11.11.09 – A Wednesday

WORD

verbiage [vur-bee-ij] n. 1. overabundance or superfluity of words, as in writing or speech; wordiness; verbosity 2. manner or style of expressing something in words; wording: a manual of official verbiage

BIRTHDAY

Paracelsus (1493), Abigail Adams (1744), Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821), George Smith Patton, Jr. (1885), Thomas C. Mann (1912), Kurt Vonnegut (1922), Jonathan Winters (1925), Mose Allison (1927), Marshall Crenshaw (1953), Andy Partridge (1953), Stanley Tucci (1960), Demi Moore (1962), James Morrison (1962), Calista Flockhart (1964), David L. Cook (1968), David DeLuise (1971), Adam Beach (1972), Leonardo DiCaprio (1974)

STANDPOINT

Currently, my car horn is damaged. It doesn’t work right. The noise sounds like it might if I was honking it after driving into the deep end of a pool.

It’s pretty ineffective. And the reason why is simple: in my car the horn has been subject to the most use. More than the gas pedal. More than the turn signal. More than the stereo.

During an average 30-minute drive, I’d estimate I employ my horn at least 10-15 times. While you may think that’s overdoing it, you’ll have to forgive me if I disagree. I’m holding myself back. On some drives, I feel like I could lay on the goddam horn from beginning to end.

Some people call this “road rage.” It’s one of those popular terms people love to throw around. But I’m not angry. Well, not the majority of the time. Mainly, I just want people to know they’re fucking up out there on the road. You’re inconveniencing everyone else by driving like Stevie Wonder on heroin.

You see, like all things in our society, everyone feels like they’ve got the right of way. But, in this instance, they’re all taking it quite literally. And it sucks.

I drive like I was taught. Eyes on the road. Aware of my surroundings. I’m basically the best driver you’ll ever meet. I’ve only been in two accidents ever. Neither were my fault. Despite what SEPTA‘s official position was on the first one.

In any case, I’m simply asking everyone out there to drive like they’ve got a brain. Use your turn signal, know where you’re going, get off your fucking cell phone and, most importantly, stay out of my way.

Because, hey, you’ve ruined my car horn and, well, you should feel bad about it.

QUOTATION

Sometimes when I reflect back on all the beer I drink I feel ashamed.  Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams.  If I didn’t drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered.  Then I say to myself, it is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.Jack Handey

TUNE

After much deliberation, I’ve decided Vampire Weekend‘s best song (so far) is “I Stand Corrected.” At least I think so right now. Tomorrow, however, is a whole other day.

GALLIMAUFRY

→ I’m not going to say one way or another whether I am for or against the death penalty. Mainly, because I’m not sure where I stand on the issue. But I wasn’t sad to hear John Allen Muhammad, one of the two dimwits responsible for D.C. area sniper attacks in October 2002, was put to death last night.

→ I used to think Chad Ochocinco was kind of a strap. But he’s not. Follow him on Twitter and you’ll see what I mean.

→ The new John Cusack movie, 2012, comes out this Friday. Does anyone else think this movie looks like everyone on Earth running for their lives? Christ, when’s Hollywood going to bust out of this? Everything new coming out, including all the inane kid stuff, is either about avoiding the end of the world or humanity’s inability to avoid it.

NOTE: There may not be a new post tomorrow as I’ve dinner plans tonight.  

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07.28.09 – Tuesday

Word: vicissitude [vi-sis-i-tood, -tyood] n. 1. a change or variation occurring in the course of something 2. interchange or alternation, as of states or things 3. vicissitudes, successive, alternating, or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune; ups and downs: They remained friends through the vicissitudes of 40 years 4. regular change or succession of one state or thing to another 5. change; mutation; mutability

Birthday: Ignaz Bösendorfer (1796), Ballington Booth (1857), Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia (1860), Beatrix Potter (1866), Marcel Duchamp (1887), Barbara La Marr (1896), Rudy Vallee (1901), Charles Townes (1915), Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929), Junior Kimbrough (1930), Mike Bloomfield (1943), Bill Bradley (1943), Richard Wright (1943), Jim Davis (1945), Gerald Casale (1948), Sally Struthers (1948), Michael Hitchcock (1958), Lori Loughlin (1964), Stephen Lynch (1971), Elizabeth Berkley (1972), Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em (1990)

Quotation: People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they’ll have good voice boxes in case there’s ever anything really meaningful to say. Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Tune: The other day, I went through the list of music artists I’ve featured here and was pretty damn stupefied I’d never included anything by Pete Yorn. For the last several years, I always find myself coming back to his albums because, in some ways, they’re pretty close to perfect. At least most of the songs definitely are. Check out “Crystal Village” – off his second album, Day I Forgot. Also, he celebrated his 35th birthday yesterday. (Which you already knew because you read this blog everyday.)

Gallimaufry: If I went by Bob Poilon of NPR.org, and his list of the Best Albums of 2009 (So Far), I’d have to seriously consider that maybe I’m not as hip as I think I am, seeing as how I only own 4 out of 30. Wow. I gotta get on the stick and start listening to some more music. I mean, the year is halfway over already. Check it out and see how many of the albums you’ve got – you might just be as surprised as I was. Do you love Young Guns, and/or more importantly Young Guns II? Well, then I’m about to tell you about the best vacation idea you’ve possibly ever heard of in your life. The New Mexico Tourism Department has created a six-day intinerary designed to help you follow in the footsteps of the legendary Billy the Kid, including something called “The Billy the Kid Pageant.” There seems to be no mention of the fact William H. Bonney‘s (as The Kid was formally known) story is one that most scholars agree is mostly fiction. Likewise, it’s not known if vacationing Wild West enthusiasts will be participating in something Billy the Kid definitely did do, namely wandering around the desert for long stretches of time, starving and exhausted. In what can only be considered the boldest of bold moves, EW.com is challenging the longheld notion that 1939 was the best year for the release of films by offering instead…the year 1984. And it may just have a very valid, solidly based point on its hands. Some of the films that debuted 25 years ago? Footloose. Splash. Romancing The Stone. This Is Spinal Tap. The Natural. Sixteen Candles. The Karate Kid. Ghostbusters. Revenge of the Nerds. RED DAWN. The Terminator. Beverly Hills Cop. Johnny Dangerously. And so many more. Hard to believe all those movies were all released (a) in the same year and (b) a quarter century ago.

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

03.10.09 – Tuesday

Whereabouts: Philadelphia, PA

Word: segue [seg-way] – intransitive verb 1. to proceed without interruption; to make a smooth transition  noun 1. an instance or act of segueing; a smooth transition

Birthday: Toshitsugu Takamatsu (1887), Bix Beiderbecke (1903), James Earl Ray (1928), Chuck Norris (1940), Osama bin Laden (1957), Shannon Tweed (1957), Sharon Stone (1958), Pam Oliver (1961), Jeff Ament (1963), Rick Rubin (1963), Neneh Cherry (1964), Jasmine Guy (1964), Edie Brickell (1966), Timbaland (1971), Eva Herzigova (1973), Robin Thicke (1977)

Occurrence: 1876Alexander Graham Bell utters the words, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you,” during the first successful phone call. What do you think Mr. Bell’s reaction would be if he knew that conversation would eventually lead to most everyone walking around with a telephone in their pocket?

Irksome: At the beginning of this year, amateur hockey player Don Sanderson died after spending three weeks in a coma, a state he had been in since hitting his head on the ice during a hockey fight in Brantford, Ontario. Since the night Sanderson sustained his injuries, there has been much debate about fighting in hockey. But not much debate is going on inside the game of hockey. As Toronto Maple Leafs GM, Brian Burke put it, “To me, it’s not a debate within the game, it’s a debate that’s raging outside [the game].” Fighting isn’t going anywhere. The reason why? Because the players, coaches and fans like fighting in hockey. It has a code and a history. This week, the GMs of the NHL will be meeting in Naples, FL to discuss many issues confronting the game, including fighting. I predict that no rules or guidelines will be altered in regards to hockey fights. The NHL will do what they did after the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident; patiently wait for it to go away. For further reading on the subject, check out Mike Heika’s article in yesterday’s The Dallas Morning News.

Quotation: We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way downKurt Vonnegut, Jr. 

Soupçon: Looking for the healthiest fish to eat? According to this article, it’s the Alaskan Wild Salmon.

Tune: Check out “No One’s Gonna Love You” by Band of Horses, a band that has become one of my favorites in only a short time. Great compilation video.

Link: Hecklerspray – a daily website covering all kinds of entertainment-related issues.

Gallimaufry: Click HERE to read the article “When Man and Machines Merge”. Ray Kurzweil has some well-formulated and interesting ideas on the future of man’s relationship with machines…SHAMELESS PLUG – My friend Kelly has begun chronicling the “mostly quirky, often adventurous, sometimes queasy look into the whack dating life of a 20-something in Philly” in her brand new blog. Click HERE to check it out…Wanna try a great sushi place in Philadelphia? Check out Yakitori Boy at 211 N. 11th Street. You won’t be disappointed.