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"If you can't be funny, be interesting" -- Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker (via The Writers Almanac





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"War doesn't decide who is right, only who is left."





"The adventure itself will create beautiful things..." 


-- Jon Anderson 




"“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”


-- Annie Dillard (via The Writers Almanac

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Dear friends, 

I'll be back out on the road for the second half of the Brat Pack America Tour this winter and spring.

If you're nearby, come out and have a Fruit Roll Up with me!




Denver (Thurs., Jan. 19th. 7pm) 

Tattered Cover Bookstore Historic Lodo (1628 16th Street at Wynkoop Downtown)


Miami (Sun., Jan. 22nd, 4 pm) 

Books and Books Coral Gables (265 Aragon Ave,  Coral Gables


New York (Manhattan. Wed., Jan 25th, 7 PM) 

The Strand Bookstore (828 Broadway at 12th

In conversation with Jason Diamond, followed by a screening. 15$ 





Menlo Park, CA (Wed. Feb. 1, 7:30 pm) 

Kepler's Books (1010 El Camino Real


Phoenix, AZ (Thurs. Feb. 2, 7pm) 

Changing Hands Bookstore Downtown (300 W. Camelback Rd at 3rd Ave)  


Albuquerque, NM (Wed., Feb. 8, 4:30, 6:30, 8:30) 

Guild Cinema (3405 Central Ave NE at Tulane Dr.

Three screenings of The Breakfast Club with onstage conversation between. Books for sale


Portland, OR (Sat. Feb 11, 9:30 AM) 

Hotel Benson (309 SW Broadway

Onstage interview with Washington Post book critic Ron Charles


Brooklyn, NY (Tues, Feb 21st, 7 PM) 

WORD Brooklyn (126 Franklin at Milton St. Greenpoint

In conversation with authors Virginia Heffernan and Clive Thompson about technology and nostalgia. 


Corte Madera, CA (Thurs. Feb 23rd, 7 PM) 

Book Passage (51 Tamal Vista, Blvd.





Cincinnati, OH (Tues. March 7th 2pm)

Speaking at University of Cincinnati's Clermont College, Claremont College Art Gallery. 


Northbrook, IL (Thurs. March 9th) 

Northbrook Public Library 


Austin, TX. (Sun. March, 12th) 

SXSW Film Panel (not open to the public) 


Louisville, KY (Thurs., March 16th) 

Carmichael's Bookstore




Livermore, CA  

Livermore Public Library (1188 S. Livermore Ave.)




Walnut Creek, CA

Walnut Creek Public Library (1644 N. Broadway



See you on the highways and byways of Brat Pack America. And keep going where we don't need roads! 




Each year, I make a playlist of 50 songs I heard for the very first time that year (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 editions). They don't have to be new songs, just new to me. Beginning around mid December, I listen over again to every song I discovered that year (usually between 400-500 although in 2016, it was 798) and whittle it down to 50 for your listening pleasure. 

Idea is not to be a compendium of new releases or a greatest hits of my favorites but rather a musical mosaic of that year in music. If I have done my job, I can look at the list and see my year captured in song. If I have done my job, you look at this list and say "Wow! This is all over the place." If you love everything here or even hate most of it, I have had a timid, mediocre year as a student and explorer of music. 

Listening: Start at the beginning. Give a song 20 seconds. If it ain't grabbing you, skip to the next one. You will not hurt my feelings in doing so. If you like where a song is going, keep listening. The goal is never for you to fall in love but to want a second date with new songs and artists. 

Listen in good health, enjoy. And here's to a sonically rich 2017.





5 Great Movies From/Seen First in 2016: 

Group of Irish teenagers in 1980s Dublin start a band to impress girls. Think The Commitments in high school. If you think Stranger Things was the best use of the 1980s this year in pop culture, think again. 

Documentary about a 50 year-old New Yorker obsessed with trains and buses who keeps posing as an MTA driver and getting arrested for it. Big-hearted, sad, fascinating. One of the best documentaries I've seen in a very long time. 

Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis in a romantic comedy that miraculously transcends being about blandly attractive white people and their issues. Accepting that both Nora Ephron and Carrie Fisher are irreplaceable, this is the closest I've seen to a 21st century When Harry Met Sally

True story of three black women working at NASA in the 1960s and were instrumental in first Apollo space of the1960s. No joke, this portrait of unknown, modern day heroism makes you proud to be an American. If there's justice, has Oscar written all over it. 

1984 concert documentary of the Talking Heads at the height of their fame on tour for their breakthrough "Speaking in Tongues" album. I can't claim to know this band or their music very well but their use of stagecraft and effects the way they make this not just a concert but a great show and a great movie, well you must see for yourself.  

Directed by Johnathan Demme, just a few years before he won an Oscar for Silence of the Lambs






  • March (3 Volumes) by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Ayden and Nate Powell. 

A graphic-novel/autobiography of Civil Rights pioneer John Lewis, who was present at the Selma "Bloody Sunday" march in 1965, who worked with Martin Luther King and has served in Congress since 1981. March won both the Eisner Award and the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, the first graphic novel ever to do so. Illustrated in haunting black and white, told like a great legend from America's past that feels, hauntingly like America's present. 

Similar to: MausPersepolis

A hilariously joyous debut novel about a woman deciding to forgo sex and how this lines up in her relationship history. The kind of book you find yourself sneaking 3 pages over breakfast because it's so much fun and you feel you are living a grimmer life without it.  

Similar to: Waiting to Exhale if one character manifested the traits of all four friends. 

Fella in semi-famous 90s indie rock band finds time travel portal in closet that can take you back to the great concerts of your past. Loses best friend in portal. Enlists physicist to help him retrieve friend. Falls in love with physicist. Somehow manages to be a music book, science fiction and a love story. Another book that seems glued open in your hands because you simply cannot stop reading it. 

Similar to: Dr. Who, genders reversed,  meets High Fidelity

2016 began with the death of the great Justin Chin, poet, essayist, a brilliant talent and inspiration to me personally. It had been far too long since I had read any of his seven books so I started over at the beginning: His second collection of poetry Harmless Medicine is my favorite, both political, personal, vulnerable and, as much, just a plain old breathtaking use of the English language. Great for carrying around with you when you need a quick 2 page reminder of just how beautiful words can be. 

Similar to: A Keith Haring mural rendered in text. 

Dave Holmes was an MTV VJ in the 90s. A gay, catholic kid from St. Louis who found his way professionally by representing mainstream pop culture to kids all over America. You may have read Holmes in Esquire or listened to his podcast and know his snappy warm voice from there.

If you don't, start with this book. You'll be reading about the life of someone you definitely want to be your new smartest best friend, one who is eager to share how much he knows about pop culture which will surely be more than you.And you'll want to hear much more.  

Similar to: Dan Savage meets Chuck Klosterman than has lunch with How Stella Got Her Groove Back






Two years ago, I announced that I was working on a new book called which would be a look at the teen movies of the 1980s.

Today, I can announce that My new book Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to 80s Teen Movies has just been published and I’m Footloose-dancing which excitement. 


Brat Pack America is a nonfiction look at The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Heathers, Real Genius and Dirty Dancing, about where these movies were made and what that said about that moment in America, in pop culture and why they are as loved today as they were then. It's contains about 45 of your favorite movies from the 1980s and a ton of behind the scenes info and trivia. I also talked to some of your favorite actors, writers and directors responsible for these great movies, including the geniuses behind Fast Times at Ridgemont High, House Party and Heathers

The book also looks great thanks to the team at Rare Bird Books in Los Angeles, my publishers and friends, who have worked so hard to assure it a fighting chance at a bookstore, on a nightstand and in a purse and backpack near you. The cover looks like this 




I'll be touring across America this fall and next year in support of the book. See you on the highways and byways of Brat Pack America and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

The book may be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powells, Indiebound or your local independent bookstore. 

If you've like a signed copy, please order from Booksmith in San Francisco where I will be sending out books personalized to you by me. 

Thank your for support, dear friends. Let's make this DeLorean fly. 





The following is from my semi-regular newsletter The Smoke(ler) Signal
-- Ritualize creativity. Far and away the first reason I hear from students and my own head for why creative endeavors don't happen is "I can't find the time. I'd like to write/draw/paint/record more but practical shit always get my attention first." 

Solution:  Pair creativity with practical shit. I'll take a few notes after parking my car. I take a few photos while running a stupid errand. I sketch or doodle for about 90 seconds before morning meditation. 

Creativity happens regularly when it feels regular. If it's workaday, like brushing your teeth, it will happen as often as you brush your teeth. If it must be special and mind blowing and a great communion with the muse every single time, well how often does "mind blowing" happen? 

-- Read long and short. I'm in the middle of reading a mammoth book right now and while it's magnificent, it's also dense, slow and the size of an adult raccoon. Which means I can usually do about 5 pages a day before collapsing from reader's exhaustion then gazing with lust at the stack of shorter, more fun books that taunt me from the nightstand. 

I'm usually a one-book-at-a-time reader. But in this set of special circumstances, I've taken to reading my mammoth book and a shorter, fun book at the same time, I get to read the fun one after I've finished 5 pages of Gigantor. Candy after broccoli. 

-- Apple Trailers. You wanna know what movies are coming out, even to just add them to your Netflix Queue? Apple Trailers updates every Monday. I watch 15 minutes of trailers on Monday before getting to work and feel like Roger Ebert. And no, I don't find trailers spoil the movie for me. Usually all I remember from the trailer is the decision to see the movie or not. 

-- Music Discovery: Ancestors and Descendants. The AllMusic database is Wikipedia about musicians before Wikipedia existed. More importantly, each artist page (here's Prince) has a section that lists that artists' main influences and whom they influence, their parents and their children, musically speaking.

If you find yourself having a hard time discovering new music, start here. Pick 3 of your favorite artists, see who influenced them and who they inspired. You won't be straying too far from what you already like, musically speaking but you will also have kicked out the back door and gone outside. Which is a great start. 

 -- The Creative Ramp. Every creative endeavor that seems hard has easier, quicker pieces to it--playing scales on a musical instrument, warming up your voice to sing, taking notes to write. Always start with that simple stuff. Because trying out camera lenses or comparing paint colors is easy, right? It's photo spreads and finished novels that seem hard because they require several staircases to ascend. 

Don't try and broad jump to the top step. Begin with a slow, gentle ramp. then turn and look behind you. You'll be further up than you think.