The Sporadic Beaver

One Year of U.S. Beaver

March 28, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Byron Nilsson, reviews, Amazon, Bloomsday

Maybe you're celebrating Maundy Thursday, but I'm celebrating the first anniversary of the U.S. publication of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, an event marked by a responsive reading of a review by Byron Nilsson, on a site called Words and Music, which ran one year ago today.

And quite a year it's been! The good news about Beaver Street, one year down the road, is that it's sold out on Amazon. Again. The bad news about Beaver Street, one year down the road, is that it's sold out on Amazon. Again.

I’m not about to complain about a book selling out repeatedly. I will only say that when the book does sell out, as it’s been doing the past two months, I’d be happier if Amazon got it back in stock more quickly or kept more copies in stock so it didn’t sell out as often.

And I will express gratitude for the fact that one year after its U.S. publication (and two years after its U.K. publication) critics continue to write about Beaver Street and people continue to buy it.

And finally, I will extend an open invitation to all readers to come to the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street on June 16 for the Second Annual Bloomsday on Beaver Street celebration. The Very Reverend Byron Nilsson will be presiding, and he thinks I know how to “make words dance.” He said so in his review. I will be doing my best to make those words dance in public.

Police Story

March 27, 2013

Tags: writing, police, Nowhere Man, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, diaries, Paniko, Javier Foxon

There's one more story about the police that's worth telling, and I've told it only once before--to the Chilean Website Paniko, when Nowhere Man was published in that country, in 2004. The writer, Javier Foxon, had asked me if Yoko Ono had returned my personal diaries--the ones I'd naively given to her, in 1982, when she asked to read them. Since Chile was 5,000 miles away, the interview was running in Spanish, and Paniko was not widely read by members of the NYPD, I figured I'd tell the truth.

I told Foxon that as the first edition of Nowhere Man was going to press, in 2000, Ono had returned my diaries--except for two small notebooks covering the summer of 1979. Foxon's inevitable follow-up question: What happened to the two volumes?

“Well,” I said, “I’m not really sure, but I don’t think their disappearance had anything to do with Ono.”

I explained that after I’d given my diaries to Ono, she turned them over to the police (and other legal and media entities), who combed though the half-million words I’d written, looking for evidence they could use to charge me with a crime, any crime, and use that as leverage to prevent me from ever writing about John Lennon’s diaries. (You can read about that fiasco here.)

But what the police found in the two volumes that had vanished were detailed notes about the gig I had in the summer of 1979, ghostwriting a novel for a former New York City cop. Those notes contained the names of cops I was taking drugs with, the dates we took the drugs, and the places we took them. In one notable passage, I described smoking a joint with a uniformed, on-duty cop in his patrol car.

“So,” I said to Foxon, “I figured the cops freaked out when they read that, and they wanted that information to disappear. I guess the two missing volumes ended up in a shredder.”

And unless I get arrested today, that’s the last police story I’m going to tell for a while.

A White Guy with a Pen

March 26, 2013

Tags: writing, police

Drawing by Mark The-k.
The most surprising thing about all the feedback I've been getting, on this blog and on Facebook, about my encounter with the police last week is that not one person said anything in support of the police. Somebody, I suppose, could have pointed out that the cops made an honest mistake, that they really did think I was defacing the wall, and that they didn't actually do anything to me (except surreptitiously read my notes).

Instead, people like Peter DuPre, a professional automotive journalist, posted a story about the time the police pulled him over for driving a "suspicious" car, pointed a gun at him, and threatened to shoot his injured dog, who was in the car.

The reason for this kind of reaction, I think, is that are a lot of bad cops out there, most people have had an encounter with one of them, and New York’s stop-and-frisk program has become internationally notorious. That the police accosted me, a middle-aged, middle-class white guy, in my own neighborhood, in the middle of the afternoon, is kind of shocking. And yes, the bit about the cop sneaking up behind me and reading what I was writing does have that distinct odor of the police state. I mean, suppose I was writing a novel about terrorism, and was jotting down some notes about blowing up the Brooklyn Bridge. Would the cops have just walked away? I doubt it.

So, let me just say this before, hopefully, moving on to other topics: Yes, it’s true, I did not like the police when I was younger and they routinely harassed me for walking with long hair, or pulled me over every time they saw me behind the wheel of a car, and gave me tickets for utter bullshit. But things changed, in the summer of 1979, when an ex-cop hired me to ghostwrite a novel (never published) based on his experiences as a patrolman in a New York City ghetto neighborhood. I hung out with cops and ex-cops. I drank with them, smoked weed with them, and snorted coke with them. I rode with them in patrol cars. I listened to their stories and I came to see them as human beings, some of whom had done some genuinely heroic things in the course of their careers. Which is to say that what happened to me the other day is not an indictment of the police themselves, but rather an indictment of what New York City has become under Michael Bloomberg in this age of terrorism, when a white guy wielding a pen can arouse the suspicion of the police, who, I’m sure, were only following orders.

The Writing's on the Wall

March 25, 2013

Tags: writing, police

I've gotten a lot of Facebook feedback since Friday's post about two cops accosting me in Greenwich Village because they thought I was writing graffiti on the wall of a building when, in fact, I was jotting down on a small piece of paper some notes for the book I’m working on.

Some of the feedback was deadly serious, with Skip Slavik, of Ohio, commenting at length about "the whole stop-and-frisk thing" ongoing in New York City, and the culture wars of the late 60s and early 70s, when cops all over America would routinely stop and frisk anybody who looked like a hippie. Other comments were sarcastic, with Gloria Malone, of the Bronx, noting, "Now Bloomberg is going to launch a new campaign against ball point pens."

I’d originally intended the post as a humorous anecdote about some of the absurd things that happen on the streets of New York. But it’s since occurred to me that this incident wasn’t quite as amusing as I first thought. The cop who was preparing to arrest me before he realized what I was doing said, “Oh, you’re a writer,” as he was backing away. How could he have known I was a writer, and not writing down a phone number, unless he was standing there long enough to read my notes? And that gave me the creeps—the idea that a cop had snuck up behind me, and whatever decision he’d made to frisk me or not frisk me, arrest me or not arrest me, was based, in part, on what I’d written. The cop was spying on me, and that’s no joke. It’s what happens in a police state.

And then, when I was out Saturday afternoon, and I stopped to jot down a few more notes, something I’ve been doing unselfconsciously for decades, I felt nervous about it, and took a careful look around to make sure there were no lurking cops. It broke my train of thought.

I leave you then with Exhibit A, the actual notes I was writing when the cops snuck up behind me. If you can’t read my scrawl, it says: “Banks: I knew from the moment I saw him” then a delete symbol followed by “walk in the door.” I then added, “2 cops think I’m writing on the wall. 40 years ago they would have arrested me.”

Good thing I don’t write with a can of spray paint.

Law & Order

March 22, 2013

Tags: writing, police

When I looked like this, circa 1973, what happened to me yesterday used to happen all the time. Photo © H. Edward Webberman.
I was on the corner of 6th Avenue and 13th Street, in Greenwich Village, not far from my house, around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, when an idea popped into my head for a minor edit for a passage in my book that I'd been struggling with all day.

This is the kind of thing that happens all the time, and I always carry a pen and a piece of paper with me so I can jot down ideas as they come. Since there was nothing horizontal around, like the top of a newspaper box, I leaned against the wall of the nearest building and began scribbling against its smooth marble surface.

I was totally focused on what I was writing when I sensed a presence an inch or two away. Looking to my right, I saw a cop was getting ready to grab me. But as soon as he saw up close what I was doing, and my face, he took a step backwards. Looking to my left, there was another cop, about a foot away.

"Oh, you’re a writer," said the first cop, a compact, wiry guy, about my own size, probably in his late 20s. "We thought you were writing on the wall."

He was now standing next to his partner, a hulking blond guy, about the same age, and they were both backing away quickly.

“You thought I was a graffiti artist?” I said. “With a ballpoint pen? You were going to arrest me.”

“Have a nice day,” said the first cop.

“Yeah, you, too,” I replied, as they both disappeared around the corner. “Have a nice day.”

But it shook me up—because 40 years ago this is the kind of thing that used to happen to me routinely. Except instead of the cops walking away and telling me to have a nice day, they’d frisk me. One especially memorable night, in 1969, they strip-searched me on a quiet Brooklyn side street—because I was loitering suspiciously. It’s the kind of thing that stays with you.

And I thought that if this were, say, 1973, my encounter with the police would not have ended so happily. At the least they’d have frisked me, because that’s what they always did, and possibly they’d have arrested me for writing on the wall, even if there were a piece a paper between my pen and that smooth marble surface. Because apparently, in this 21st century city, writers scribbling in the streets of Greenwich Village are not only suspicious, but a threat to law and order.

Apologies

March 21, 2013

Tags: Google, Missy Manners, Orrin Hatch

The bit of troublesome code that has made The Daily Beaver unsearchable.
It would be only a slight exaggeration to say that lately I've been blaming Google for everything from the Kennedy assassination to global warming. I said that their search engine was "the single biggest Internet fraud perpetrated on humanity in the 21st century." I said that having the Google building on the fringes of my neighborhood was only slightly less offensive that having a Trump tower in my neighborhood. I called their "Don't Be Evil" slogan absurd.

I said all these things because I thought that, last October, Google had changed their algorithm and virtually cut off all search traffic from this website. My evidence was that The Daily Beaver is the single best online source of information about the porn star Missy Manners (real name Elisa Florez) and her connection to anti-porn senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, and that's why my post of June 20, 2011, "21 Facts About Porn Star Missy Manners," has gotten more hits than any other post on this blog. But since The Daily Beaver became unsearchable, "21 Facts" has gotten zero hits. I blamed it all on Google.

It has recently come to my attention that The Daily Beaver is unsearchable not because of the Google algorithm, but because of a mistake in coding on the Website. If you’re reading this on a PC, you can see all the coding on this page by pressing “control” and “u”. On line 24, you’ll see that it says: meta name="robots" content="noindex". It’s the "noindex" that’s made this page unsearchable.

I brought this to the attention of my Website hosts, who apologized for the mistake and said that they’d have their programmers fix it. Apology accepted. And, of course, I sincerely apologize to Google for my wild accusations. Will they accept my apology? Isn’t that like asking if God accepts apologies?

Spring Siege

March 20, 2013

Tags: StorErotica, Adult Video News, LA Weekly, Bloomsday on Beaver Street

Somebody sent me this "lol" image yesterday, but I didn't get it. "Why is the beaver a liar?" I asked. "A beaver wouldn't lie."

"It's not a beaver," the sender explained. "It's a groundhog. It's a joke about the weather."

Though it has been winter-like here in New York City, spring did begin today at 7:02 A.M--which means that the Beaver Street Winter Assault, as I've insisted on calling the latest phase of my ongoing media campaign, has officially concluded.

Regular readers of The Daily Beaver are aware of the three successes that have continued to fuel Beaver Street’s quest to reach a more substantial audience. Allow me to recap:

· A major interview in the December 2012 issue of StorErotica, a trade magazine that goes out to every book-ordering sex shop owner in the U.S.
· A rave review in the February 2013 issue of AVN (page 53), which is the first time that Beaver Street has come to the direct attention of its core audience—people who work in the adult industry.
· An extensive photo feature posted March 6, in LA Weekly, which trended #1, and brought Beaver Street to the attention of that much sought-after mainstream audience.

So, it’s time to declare victory and move on to Spring Siege ’13, which will climax on June 16, at the Killarney Rose, with the second annual Bloomsday on Beaver Street: Father’s Day Edition.

See you there!

Still Angry After All These Years

March 19, 2013

Tags: Traci Lords, Beaver Street

Traci Lords talks about her rape on Piers Morgan.

Traci Lords, child-porn-star-turned-minor-Hollywood-starlet, is back in the news. The other day, as the lurid trial of two Steubenville, Ohio teenagers charged with rape was ongoing, Lords told Piers Morgan the story of how, when she was ten years old and living in Steubenville--or "Stupidville" as she said everybody there calls it--her teenage boyfriend raped her. This is typical of the kind of stuff that's always happened in Steubenville, she said.

Lords, whom I describe in Beaver Street as an ambitious juvenile delinquent who, in the 1980s, using a fraudulent passport and driver's license, systematically sought work in the porn industry, has built her "legitimate" career on playing the victim--a story that the courts dismissed more than 25 years ago, either dropping the charges against or acquitting everybody who'd worked with Lords and was then arrested for child exploitation. Nobody, they said, could have known that she was a minor. (The only exception was the president of a video company who'd foolishly sold 50 Lords tapes to an undercover vice cop after it was known that she was underage.)

But because her tale of teenage sexual victimization makes such good copy, the media has always treated Lords without skepticism, and their reaction to her “confession” on Piers Morgan is a case in point. Saying that the “former porn actress” had “come forward” to make a “shocking claim,” they seemed unaware that this is a story Lords has been peddling for the better part of 25 years, singing about her rape, in 1995, in a song titled “Father’s Field,” and writing about it, in 2003, in her less-than-revealing memoir.

The only thing of genuine interest about Lords’ latest media foray, which was designed to promote her latest song, is how, at age 44, she’s still angry about everything’s that’s happened to her. It was anger that fueled her porno career, her music career, and her writing career. And if Lords is to be believed, the root cause of all that anger is that long-ago rape. Which is a story worth telling, possibly one that some people might find helpful, and definitely one that deserves to be told honestly.

I Saw a Film and Read the News

March 18, 2013

Tags: writing, The New York Times, Janet W. Hardy

Amour, a movie about getting old, getting sick, and dying.

I saw Amour this weekend, and this is what I learned from it: Even if you're wealthy and live in a fabulous apartment in a country with universal healthcare, getting old, getting sick, and dying is still a major drag. If you find this kind of subject matter appealing, Amour presents it artistically and with subtitles.

I was also keeping up with people I know who were all over the news--like my mother, who was interviewed in the Florida Sun Sentinel about her volunteer work as an ombudsman protecting the rights of people who live in nursing homes. Having read this article soon after seeing Amour, it occurred to me that the U.S. should change the slogan on its currency from "E Pluribus Unum" to "Get Rich or Die."

Then another mother, my friend’s daughter, Gloria Malone, had an op-ed piece in The New York Times about being a teenage mother. Most impressive, Gloria. Can a book deal be far behind?

Not to be overlooked in this media frenzy was Janet Hardy, an author I met at the BEA last year, whose book Girlfag I wrote about here. Janet had a piece in Salon about her extraordinary tantric orgasm—an orgasm she described as feeling like “an orgasm times 100.”

A bit of comic relief was in order after processing this information, so I picked up a recent copy of The Spectator, which appeared on my coffee table the other day, presumably beamed in from another universe. The full-page ad on the back cover, for a Bentley Continental GT, with a top speed of 205 mph, tipped me off that I was not the intended audience for this magazine. Who is the intended audience? They appear to be moneyed, titled, ultra-conservative Brits, who enjoy reading people like Taki. A quote from his regular column, “High Life,” tells you all you need to know about The Spectator. “One checks into a hotel for the first time and the concierge calls you by your Christian name,” the Greek journalist complains. “Travel is now an exercise in being among slobs. Tracksuits, trainers, loud dirty children, fat people drinking out of bottles with wires hanging from their ears, they are the best excuse I know of for paying through the nose and flying private.”

Isn’t it time for this guy to check into a nursing home?

Port Noise Complaint

March 15, 2013

Tags: Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint, Kendra Holliday

I mentioned in yesterday's post, "Old School", how Portnoy's Complaint had blown my mind at "a tender age." As Philip Roth's 80th birthday is March 19, the tale of how this happened bears repeating. I originally told the story in my interview with Kendra Holliday of The Beautiful Kind, when she asked me about my influences as writer, and I said that Roth was among my "Holy Trinity" of influences. Here's the story:

As for Philip Roth, whom I also quote at the beginning of Beaver Street, no book has ever blown my mind the way that Portnoy's Complaint did when I read it at 16. My aunt had gotten the book through a book-of-the-month club. We were visiting her in New Jersey one day, and she's telling my parents about this disgusting book that she wants to get out of the house. I'm listening to the conversation, and I think she's saying "Port Noise Complaint," which sounds like a boring book about people complaining about foghorns and squawking seagulls. I couldn't figure out what the big deal was. Anyway, she gives the book to my parents, and a couple of days later I'm sitting at my desk, doing homework. I look up at the bookshelf, and the title catches my eye. Oh, PORTNOY'S Complaint. So I start reading it, and by the time I got to the chapter called "Whacking Off," I understood why everybody in the world was talking about it.

Old School

March 14, 2013

Tags: Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint, writing

A younger Philip Roth in Newark, NJ. Photo from Philip Roth: Unmasked © Bob Peterson.
Philip Roth: Unmasked, the new documentary by William Karel and Livia Manera, is playing for free this week at the Film Forum, in Manhattan, so I went around the corner last night and saw it. (It will be broadcast March 29, on PBS.)

Having had Portnoy’s Complaint blow my mind at a tender age; having then read about half of Roth's prodigious 30-book output; and having been profoundly influenced by his writing, I found the film mesmerizing and instructive. Roth is as witty and compelling in person as he is in his books. Listening to him talk, for 90 minutes, about his early life, his parents, his process, his work habits, and the reaction to his books, made him seem like the kind of entertaining fellow I'd enjoy hanging out with, which I suppose was the point. Roth knows how to perform for the camera.

His tale of a cab driver named Portnoy picking him up soon after Portnoy’s Complaint became a scandalous sensation is typical of the stories he tells throughout the film. Roth asks the cabbie, who doesn’t recognize him, if people have been giving him a hard time since the book came out. Portnoy tells Roth that everybody who gets into the cab makes some kind of joke about his name. “I want to kill the son of a bitch who wrote that book,” he says. When the ride ends, Roth tells him that he wrote the book. “You son of a bitch!” Portnoy says. “I thought it was you.” Roth gives him a $20 tip.

Though Roth retired this year, one of the most striking things about the film is how old school he is. Not once does he mention the Internet, e-books, tweeting, blogging, or any of a dozen other things that working 21st century writers must contend with. There’s exactly one shot of a computer—it appears to be an early-1990s model—but you don’t see Roth using it. He writes with a pen, standing up at a podium-like desk, in his Connecticut house. Writing standing up, he explains, makes it easier to think, and anytime he gets stuck, he just walks around his study until the ideas flow again.

Most of what Roth says further illuminates aspects of his life and career I already knew about. I didn’t know, however, that he dated Mia Farrow (she discusses their “friendship”), and that chronic back pain nearly drove him to suicide. A shot of Roth hobbling along a path in a cemetery drives home just how frail he is, and that his 80th birthday is impending. He says that the idea of death makes him feel “sad,” but it doesn’t worry him.

One bit of practical advice I got from the film: Roth says that any time a writer is born into a family, the family is “ruined.” He then explains that you can’t publish a book like Portnoy’s Complaint without preparing your parents. Which reminded me that I’ve got some of my own preparing to do, and that it would be a very good idea to do it before I publish any future volumes.

Talk of the Town

March 13, 2013

Tags: Philip Roth, writing

The recently retired Philip Roth, America’s foremost living novelist, turns 80 on March 19. The media is in a frenzy over this event, probably because it's the last time in our lifetimes that we'll see such a public uproar over a writer’s birthday. Popular, prolific, polarizing, and critically acclaimed over six decades, Roth has achieved a level of fame no longer attainable to any writer.

A piece by Adam Gopnik about Roth's birthday, in the current New Yorker, talks about how the future of making a living as a writer in America is "in doubt as rarely before," and gives all the usual Internet-associated reasons for this. One sentence in particular jumped out at me: "It has never been easier to be a writer; and it has never been harder to be a professional writer."

I couldn’t agree more. Book publishing has always been America’s ultimate can’t do industry. No matter how much sense an idea makes, somebody in book publishing will always find a reason not to do it. When something miraculously goes right, no matter how routine, it’s always the exception that proves the rule. And even when things are going well, even when your books are selling, even before the Internet ravaged the writing profession with the notion that people should write for free and “content” should be available for free, somebody, somewhere along the line can always be counted on to fuck things up, either by design or by accident. If you had a bestseller, for example, chances are excellent that your publisher is busy figuring out a way to not pay you royalties. I could go on. But I won’t.

I’ll simply congratulate Roth for surviving and thriving in this kind of environment since 1960, when his first book, Goodbye, Columbus, was published. Happy birthday, Philip! You’ve been an inspiration.

There Goes the Neighborhood

March 12, 2013

Tags: Google

Walking down 9th Avenue in New York the other day, I was taken aback to see a big Google sign on the building across the street from Chelsea Market. It wasn't there last time I walked by, even though, as I've just learned, the Internet monolith has occupied the building since 2008. It was simply a case of the company making it official: Howdy! We're your new neighbors and we're here to stay!

My feelings about Google have been less than positive since they stopped referring search traffic to this Website five months ago. It was one thing to know they were busy taking over the world thousands of miles away, in Mountain View, California. But to see that they'd set up an outpost on the fringes of my neighborhood, within walking distance of my house, felt like a violation of my personal space. I'd have felt the same way if the George W. Bush Library had moved into the building: offended.

It’s not as if I could walk into the Google Building, welcome them to the neighborhood with a bag of fresh bagels, and ask if somebody could explain to me why they’d cut off my search traffic. Nor could I have asked them for an advance on some of that $125 million they’re supposed to pay to the Authors Guild for copyright violations. One cannot reason with monopolies, even monopolies whose motto is “Don’t Be Evil.” (I’m sure that sign is coming soon.) To walk into the Google Building and start demanding answers to unpleasant questions sounds like a good way to get arrested, and I’m sure Google security is state of the art.

There is, in short, nothing I can do about my new neighbors but learn to live with them. Just as I learned to live with a Trump tower three blocks away. Which serves as a good reminder that there are far more offensive things in this city physically closer to me than Google.

The Beaver Sells Out and Other Tales from My Media Weekend

March 11, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, Nowhere Man, John Lennon, LA Weekly, Core of Destruction Radio

By the time you click on the graphic to the left, "10 Sexy Photos from the History of Pornography" may very well have dropped out of the top 10 of the "Most Popular Blog Stories" in LA Weekly. But that's the ephemeral nature of the Internet. What's "hot" now is not going to be hot 10 seconds from now. Whatever the case, with all the tweeting and Facebooking, Beaver Street has had a good run in LA this week, and if there's one city where it should have had a good run, it's LA. The piece, posted Wednesday morning, led to an immediate sellout of the book on Amazon, which is the first time that's happened.

Meanwhile, over in Chicago, my Nowhere Man interview with Bryan "Shu" Schuessler was streamed Sunday afternoon on Core of Destruction Radio. As it was being streamed, I had a lot of fun on the chat board with Lizard Messiah, the guy who runs the Website. We talked about John Lennon, Beaver Street, Jim Morrison, and conspiracy theories. Lizard was unfamiliar with Lennon's first solo album, Plastic Ono Band, but when the interview ended, he played two cuts from the LP, Mother and Working Class Hero. Very cool. (If you missed the interview it's available as a free download here.)

Goatserpent, a Core of Destruction DJ, also logged onto the chat board for a while. I noticed on his profile page that under “Favorite Books” he lists “early 90s issues of Swank.” Hey, Goat, you ought to pick up a copy of Beaver Street. I worked for Swank in the early 90s.

That Was the Week that Was

March 8, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, LA Weekly, Nowhere Man, Shu-Izmz, Core of Destruction Radio

Media exposure is the oxygen that keeps books alive, and this week Beaver Street and Nowhere Man both got a nice infusion of it. Between the Beaver Street pictorial in LA Weekly--trending #1 last time I checked--and the Nowhere Man interview on Shu-Izmz (which will be streamed this Sunday on Core of Destruction Radio), I can unconditionally call this a good media week. Since it's Friday, it's snowing in New York City, and the Mistress of Syntax has taken a day off from work, my inclination is to end this post right here and go out and play in the snow.

I'll follow my inclination. See you next week!

Shu and I

March 7, 2013

Tags: Shu-Izmz, Nowhere Man, John Lennon, Core of Destruction Radio, Mark David Chapman

The other day I wrote about recording a radio interview about my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, with Bryan "Shu" Schuessler, whom I described as "a culture vulture for the new millennium." His site, Shu-Izmz, is full of information and opinions about everything from death metal to cutting-edge literature. The interview is now available for download, and it will also be streamed on Core of Destruction Radio, this Sunday, March 10, at 1 P.M. Eastern Time. (Daylight savings time begins that day.)

If you're unfamiliar with Nowhere Man, the interview is a good, in-depth primer on how I came into possession of Lennon's personal diaries, transcribed them, and over an 18-year period was able to transform the information in the diaries into a book that takes you on a journey through Lennon's consciousness. I also talk about how, in the final part of Nowhere Man, I got inside the head of Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman.

As I tell Shu in the interview, I’m just happy that people still want to talk about Nowhere Man 13 years after it was originally published. If you want to know why people are still talking about the book, then give the interview a listen.

Hope to see you on the radio.

NSFW

March 6, 2013

Tags: LA Weekly, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, High Society

Thanks to LA Weekly, I've learned a new acronym: NSFW. It means "Not Safe For Work." That's how the paper has labeled their extraordinary Beaver Street pictorial, "10 Sexy Photos From the History of Pornography."

The spread brings to life much of what I write about in Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography--like High Society magazine. Ironically, if you toiled for that esteemed publication in the 1980s, NSFW had an entirely different meaning: Employees were forbidden to read The New York Times, or any other newspaper, without special permission. Instead, the publisher demanded that everybody spend as much time as possible reading (and stealing ideas from) competing porno mags, especially Hustler, which he considered the "bible" of beaver books.

In the likely event that you don’t work in an alternate X-rated universe, then NSFW is indeed the correct designation for the Weekly’s Beaver Street spread. So, read it when you get home, and take a trip down the memory lane of 20th century men’s mags. It’s a world that’s fast disappearing.

Don't Be Evil*

March 5, 2013

Tags: Google

*But destroy anybody who gets in your way.

The absurd Google slogan, "Don’t be evil," needed to be properly annotated, and I've done so above, bringing it more in line with reality.

As regular readers of this blog know, the other week I suggested that Google's search engine was a fraudulent device that directed people to sites that carried Google ads rather than to sites that had the best information. My evidence was anecdotal, based on the fact that last October, Google stopped directing traffic to this site, even though robertrosennyc.com is the best site on the web for information about porn star Missy Manners and her connection to anti-porn senator Orrin Hatch. For years, sometimes as much as one third of my daily traffic came from those search terms.

In another post, I wrote about pre-selected keywords, and how the Google advanced search function, which used to be able to find anything on this site, will now only find results that contain those pre-selected keywords.

Today I’d like to offer another theory about why Google is doing whatever it is they’re doing: robertrosennyc.com is hosted by the Authors Guild, and the Guild, in 2005, filed a class action suit against Google for their Book Search project. According to the Guild, Google was committing copyright infringement by scanning books that were still under copyright protection. Google, of course, disagreed, insisting that what they were doing was “fair use” under U.S. copyright law. In 2008, a settlement was announced: Google would payout $125 million, with $45 million going to authors whose books were scanned without permission. In 2011, Judge Denny Chin, of U.S. district court in Manhattan, rejected the settlement, because, said Chin, it would allow Google to “exploit” books without the permission of the copyright holders. And there the matter stands, still unresolved. Authors have not received a penny, but Google has to cool it with their book scanning, until the matter is resolved.

So, then, is Google not directing traffic to this site because it’s hosted by the Authors Guild; the Guild has, for the time being, stopped Google from exploiting authors with their Book Search project; and now the internet giant is determined to punish the Guild and its members in any way they can?

Makes as much sense as anything else you can say about Google.

Folks Like Shu

March 4, 2013

Tags: Shu-Izmz, Nowhere Man, John Lennon, Beaver Street, reviews

Sometimes things happen as they should, even in the world of book publishing. What I'm referring to is the idea that if somebody reads one of your books and likes it, they might seek out another one of your books. Though I'm sure this has happened to me on numerous occasions, I rarely hear about it, as the average reader tends not to communicate with the authors he reads.

But this time I heard about it. Bryan "Shu" Schuessler, who runs the culture site Shu-izmz, read Beaver Street, ran a rave review, interviewed me on his radio show, and then read my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, not because he had any interest in Lennon or the Beatles, but because he liked my writing style and Nowhere Man has a number of true crime elements, which fascinate him. Up went another rave review, and last night we recorded another radio interview, which Shu will post sometimes this week and which will be available for download as a podcast.

For the most part, we talked about the background of Nowhere Man—how I came into possession of Lennon’s diaries, how I transcribed them, how they were stolen from me, how I recreated them from memory, and how it took me 18 years to find a publisher for a book that’s now considered an underground classic.

In the course of our conversation, Shu said something about Nowhere Man that I’d never heard before—that’s it’s a good book for people with attention deficit disorder because it has short chapters. To which I say, “Hey, ADD people, welcome aboard. Hope you like my book.”

And as our conversation ended, I said to Shu, “Thank you. It’s folks like you who keep folks like me going.”

“We’ve got to support those whose talents and endeavors we enjoy,” Shu replied.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

What I Learned About Google This Week

March 1, 2013

Tags: Google, SEO

When I launched this website three years ago, I was unfamiliar with the term "search engine optimization" or SEO. I put together robertrosennyc.com using a combination of common sense and my knowledge of editing magazines. I imagined the home page as a looking like a legal pad I'd keep on my desk and use to scribble down anything I felt was important. Whatever I was doing worked. From February 2010 to October 2012, the traffic to this site steadily increased. A good portion of that traffic came from Google searches. Then, last October, Google changed their algorithm and referrals from the celebrated search engine virtually ceased. It was only then that I learned about SEO, and the idea that, theoretically, certain things can be done to increase search traffic. It turned out that I was already doing all the things you were supposed to do--primarily updating the site frequently with original "content" that can't be found elsewhere.

What I wasn’t doing, however, was running Google ads. The ads, I thought, made the site look cluttered, slowed down its loading time, and at best provided a revenue stream that can be measured in pennies per day. This, I thought, is one big reason that Google no longer sends traffic my way. (My two Blogspot sites, Chapter 27 and Maiscott & Rosen, which I rarely update but which carry Google ads, both get more referral traffic than this site, which I update five times per week.)

So, I chose to live without Google ads, and to search for alternative ways to drive traffic to robertrosennyc.com. Then, the other week, I discovered that Google advanced search, which used to be able to find any combination of words or phrases on a particular site, no longer worked on this site. When I searched for information I knew was here, Google told me, “Your search did not match any documents.”

Yesterday I made the following discovery: Google advance search will still work, but only if your search terms include preselected “keywords.”

When I set up robertrosennyc.com, I included a limited number of obvious keywords associated with my books. For example, if you were to search for “John Lennon” and “Beaver Street,” regular Google search will direct you here, and advanced search will take you to specific pages where those keywords can be found. But if you were to search for “Missy Manners” and “Orrin Hatch,” which are not preselected keywords, Google will neither direct you here nor acknowledge the existence of those words in an advanced search, even though this is probably the best site on the Internet for information about the porn star and her connection to the anti-porn senator from Utah.

A partial fix for my Google problem is obvious and will probably take about a month to take effect. This may sound basic to an SEO expert, but to me it was a revelation.