06.08.11 – a wednesday

word

stepwise [step-wayhz] adv. 1. in a steplike arrangement 2. Music. from one adjacent tone to another: The melody ascends stepwise adj. 3. Music. moving from one adjacent tone to another: stepwise melodic progression

birthday

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867), Jerry Stiller (1927), Joan Rivers (1933), Boz Scaggs (1940), Griffin Dunne (1955), Keenen Ivory Wayans (1958), Julianna Margulies (1966), Kanye West (1976)

standpoint

Last night, I received an email from The New York Times with the subject line “Up to 30 Dismembered Bodies Found Near Houston, Reuters Reports.” That was at 6:45 pm. I was at work and didn’t actually read the email until I got home around 11:00 pm. I bookmarked it because I thought it would be something interesting to explore for this post.

When I finally got around to looking into it, around midnight, the Times link was dead. I then realized that a sort of retraction had been sent to me an hour after the original message with a vague reference to a “tipster.” I searched it on the internet and found this article that elaborated on the tipster stating how she was “claiming to be psychic.”

Now, I’m not someone who even comes close to resembling a conspiracy theorist but I’m calling bullshit here. There’s no way this is above-board.

I’m basing my opinion on the fact that every single previous “News Alert” The New York Times sent me has been extremely literal, very factual and bland stuff.

I realize what I’m writing here is not particularly interesting or fundamentally entertaining but I’m mostly sure we’re being hoodwinked here. I think someone found something in that house and, before a public panic ensued, it was squashed and then some genius decided to cook up this psychic tipster angle because, hey, a crackpot psychic is much more innocuous than a house full of dismembered non-psychics.

I could be wrong and maybe I’ve wasted my time by writing this and your time by asking you to read it but it’s my blog, after all, so every now and then you’ll just have to indulge me. Fair enough?

quotation

I wouldn’t recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone but they’ve always worked for me. ↔ Hunter S. Thompson

tune

All right, here’s something new I’m trying – Original vs. Cover. I love “These Days” by Jackson Browne. But I always try to be honest with you good people who frequent this blog and, in the spirit of truthfulness, I didn’t get around to listening to it until a friend of mine told me that it wasn’t a Mates of State original. I don’t pay the proper attention to classic rock that maybe I should. Sue me. In any case, here’s both. Weigh in. Tell me which one you prefer.

gallimaufry

For all of you Flyers’ fans out there bitching and moaning about how the team has been lackadaisical in its attempts to acquire a proven #1 netminder for the past decade, well, you’re absolutely correct. Until yesterday when GM Paul Holmgren traded for the rights to Ilya Bryzgalov.  If the Flyers can get him under contract, it’ll mean a pretty solid goaltender tandem with Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky who, despite a lackluster showing in the playoffs, did manage a 28-13-8 record in his rookie season.

→ I have a sticker in my car that reads “PEOPLE SUCK.” I get flack for it. When I read shit like this, I swear that sticker is gospel.

→ Just relax, everyone. Christopher Titus smokes way too much pot to organize this. (I have no idea if Titus is a pothead, I’m just assuming.)

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07.06.09 – Monday

Word: crestfallen [krest-faw-luhn] adj. 1. dejected; dispirited; discouraged 2. having a drooping crest or head

Birthday: John Paul Jones (1747), Nancy Reagan (1921), Merv Griffin (1925), Bill Haley (1925), Della Reese (1931), Ned Beatty (1937), Burt Ward (1945), George W. Bush (1946), Fred Dryer (1946), Sylvester Stallone (1946), Geoffrey Rush (1951), Nanci Griffith (1953), Brian Posehn (1966), 50 Cent (1975)

Quotation: I don’t have any big regrets, because I’m pretty happy with my life. But I have lots of minor regrets. I always order the wrong dish in restaurants. Always. No matter what I order, somebody else orders something that’s better. It even got to the point where I was consciously trying to pick things that I didn’t think I wanted, because I thought I would reverse the process and actually pick the things I would later regret not having. But I regret that, too.Chuck Klosterman

Tune: In July of 2005, Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug started a solo career that, oddly, transformed into another entire band – Sunset Rubdown. Just downloaded their new album, Dragonlayer, and I’m especially digging on “Idiot Heart.” Also, I love band member Jordan Robson-Cramer’s attitude toward how fans actually get the band’s music (legally or illegally), saying, “(Illegal downloading) may not be good from the label’s perspective, but I think it does have its merits.”

Gallimaufry: Another day, another surprising celebrity death. Yesterday, former NFL MVP Steve McNair was found shot to death in his Nashville condo. His mistress was also found dead, also shot to death, with the pistol used to kill both of them under her body. The former Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens quarterback was cheating on his wife with a waitress, Sahel Kazemi, from a restaurant he’d opened recently opened in Nashville. While his murder is an honest-to-goodness tragedy, it pales in comparison to the shock and sadness his wife and four sons must be feeling right now. I realize this might be a little late, but the idea of sitting through a 2-hour “comedy” show performed by Glenn Beck, is just about as close I could come to imagining my worst nightmare. The New York Times‘ Mike Hale wrote an article about what it was like watching The Common Sense show. I’ve written it before – Beck’s daily show on the Fox News channel provides me with all the laughs I need. On Friday, Alaskan governor Sarah Palin announced she will be stepping down from that post. Most are saying last year’s GOP VP runner-up is gearing up for a shot at the White House in 3.5 years. I’m not sure how that’ll work, since Palin has pretty much sucked at just about everything she’s ever done. I still can’t figure out why John McCain picked her as his running mate – she practically assured him a defeat. The job she’s done in Alaska has been classified by most as “ineffectual.” For all her bitching and moaning about the liberal media, she’s done more to hurt her public image than anyone else. Including Tina Fey. Hopefully, this is the first in a series of events that will result, a few years down the road, in people wondering what ever happened to “That Hockey Mom Politician From Alaska.”

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

05.11.09 – Monday

Word: raconteur [rak-uhn-tur] n. a person who is skilled in relating stories and anecdotes interestingly

Birthday: Chang and Eng Bunker (1811), Charles W. Fairbanks (1852), Irving Berlin (1888), Martha Graham (1894), Salvador Dalí (1904), Louis Farrakhan (1933), David Gest (1953), Martha Quinn (1959), Natasha RIchardson (1963), Laetitia Casta (1978)

Standpoint: Nowadays, everyone has an opinion on everything. It’s nearly impossible to share anything of interest with anyone without a follow-up correlation or some other form of one-upping. During the course of any given day, if you were to count the instances you hear a sentence that starts with, “They say that…”, or “I just read about…”, the number could conceivably end up nonsensically high.

In this day and age, the onslaught of information is dwarfed only by the amount of opinion it generates.  

One problem is many people don’t understand that some (probably most) “information” they’re being fed is based in fact the way that Star Wars was based in fact. Meaning that much of what you’re watching or reading has the potential to be true, but not necessarily right now. Every media outlet, from CNN to The New York Times to Fox News, is working an angle and/or pushing an agenda. Whatever’s behind it, boosting viewer ratings or selling more newspapers or attempting to influence your politics, all of your news stories come with, at the very least, some small degree of slant. 

Another problem is even more people fail to grasp that just because there’s a man on the television screen discussing his thoughts on a particular matter, it doesn’t make him an authority on anything except his own opinion. That goes for Jon Stewart as much as it does Glenn Beck, two individuals who receive equal amounts of  unwarranted credbility. (Although in Stewart’s defense, he understands his show is primarily for entertainment purposes, while Beck seems totally unaware that his show produces just as many laughs.) Television personalities are both charismatic and persuasive. With a viewer-friendly, professional presentation and use of the proper words at the right time, it’s remarkably easy to take in the thoughts of these “experts” and register them as fact.  

From all the reporting we’re led to believe is factual and the infinite amount of commentary that inevitably follows, it’s entirely possible that we’ve come to know so much that we actually know less. The pursuit of the truth has been replaced by the pursuit of who’s right. And it may not be the fault of those presenting the information. It’s likely that, due to the countless variations offered on “what’s really going on,” you are now afforded the opportunity to simply accept whichever version better falls in line with what you truly want to believe, whatever that may be.

For example, in the case of the issue of global warming, you can side with either (a) those who think that the rise of greenhouse gases is manmade or (b) those who think it’s part of the natural cycle of Earth’s ecosystem. There’s no proving the wrong side. Each side employs science, largely assumed to be infallible in terms of fact, to prove its point. In effect, both sides enjoy the satisfaction of knowing they’re right. Therefore, you’re allowed to pick the perspective you’re more comfortable swallowing, and then, you’re also right. One nice perk that stems from such a scenario is that you can switch sides whenever you want, and, like magic, you’re still right. Sounds pretty great, right?

Well. Not entirely. If we’ve created a world where all fact and opinion are simultaneously true, how are we ever going to figure out what’s not working and move forward? We won’t. And, what’s worse, no one really seems to mind. Maybe in those movies about apocalyptic futures, it wasn’t war that destroyed the human race. It might’ve been that we reached a point where we were able to stop one another from doing anything remotely useful.

Quotation: Every improvement in communication makes the bore more terrible. Frank Moore Colby

Tune: Only music snobs will argue that Illinois’ Hum is not a “one-hit wonder.” If I was going to have only one song that everyone would remember, I would definitely want it to sound something like “Stars.”

Gallimaufry: Check out oddee.com’s list of 15 Strangest Foods and decide which one you would definitely not eat. Mine’s the dried lizards. ∞ Meet Saya, the world first robotic teacher. Now students won’t even have to use their brains to come up with clever ways to cheat. Sweet. ∞ It’s official. There are no more conversations in which the topics of Facebook and Twitter aren’t breached. Even Pentagon briefings.

Incoming: Tomorrow – I’ll find out if it’s possible to do a Google image search without eventually running into porn. Later in the week – My first interview, Annoying Sayings & Misused Words and much much more.

03.05.09 – Thursday

Whereabouts: Philadelphia, PA

Word: wonky [wong-kee] adj. British slang 1. shaky, groggy or unsteady  2. unreliable; not trustworthy

Birthday: Rex Harrison (1908), Tommy Tucker (1933), Dean Stockwell (1936), Eddy Grant (1948), Penn Jilette (1955), Andy Gibb (1958), Joel Osteen (1963), Michael Irvin (1966), John Frusciante (1970), Kevin Connolly (1974), Eva Mendes (1974)

Occurrence: 1836Samuel Colt made the first production model .34-caliber revolver, facilitating murders everywhere.

Irksome: Yesterday, I caught a little bit of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” As usual, I was entertained. During one of the segments of the show, Stewart was openly mocking President Obama’s new timeline for removing our troops from Iraq. Later in the day, I was telling a friend of mine about it. His reaction? “Dude. That’s messed up. Obama hasn’t even been in office two months and Stewart is already turning on him?” My response? Absolutely. I think the initial overwhelming joy that the people of this country felt (including me) seeing a man like Barack Obama assume the role of President has made them lose sight of something. We are supposed to question our leaders. When we blindly follow the directives of your leader(s), we will inevitably find ourselves in the exact predicament we were in the past eight years. This is the United States of America, after all. Even a man like President Obama needs to be closely scrutinized by the people he is governing. As you were, Mr. Stewart.

Quotation: A critic is a legless man who teaches running.Channing Pollock

Tidbit: Apparently, right-handed people live an average of nine years longer than left-handed folks. After much deliberation, I could think of nothing clever or witty to say about that fact. Except that I’m right-handed. Sucks for all you lefties out there.

Song: Ever hear a song and think that, even though the person who wrote it has never met you, you could’ve written it yourself? Sure you have. That is exactly what I thought the first time I heard “Beautiful Beat” by Nada Surf.

Link: Funny Or Die – A wide assortment of clever stuff including Literal Video and the Will Ferrell landlord sketch. Check it out.

Gallimaufry: SHAMELESS PLUG – Ezgi is a good friend of mine who writes a very entertaining blog about what goes on in her most-cynical mind. Click HERE and get an insight into a one of the greatest, strangest people I know…Speaking of President Obama, click HERE to read Helene Cooper’s article in the New York Times about how the guy is already starting to get gray hairs from the stress…Updating my thoughts on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”, I am still on the fence but closer to liking it than I was before. I know you all were wondering.