03.11.11 – a friday

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word

paucity [paw-si-tee] n. 1. smallness of quantity; scarcity; scantiness: a country with a paucity of resources 2. smallness or insufficiency of numbers; fewness

birthday

Lawrence Welk (1903), Rupert Murdoch (1931), Sam Donaldson (1934), Antonin Scalia (1936), Bobby McFerrin (1950), Douglas Adams (1952), Wallace Langham (1965), Lisa Loeb (1968), Terrence Howard (1969), Johnny Knoxville (1971)

standpoint

Bathroom reading. It’s kind of a touchy subject. There’s a few different lines of thought on the issue. Some just don’t do it. Others can’t get the deed done without. Still others insist they think it’s gross but they secretly partake.

As for me, I’m willing to admit I read in the bathroom. Not something I’m bragging about but I won’t deny it. And, for the past six months, since I moved into this house, it’s gone from a casual perusing of a magazine or a comic book and moved into the realm of an actual learning experience.

I’ve got my roommate Dan to thank for that and his subscription to a periodical I’d never heard of before – mental floss.

Unlike the rags that feature dogshit stories about where Reese Witherspoon is vacationing with her children, mental floss consists of short bursts of knowledge that actually translates into something to talk about.

Here’s just a sampling of the things I’ve learned about in the bathroom over the last six months.

→ The t-shirt first appeared in 1913 as regulation underwear for the U.S. Navy.

→ Chinese scientists have actually found a use for discarded cigarette butts, creating a process that transforms them into a compound that prevents steel pipes from corroding.

→ Due to a 12-year civil war that ravaged it, the African nation of Burundi‘s population is almost 50% people under 14 years old.

→ Starfish don’t have brains.

→ When someone on Twitter gains 500,000 followers, that’s called a Wheaton after Wil Wheaton who was the first celebrity to hit the 500K mark.

→ A chimpanzee will most likely drown if you drop him in the water, but a classic VW Bug would float if you drove it into a lake.

→ For some weird reason, Bill Clinton once said, “I’m someone who has a deep emotional attachment to Starsky and Hutch.”

→ In the 1974 NHL Entry Draft, Punch Imlach, GM of the Buffalo Sabres, took Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas in the 11th round. The league had never heard of the guy but it made the pick official anyway. It was later found out Imlach had created Tsujimoto to show his disdain with the length of the draft process.

I could go on and on but I’m gonna stop. No worries, though, I’ll be making this a regular segment as my bathroom tutelage grows larger.

quotation

You know, we’ve got to do it someday…throw away all the guns and invite all the jokers from the North and the South in here to a cocktail party…last man standing on his feet at the end wins the war. ↔ Alan Alda (as Hawkeye in the pilot episode of M*A*S*H)

tune

Back in 1991, there were two bands called Nirvana. One was the over-glorified trio fronted by Kurt Cobain. The other was a bunch of Danish guys who changed their name to Kashmir. Here’s a song I stumbled upon recently by the latter, “Ophelia.”

gallimaufry

Watch out, people, in a mere eight days the Supermoon is coming. And, apparently, it’s pissed.

“Halle Berry Shares Mommy Tips With Pregnant Alyssa Milano.” That an actual title of an actual article someone actually wrote that people are actually reading. Christ. It’s embarrassing to be a member of the human race some days.

This chick is really committed to the acting process. No one told her The Wire wrapped up production a few years back.

03.11.10 – A Thursday

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word

rigmarole [rig-muh-rohl] n. 1. an elaborate or complicated procedure: to go through the rigmarole of a formal dinner 2. confused, incoherent, foolish, or meaningless talk

birthday

Ivan Nabokov (1787) Lawrence Welk (1903), Ralph Abernathy (1926), Rupert Murdoch (1931), Sam Donaldson (1934), Antonin Scalia (1936), Bobby McFerrin (1950), Jerry Zucker (1950), Douglas Adams (1952), Joey Buttafuoco (1956), Jim Pinkerton (1958), Peter Berg (1964), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (1965), Wallace Langham (1965), Lisa Loeb (1968), Terrence Howard (1969), Johnny Knoxville (1971), Joel Madden (1979), Anton Yelchin (1989)

standpoint

For the past few months, I’ve been tinkering with the idea of fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine – doing a spot at a comedy open mic. I decided the other night, it was time to get serious about it and so I began to peruse YouTube for stand up clips for research purposes.

I discovered there was weeks and weeks of viewing options but the ones I found most fascinating were those that involved the comedians dealing with hecklers. Some comedians get angry, some get clever, some try both, but the result is always the same: Never mess with the guy holding the microphone. You’re just not going to win.

Here’s some of the clips I enjoyed the most.

Todd Glass

Arj Barker
Michael Showalter
(not really a heckler but still a distraction)
Jesse Fernandez
Zach Galifianakis

Each of these guys handled it pretty well, I think. I’d like to think that if this ever happens to me I’d be as smooth as Zach Galifiankis but I’d more likely be like Todd Glass.

quotation

When authorities warn you of the sinfulness of sex, there’s an important lesson to be learned. Do not have sex with the authorities. ↔ Matt Groening

tune

One of the coolest aspects of the acts that comprise indie rock is that they’re so much more collaborative than those who came before them. They seem to understand the notion that there’s power in numbers, frequently performing cameos in one another’s songs and, even more often, joining forces to record entire albums. Below is one such example, “The High Road,” the first single offthe new self-titled album from the recent team-up project of Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse and The Shins’ James MercerBroken Bells.

gallimaufry

Just when you thought the bitch couldn’t get any crazier. I didn’t even make the connection until after I read about this lawsuit. But maybe she’s trying to drum up a little buzz because, you know, no one ever talks about Linday Lohan.

This will make you think twice before shushing a woman who’s trying to talk on her cell phone during a movie. Why this dude had a meat thermometer in a theater is something I’d like to find out but, in my experience, my experiences tells me I’m going to be disappointed.

→ Sometimes, when trying to figure out a societal issue, it’s not entirely necessary to pour a boatload of money into some unnecessary research study. In this instance in particular, it would’ve been just as effective to get outside and take a look around.

in memoriam

Corey Haim (December 23rd, 1971 – March 10, 2010) died yesterday of an apparent drug overdose. Here’s a video montage of the troubled child actor chronicling his happier days.

07.27.09 – Monday

Word: pique [peek] v. 1. to affect with sharp irritation and resentment, esp. by some wound to pride: She was greatly piqued when they refused her invitation 2. to wound (the pride, vanity, etc.) 3. to excite (interest, curiosity, etc.): Her curiosity was piqued by the gossip 4. to arouse an emotion or provoke to action: to pique someone to answer a challenge 5. Archaic. to pride (oneself) (usually fol. by on or upon) 6. to arouse pique in someone: an action that piqued when it was meant to soothe n. 7. a feeling of irritation or resentment, as from a wound to pride or self-esteem: to be in a pique 8. Obsolete. a state of irritated feeling between persons

Birthday: Samuel Smith (1752), Alexandre Dumas, fils (1824), Josef Priller (1915), Normal Lear (1922), Jerry Van Dyke (1931), John Pleshette (1942), Peggy Fleming (1948), Yahoo Serious (1953), Bill Engvall (1957), Karl Mueller (1962), Juliana Hatfield (1967), Triple H (1969), Maya Rudolph (1972), Pete Yorn (1974), Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez (1975), Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (1977)

Quotation: Bypasses are devices that allow some people to dash from point A to point B very fast while other people dash from point B to point A very fast.  People living at point C, being a point directly in between, are often given to wonder what’s so great about point A that so many people from point B are so keen to get there and what’s so great about point B that so many people from point A are so keen to get there.  They often wish that people would just once and for all work out where the hell they wanted to be.Douglas Adams

Tune: Boston band Wheat has had one helluva journey. After independently releasing its first two albums Medeiros and Hope and Adams in the late 1990s, Columbia Records signed Wheat and, in 2003, released Per Second, Per Second, Per Second…Every Second, an album that included the radio-friendly hit “I Met a Girl.” It turned out to be one-and-done with Columbia, however, and the band went back to the drawing board. (I’ve heard from some that Wheat felt Per Second… was over-produced, and that may just be a good point.) Its next release, everyday i said a prayer for kathy and made a one square inch, was the result of what vocalist Scott Levesque called, “just 3 guys in a basement…kind of like the old days, for us, by us.” I think a lot of Wheat fans, myself included, were hoping for something a little less over-polished than the tracks on Per Second… but the band may have gone too far the other way – maybe it got a little too rough around the edges. A few weeks ago, Wheat may have released its finest album, White Ink, Black Ink, – a solid compromise of the smooth and the raw. It may be cliché, but after almost two decades, Wheat might’ve at last found their sound. Favorite song so far? “My Warning Song”

Gallimaufry: In reality, the Tour de France 2009 was only three weeks long. But it felt much much much longer than that (most likely because VS. aired it pretty much 24 hours-a-day and some of the guys I work with watched each stage 3 times daily) when it ended yesterday with Alberto Contador wearing the traditional yellow jersey of the overall winner. Not Lance Armstrong. The 37-year old cancer survivor, 7-time Tour de France champion and, most importantly, the guy who played himself during the lynchpin scene in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story that sent Vince Vaughn back to help his team win the championship, came in 3rd. Not too shabby but obviously not what everyone was hoping for. Some are saying Armstrong hurt his chances for an 8th win by helping Contador, his teammate, during different legs of the race. Fear not. Armstrong will be back next year (but not on the same team as Contador), and my advice would be to not bet against him. The guy has always been a master at doing the things people have told him were out of his reach. I’m going out on a very sturdy limb and predicting one last win for Armstrong in next year’s Tour, which I probably won’t watch. The Beastie Boys are cancelling all of its upcoming tour dates and pushing back the release of its upcoming album, Hot Sauce Committee Part 1, due to the fact MCA (real name Adam Yauch) has been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his parotid gland. From the official press release of the band’s label EMI Music – “Luckily it was caught early and is localized in one area, and as such is considered very treatable. It will however require surgery and several weeks of additional treatment. Fortunately the cancer is not in a location that will affect Yauch’s vocal chords.” Here’s wishing Yauch a speedy recovery. If you follow the NFL and have a working brain (not necessarily a paradoxical statement, by the way), you’re most likely sick and tired of Brett Favre’s continuing indecision on whether or not to play with the Minnestota Vikings (a divisional rival of Favre‘s original team, the Green Bay Packers) this season. At this weekend’s Madden NFL 10 Pigskin Pro-Am, John Elway and Joe Montana, two guys who’ve been in similar shoes, each gave their own opinion of what Favre should do. I like Montana’s best – “If it was the first time he’s done it, it would be different. But we’ve seen it already, and here we go again. I’m sure that’s all [the Minnesota Vikings] are thinking about.” I’m pretty sure he was politely trying to tell Favre to – as my mother is sometimes known to say – “Shit or get off the pot!” At this point, all the vacillating on Favre’s part is only blemishing his amazing career and tarnishing the future Hall of Famer’s reputation. It’s only natural that, besides the thrill of playing the game, the withdraw from the spotlight is what depresses the athletes the most, but still. Come on, dude. Enough already.

05.19.09 – Tuesday

Word: dalliance [dal-ee-uhns, dal-yuhns] n. 1. a trifling away of time; dawdling 2. amorous toying; flirtation

Birthday: Johns Hopkins (1795), Albert Fish (1870), Ho Chi Minh (1890), Malcolm X (1925), Jim Lehrer (1934), Nora Ephron (1941), Pete Townshend (1945), André the Giant (1946), Grace Jones (1948), Joey Ramone (1951), Nicole Brown Simpson (1959)

Interview: My friend Marc Schuster recently launched his first novel – The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl – and was willing to accomodate a few questions.  Here’s a little information on the up-and-coming novelist, followed by our interview:

Marc Schuster is the co-author of  The Greatest Show in the Galaxy and the author of Don DeLillo, Jean Baudrillard and the Consumer Conundrum. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and literary journals ranging from Weird Tales to Reader’s Digest. The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl is his first novel.

The daily euneJeune (TdeJ): First, congratulations on the publication of The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl. Can you give us a little background on what inspired the story?

Marc Schuster (MS): A few things inspired the story. The first was some research I did back in graduate school while writing a paper on T.S. Eliot and the theme of self-medication that comes up in some of his poetry. He has a great line in one of his poems that says humankind cannot bear very much reality. This idea shows up a lot in Eliot’s work, and I was investigating some of the ways in which people in the first half of the twentieth century attempted to numb themselves to reality. Drugs were a big part of this movement, and some of the books I read on the subject spilled over into the latter half of the twentieth century. The earliest seeds of my novel were probably planted then.

 Years later, I was in a writing workshop whose members would come up with a new assignment each month. One of the assignments was to write a story about obsession. Some of the ideas I uncovered in my research on Eliot and the numbing of the masses were still on my mind, so I turned obsession into addiction and wrote the short story that eventually grew into The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl. The story got some really good rejections—always a plus when you’re a struggling writer—and most of the people who read it said that they were immediately taken in by the scenario I’d set up but that the piece had to be longer. That’s when I decided to make it into a novel.

 TdeJ: Was writing a novel always a goal of yours, or was it something that evolved from teaching and/or your other writings?

 MS: Writing a novel was always a goal of mine. In eighth grade, we had to do mock interviews for career day, and I insisted on doing an interview for a position as a novelist. As if publishing houses just have novelists on staff who crank out books like so much bratwurst. But I guess that’s the cool thing about being twelve years old. You don’t know how things really work, so you just figure you can do anything.

 TdeJ: From beginning to end, how long was the entire novel-writing process?

 MS: I wrote the short story in the summer of 2003 but probably didn’t start trying to turn it into a novel until 2004. Over the summer of 2008, I finished the final draft, then polished it until early 2009. So, all told, it took me about five or six years to write. Of course, I was doing other things at the same time—teaching, finishing graduate school, working on other writing projects—so it’s not like I was waking up every morning from August of 2003 until January of 2009 and working on the novel. I had to squeeze the work in whenever I could.

 TdeJ: You’re a man who doesn’t do drugs. Did you encounter difficulties writing from the point of view of a drug-addicted woman?

 MS: One of my biggest concerns was getting some of the details right, particularly with respect to the drugs. I’d seen plenty of movies and television shows in which people snorted lines of cocaine, but it was tough to figure out exactly how much cocaine is in a line or how many lines are in a gram. So I had to do some research—the bookish kind, not the personal experience kind. I read a lot of case studies of people, especially women, who had been addicted cocaine. I also read a decent number of documents from the National Institute on Drug Abuse on the drug trade in general. That’s how I learned the street value of a gram, for example.

 Writing from the point of view of a woman, on the other hand, was less worrisome for me. One reason for this may be that I grew up with four sisters, so maybe I’m more in touch with my feminine side. At the same time, though, a lot of the issues that Audrey has to deal with aren’t specific to women. She’s lonely. She yearns for adult conversation. She wants to be loved. Pretty much everyone can identify with these feelings at least once in a while, so it wasn’t too hard to tap into the part of myself that resonates with Audrey’s needs.

 TdeJ: Two weeks ago, I attended your book launch where were signing copies of your novel for your fans.  Is that a completely bizarre experience? What  thoughts go through your head?

 MS: I don’t know what’s weirder—signing books for strangers or signing them for my family. With strangers, I think, Wow! Here’s someone who’s never met me and is excited for me to deface a perfectly good book with my signature. They’ll never be able to get a refund now! With friends and family, I keep wondering whether or not I should sign my last name. I mean, they can call me on the phone anytime they want to. Is it impersonal for me to sign my last name? Insulting? Am I insinuating that they don’t know who I am? I signed a book for my mother, and I hesitated before signing my last name because, technically speaking, I used to live inside of her. If anyone knows who I am, it should be her. Signing my name at this point is a little superfluous.

 TdeJ: Growing up, were there any particular authors that inspired you to write? Are there any current authors you’re reading that give you the urge to write more?

 MS: Douglas Adams was the first author I really developed a taste for. I think I read Restaurant at the End of the Universe the summer between sixth and seventh grade, then had to read all of his other books, too. He was just so zany and clever at the same time. I loved his absurdist take on the meaning of life, even if I didn’t understand half of what I was reading at the time. Years later, I went through a weird John Steinbeck phase—talk about a complete 180 degree turn. Then I got back on track with the more bizarre stuff when I got into Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Pynchon. That was probably in my first or second year of college. Lately, I’ve been a huge fan of Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, and Chuck Palahniuk. I especially like fiction that’s grounded in reality but takes a skewed look at it, which is what I try to do in my own writing.

 TdeJ: What are your thoughts on the current blogging phenomenon? Do you find blogging useful for anything but entertainment?

 MS: I think blogging is especially useful for people who blog with a specific purpose in mind. I personally hesitated to jump into the blogging game for a long time because I was afraid it would turn into a distraction, that if I had a blog that was just about whatever happened to be on my mind at any given moment, I’d spend so much time running at the mouth that I’d never have time for the bigger writing projects I want to work on. And there’s a real danger that I’d run at the mouth because I never get tired of hearing my own voice. Eventually, though, I decided that a blog would be the perfect venue for reviewing books from small presses—something I’m very passionate about—and I started Small Press Reviews. The blog’s focus on a particular subject keeps me from going on and on about the minutia of my daily life and, as a result, frees me to work on more demanding projects.

 TdeJ: What are a couple of your favorite blogs and why?

 MS: Another reason why I wasn’t so big on starting my own blog was that I don’t really read many. I’m more of a New York Times kind of person. Not that I read the whole thing from cover to cover, but it’s set as my homepage, so it’s also where I get a lot of my news. Though I must say that I do enjoy The daily euneJeune!

 TdeJ: You’re very much involved in Philadelphia Stories magazine. Can you give us some information on what it’s doing to help the cause of the arts in Philadelphia?

 MS: I can’t say enough about Philadelphia Stories. It’s a free quarterly literary magazine dedicated to showcasing the writing of authors from in and around the Delaware Valley. On a shoestring budget, they’ve managed to stay in print for nearly five years, and in that time, the magazine has published work from over 150 emerging writers and poets. A lot of these writers are people who had never been published before, so one of the benefits of the magazine is that it shines a spotlight on people who, up until now, haven’t had a venue. The magazine also helps to create a stronger sense of community among writers in the area by offering readings, writing workshops, retreats, an annual conference, and other events throughout the year. And now that they’ve added a books division with PS Books, they have a whole new avenue for discovering emerging talent. But, like I said, they do it all on a shoestring budget, and none of what they do comes cheap. As a result, they need to put as much effort into fundraising as they do into publishing the magazine. If any of your readers want to help a burgeoning Philadelphia institution continue to find new and interesting voices, I’m sure the folks at Philadelphia Stories would love their support.

 TdeJ: Lastly, list three elements you think aspiring novelists need to know if they want to get published.

 MS: Persistence is essential. A major part of writing is revision, and that means returning to a project after three or four drafts and working on it even when you can’t stand it anymore. I’ve often thought that my greatest talent is that I can sit in front of a blank computer screen for hours on end and not get so discouraged that I refuse to ever come back. And in addition to persistence, it helps to be in a community of writers. I prefer to write first drafts on my own, but without the members of my writing group and the folks at Philadelphia Stories, I’d have no way of knowing what works and what doesn’t in my fiction. Finally, writers need to be readers—not just to see how other writers do what they do, but also to understand the market. It’s important to know, for example, what styles of writing different journals publish, just as it’s important to know what kinds of books various presses put out. And it’s good for writers just to read for fun as well—if only to remind ourselves why we keep at this maddening, if not entirely irrational, pursuit.

———

Once again, thanks to Marc for his insightful answers and, on a personal note, the time he makes for me with his advise and encouragement.

Marc will be appearing at The Doylestown Bookshop this Friday, May 22nd, at 7pm for a reading of his new novel. Get out there and show some support for one of Philadelphia’s great local authors.

Quotation: Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. Chili Davis

Tune: Not the biggest fan of Bright Eyes. But I do dig “I Must Belong Somewhere.” Cool video too.

Incoming: Tomorrow – My take on the Stanley Cup Playoffs and what it’ll mean if Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins win it all. ThursdayAnnoying Sayings & Misused Words

03.23.09 – Monday

Whereabouts: Philadelphia, PA

Word: jejune (request from Marc Schuster) [ji-joon] adj. 1. without interest or significance; dull; insipid  2. juvenile; immature; childish  3. lacking knowledge or experience  4. deficient or lacking in nutritive value

Birthday: William Kidd (1645), Schuyler Colfax (1823), Joan Crawford (1905), David  Grisman (1945), Ric Ocasek (1949), Ron Jaworski (1951), Chaka Khan (1953), Moses Malone (1955), Amanda Plummer (1957), Hope Davis (1964), Richard Grieco (1965), Yasmeen Ghauri (1971), Keri Russell (1976), Perez Hilton (1978)

Occurrence: 1775Patrick Henry delivers his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. It is strange that he said those words while he had his wife, who had gone insane, straitjacketed and locked in a room in the basement since 1772.

Standpoint: Twitter has replaced Facebook as the most talked about social networking site on the web. This past week, “tweets” (Twitter’s 140 character status updates) were big news. During the weekend festivities at SXSW, members of many bands (Jane’s Addiction, The Decemberists, Grizzly Bear – to name a few) were keeping their followers constantly updated before, during and after their shows. Shaquille O’Neal announced before the Phoenix Suns’ Saturday night game against the Washington Wizards that he was going to tweet something big during halftime. (Later, he found out that his coach knew about it and simply typed the message, “Shhhhhhh.”) Someone even jeopardized a job she had been offered after bad-mouthing the proposed employer in a tweet. Whether we like it or not, we’re living in a pretty amazing/insane time. Cell phones make sure that everyone is constantly accessible. Facebook makes it possible for everyone to stay friends until death or account deactivation. Now Twitter affords people the ability to follow the actual events of someone’s daily life. The globe is shrinking and there’s no end in sight.

Quotation: Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.Douglas Adams

Stupefaction: United States Armed Forces have turned down 48,000 potential recruits since 2005 due to obesity.

Tune: If you’ve recently been the victim of a bad break-up, trying doing what I did last time a relationship went awry – listen to “Rootless Tree” by Damien Rice about 400 per day. ATTENTION: IF YOU ARE LISTENING TO THIS AT WORK, DON’T PLAY AT A HIGH VOLUME. CURSE WORDS ARE SUNG LOUDLY.

Link: Multicolr Search Lab – Find images employing your favorite colors.

Gallimaufry: I am still watching “Kings” and enjoying it…This past weekend, Nicholas Cage’s new movie, “Knowing”, opened. I haven’t seen it but is Cage going to make another viable film? Not sure, but I’m of the opinion that he needs to sit down and figure out a way to star in a movie that doesn’t suck. The Washington Post’s John Anderson has more to say about the actor’s once-great careerThe Onion is chronicling President Obama’s first 100 days in office. My favorite so far? Day 42…Anyone catch the Morrissey show last night in Philadelphia? If so, I would love to hear how it was. He’s on “Late with Jimmy Fallon” tonight.