Pains at the Panopticon

With the help of my pal Gary, who formats my books for publication, and my pal The Waitress, who has copyedited my most recent hunk o’ words to prevent my most egregious stupidisms from seeing light of web, I have posted Chapter Three of The Pains.

On the evidence, this project is coming out of the induced coma it’s been in for nearly a year now. With any luck the next chapter will be up soon.

Note: attentive readers may notice some allusions to, and borrowing from, the work of the late Chis McKinstry, creator of the Mindpixel project. As far as I’ve been able to determine, there is no copyright holder. I’ll have more to say about this when the final book is prepared for publication, but for now I just want to make this acknowledgement.

Such a Deal!

Hey Friends! How’d you like to support a struggling genius AND get a great deal on an excellent book (or two)? Today and tomorrow I’m offering my astounding novels at astounding discounts. If you dig Wetmachine, now would be a good time to show it, for once again the wolves are at the door. And if you just dig a good price on a good book, that works too.

The books in question are my Acts of the Apostles, a well regarded nanotech thriller, ostensibly about Gulf War Syndrome, which I wrote between 1995 and 1999 and published in 1999. Normally this goes for $15, but how does $5 sound, including shipping in North America? I’m offering the same deal on my Cheap Complex Devices and pre-orders of The Pains.

And of course, donations in support of the site (or any individual blogger: Me, Harold, Gary or Howard) are also always welcome.

Below the fold, more about these wonderful books, along with simple instructions for cashing in on these great, nay, scandalously great, deals.

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Babelicioius Porn

I saw the Cannes Film Festival “Best Director” prize winner Babel last night at the newly re-opened Capawok. This is the third film in a series, the other two being 21 Grams and Amores Perros.

After seeing the film I glanced at a few online reviews to see what others had made of it. Andrew O’Hehir of Salon, for example, liked a lot of what I liked about it and didn’t like some of the things that I didn’t like. Actually, I liked some stuff that he didn’t. He said it was philospophically lightweight, but I don’t think it was at all. Others have said it was more philosophically lightweight that the other two movies in this series, and there again I disagree.

However, no review that I’ve seen (I’ve only read a few) mentioned what to me was the most jarring thing about the movie, which was the exploitation of children; in particular of the child actors. There are scenes in this movie, whole themes, that very explicitly involve the sexual confusion of adolescents and the terror of very young children in bewildering, frightening situations. Especially in the case of the younger children, there is no way that they were “acting” confused and terrified. They were made so by the director, and he filmed them. The sexual scenes were in no way prurient, but I still found myself pulled totally out of the movie and thinking about the actors. Maybe I’m an old fuddy-duddy, but I think there are things you just shouldn’t ask young actors to do. I think the movie could have worked as well without several of the scenes; I’m thinking of the minor subplot about the boy and his sister in Morrocco. I’m less bothered by the Tokyo subplot because it’s about an older child and it’s central to the story. Nevertheless I think it was exploitative.

Are there certain things you can do in literature that you just can’t do in movies without breaking the implicit contract between children and adults? I think the answer is yes.


I sent a note to a friend of mine, a longtime working Hollywood TV/movie actor & recently award-winning producer. I asked him to tell me if I was being too prudish. Here was is his answer:

I liked Babel very much, flawed though it was. I thought the Japanese
segment was nothing short of astonishing- the disco sequence is far and away
one of the best pieces of cinema I’ve seen in some time. I think he
generally pushes the drama too far, bordering on ludicrous, but I also think
he manages a “reality” few filmmakers can come close to, and I believe
you’re suggesting this “reality” is too real for the kids in the film. My
answer is- I doubt it. I suspect that it’s all staged on the up and up and
that he’s just that good a director. I could be wrong, but the financing
deals alone for these type of film ventures demand very professional,
heavily insured productions, and there are laws about this stuff. If you’re
saying that “reality” or no, kids shouldn’t be in those kind of situations,
I also disagree. They likely do more/worse on their own, and the positive
lesson kids learn as they participate in discipline and hard work that goes
into actual filmmaking would most likely overshadow the situations they’re

Plus, my wife tells me that the actress in the Japan story is 25 years old. To be clear, my concern was about the actors, not about the story being told or the characters portrayed by the actors. So maybe I went overboard. I’m not quite at Emily Litella’s “nevermind”, but maybe a bit closer to it.

My life as a literary nobody (an update)

A few months ago I got an email invitation to a big party to be held at a trendy nightclub in New York City to commemorate Salon’s tenth anniversary. This was on account of the articles I’ve written for them over the years (see “stuff John wrote” in the little box on the right), one of which I later found out had been selected as one of the “Best of Salon 2003”. I figured I might get to hobnob with some high-octane literary people, maybe make some connections. You never know what might come of such things. So the big day came a few weeks ago and I drove down to Manhattan for this damn party. Hung around the dark noisy nightclub where I couldn’t see a thing or hear myself think. Didn’t know a soul who was there. I talked to a few people; a few short conversations. I even talked to Joan Walsh, Salon’s editor-in-chief. For about 11.5 seconds, that is, until a literary Somebody came by and Walsh turned away from me (the nobody), and posed with the Somebody for the cameraman with the big tripod that he was lugging all over the place and spazzing into people with. Which I thought was rather rude of her, actually, even though it was a noisy party and that kind of abrupt conversational focus-shift does happen at parties like that. I just stood there like a dork for about 2 minutes waiting to see if Walsh was going to resume the conversation that she left mid-word. Finally I took the hint and mosied along. At least the photographer didn’t offer to take my picture, which is good on account of I still have that bad tooth and I look like crap when I smile. Everybody who was a somebody was dressed in stylish black. I too was wearing a black sweater, but it didn’t count because I was also wearing “cheeno” pants and fake topsider boating shoes that I got at K-Mart in Manahawkin for $14.

It cost me thirty damn dollars to park the car. I missed most a day of work, too, between the going to and the coming from New York. My boss wasn’t too crazy about that. Here’s an account of the only significant connection made.

Inside: some more dead ends and projects that went nowhere.

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Nanoscopic sorrows and joys, and a real world Feynman Nine

Well it hurt my pride I must thay, *sniff* *sniff*, that the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival declined my 11th hour suggestion that they include me in their illustrious roster at the Gala Event which is to take place this Sunday up at the Chilmark Community Center, otherwise known as “That dusty place up at Beetlebung Corner where they have the Monday night AA meeting.”

Now, I know I’m no William Styron or David McCollough but give me a break. I’m certainly the most prominent geekoid technoparanoid miniaturist in Dukes County, and ought that not to count for something? “Maybe next year,” came the email at 12:37 this morning. Well, maybe next year to you too! That was my response as I waited for that coffee to finish perking as I read my mail this morning.

Normally I would take this kind of snub in stride but I had been kinda hoping to move a box or two of books, as I could use the grocery money not to mention that precious cubic footage in the shed where the inventory is kept.

But now let’s look on the bright side of my nanoscopic writerly fame!

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Transition States

I went to the theatre last night. At the Vineyard Playhouse, Dr. Yukevich did three short dramatic readings — one story by Joyce, one by Poe and one by his own self. This last was a Monty Pythony tale, and the good doctor, whose regular job is emergency room medicine, proved to be something of a John Cleese. The last time I had seen him it was 11:30 PM at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and he was treating my younger daughter for what turned out to be whooping cough.

I’ve been to the playhouse several times over the last year or so (ever since I got ‘volunteered’ to be an usher). I never want to go but always end up enjoying it, and of course ushers get in for free.

Anyway it got me to thinking. About how a story on the printed page is and is not the same thing as the identical story when acted out by a man in a costume. The words are the same, but what was a story has now become a play. It’s the same thing but it isn’t. Similarly, consider in what ways sheet music is the same as the music performed. You see where this is going. . . unless one snaps out of it, one is going to spend the next N hours lost in idle ontological daydreaming.

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Crass Commercial Anouncement

Crass Commercial Announcement

The bill for Wetmachine’s hosting is coming due pretty soon. Sure would be nice to sell a few books to help pay the freight! Why not take this opportunity to buy one!

The wonderfulness of same is attested to not only by me, but by the following reputable(!?!?) sources:

Acts of the Apostles:






and many more about which Google can inform you.

Cheap Complex Devices:



And Google. . .

Don’t forget that you can try before you buy. The complete sources of both books are available for free download — gust glance to the left side, under “read my books” and follow the links. The all important “buy my books” section is just below that.

Wetmachine will resume its regularly scheduled programming as soon as Harold or Gary or Peg or Howard or Bremser gets around to posting something to push this story down the page.