Should I throw away my old Fun Trick Noisemaker CD?

The forgotten corners of our world

ARFIN: are you a little shitwizard? [Impatient, and with furious affection] Yes you are!

CELEBRIANNE: no, I’m just sensitive

A: What did you do last night during the historic election?

C: Thought about sadness

A: Are you really that self-important?

C: No. I mean, yes. I acknowledge that the historic election will mean that the U.S. will not be regarded as a pile of wet, soiled down comforters anymore. And other good things that happen with a Democratic administration. But when I look in the mirror…

A: What to you see, Celebrianne?

C: My face.

A: OK… What else?

C: Whatever’s behind me. Whatever I’m standing in front of. My stereo. Some posters. A hamper.

A: What time of day is it?

C: [Hugs herself a little, like she’s a big ole mug of tea, and her arms are fingers, and she’s warming herself on a mug of steaming self.] It’s definitely night. I have school the next day. We’re in New City, New York.

A: Are you a lesbian?

C: Yes. No. I have a boyfriend.

A: What is his name?

C: Playa. Maya. Something like that. He’s an Indian. He’s blind. He’s got Michael Phelps’s body. He’s alone. He can’t hear me. [Not shouting] Michael…

A: Have you eaten?

C: I ate some of those Paul Newman Oreos. And a few cups of decaffeinated tea. Herbal. Before that, nothing since the afternoon, a Nutter Butter. A latté.

A: How did you get here?

C: I drove my white Camaro. I’m menstruating. I’m a convincingly rendered female character. I’m alone.

A: Do you like comedy?

C: I like the arty shit. My Dinner with Paper Rad (1997). Just kidding. I watch Alf.

A: Do you like art?

C: I like sex. I masturbate. I kid. I go to museums. I’ve believed since I was young that going to a museum is a psychic battery charging experience. The charge from a long visit to a good museum of modern or contemporary art can last up to two months, sometimes longer. I like Nam June Paik, Robert Rauschenberg, everyone I’ve ever kissed–

A: You’re cute.

C: Thank you.

A: Do any of your friends have good lives?

C: They all do. They’re all fantastic lovers, and their lovers are the luckiest humans around. We live like gods. I’d like you to feed me a grape.

[C Produces a film-processing envelope from Walgreen’s. Removes the photos. A and C go through the pictures together: Scenes from the early morning of Nov. 4, 2008, in New York City and San Francisco. Young people dancing in impromptu street parties. C stops at one picture of a young man standing off to the side of the impromptu Obama celebration, watching. He leans against a car, hands in pockets, an only partially artificial smile on his face.]

A: Who’s that?


C: That’s our narrator. He’s glad Obama won. He’s thrilled. He’s got the two beers and one glass of champagne he drank last night to prove it. He’s also got the little assentive murmurs he made during Obama’s acceptance speech to prove it. His loudest assentive grunt came after Obama said

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

I wonder if it resonated so much because he himself was huddled in a lush, boozy approximation of the scenario Obama was describing. In retrospect it also sort of reminds him of his dad telling a story of being a young hippie traveling in Europe in —  ’67? And hearing the Doors’ “Light My Fire” for the first time, in a room of other traveling hippies huddled around the radio. Eastern Europe. They were thrilled by the song; it was revolutionary. Not actually revolutionary, of course: it was a pop song. And of course Obama is referring to suffering, impoverished folk, not  traveling American 1960s counterculturalists or coked-up and genuinely pleased twentysomethings. People were passing around a bottle of Maker’s, and a bong, during Obama’s speech. We were moved. I teared up. I thought a guy I didn’t meet or speak to, who took a practiced bonghit during C-Span’s commentaryless footage of the Grant Park throng waiting for Obama, mocked me by satirically echoing my assentive grunt.

A: I’m sure he was just dealing with some esophagul difficulties.

C: I took it personally. [Spots a piece of melted chocolate icecream on the bicep of her peacoat, and laps at it like a fucking kitty]


Coming soon on Good Jobbbb:

  • More Internet
  • More occluded life-jams
  • Jasmine Tea Houses
  • Concert memories
  • Sheafed Knifes
  • Leaflet Porn
  • Campesinos
  • Campesongos
  • Campebongos
  • Chupacabras (marijuana cigarette dipped in wine/malt liquor–blend)
  • Tea-tree oil cigarettes (aka Natural Mentholz, no toothpix allowed)
  • Knee Braces
  • Dental Braces
  • Neck Braces
  • Neck Laces
  • Shoe Shines
  • Torpor
  • Torpid Speedos (Aka Torpedoes)
  • Nudity
  • Fruitidy (aka Fruitopia)
  • “Sporne Identity”
  • Sweepsteaks
  • Nut crouchers (secret)
  • Drugs
  • “Teen Drogas” (TV)
  • Plumes of Kindness
  • Vanishing Plumes of Kindness

duty free

I have been given a bottle of Cachaça Sabiá. Tonight I drank it and then shaved. Imagine me, sugar-drunk, hacking at my neck with a Mach 3, singing the old Brazilian songs! That’s inaccurate—that’s not how I shave. Today on the street we saw a man use a whip to whack a cigarette out of someone else’s mouth—three quick strokes toward the nose, in between much verbal build-up. That’s how I shave—with a whip, and cigarettes, and another man. After I shaved I went back to practicing that gesture they have here, the one that means “Yes, I am enthusiastic about doing that” or “Hurry up over there.” You whip your index finger into your thumb and the middle one, and even without any snapping it sounds like you’re snapping. You snap your wrist, but that’s it—nothing above the wrist is snapped. It’s done best by the guy who’s moving to San Francisco soon, the journalist who’s changing jobs to be a test subject at a newly opened psychedelics-research institute, where he’ll be working with Quilty—just kidding! Quilty will not be administering treble doses of jimson weed to him via eye dropper twice a day, for no pay—the whole operation’s volunteer-run. The eye dropper will have been donated, and inappropriate for clinical use. Not long ago the gesturing journalist brought back two hundred lucid-dream-inducing pills from a seminar in Hawaii. “You can do anything,” he told us. “You can fly; you can fuck.” “But when you wake up, do you still feel tired?” my coworker asked him. In America, his gesture can’t mean much besides “There’s something stuck to my hand,” but I will learn it.

Continue reading “duty free”