03.19.10 – A Friday

word

tome [tohm] n. 1. a book, esp. a very heavy, large, or learned book 2. a volume forming a part of a larger work

birthday

William Bradford (1890), Wyatt Earp (1848), William Jennings Bryan (1860), Earl Warren (1891), Moms Mabley (1894), Irving Wallace (1916), Richie Ashburn (1927), Phillip Roth (1933), Ursula Andress (1936), Sirhan Sirhan (1944), Glenn Close (1947), Harvey Weinstein (1952), Bruce Willis (1955), Andy Reid (1958)

standpoint

Drums, please. Once again, it’s time for another installment of the Wishing Well, a weekly post detailing wrongs I wanted to see righted in this decaying world of ours.

I WISH everyone would stop with the, “I told you so’s,” about Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson. Like many of us, the fellow has his share of problems. Why is it that when people like A.I. start facing his their demons, most of us feel the need to point out how right we were all along? Cut the dude some slack, for crying out loud. Compassion is truly dead.

I WISH we’d all just agree to the fact that FOX News, like most other news channels, is a bunch of right-wing nonsense. Why are we still having this debate? Are people really that stupid? Don’t answer that. I’m all ready down on people to know the answer.

I WISH I’d never seen the footage of former Olympic skier Bill Johnson‘s crash on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. It made me so uneasy, I won’t even post it here.

I WISH I never read another “helpful” piece, or hear anyone complain, about how we are losing our privacy online. Seriously, folks, let’s get stop trying to figure out what’s wrong with the internet and start a nationwide search for our common sense.

I WISH I was at this year’s SXSW. Next year, I’ll be there. Try to stop me suckas!

What about you, people? What are you wishing for?

quotation

Paranoids are not paranoid because they’re paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.Thomas Pynchon

tune

One of the best kept secrets of the Philadelphia music scene, although he shouldn’t be because he’s that damn good, is Ben Arnold. He’s been playing around here for two decades now and, if you ever have the opportunity, you should definitely check out one of his live shows. Here’s “So Low.”

gallimaufry

I’ve never met Lerato Nomvuyo Mzamane but, for this alone, I love the woman. Let’s all hope she puts Oprah in her proper place.

→ When I read garbage like this, I’m absolutely certain, sooner or later, no one will be allowed to do anything at all. Ever.

→ Holy shit. When I grow up, I want to be exactly like this guy.

→ For the record, I’ll have nothing to say about college basketball, which is currently experiencing an episode of “madness,” due to an overall dearth of fondness for the proceedings.

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02.08.10 – A Monday

word

ebullient [i-buhl-yuhnt, i-bool-] adj. 1. overflowing with fervor, enthusiasm, or excitement; high-spirited: The award winner was in an ebullient mood at the dinner in her honor 2. bubbling up like a boiling liquid

birthday

Samuel Butler (1612), John Ruskin (1819), William Tecumseh Sherman (1820), Jules Verne (1828), Kate Chopin (1850), Lana Turner (1921), Jack Lemmon (1925), Neal Cassady (1926), James Dean (1931), John Williams (1932), Ted Koppel (1940), Nick Nolte (1941), Robert Klein (1942), Mary Steenburgen (1953), John Grisham (1955), Vince Neil (1961), Joshua Kadison (1963), Gary Coleman (1968), Mary McCormack (1969), Seth Green (1974)

standpoint

I’m a football fan but not a huge one. I halfheartedly participate in two (2) fantasy leagues and have a moderate interest in my hometown Philadelphia Eagles, but I’m much less emotionally invested in the NFL than I let on. Most years, I watch the Super Bowl more out of some misplaced obligation to some archaic sense of manhood. But I didn’t feel the same way this year. I actually had a mildly strong desire to watch last night because I like both the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints, along with their respective quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

But I was curious to see how Super Bowl XLIV would be a different experience for me. And, lucky for you, I chronicled it. Here goes.

Note: I was reasonably sure that the Colts would win and cover the spread (+5.5) and the over (57 pts.) would become a matter of fact.

Pregame

» Not going to lie, I watched golf until just about the start of the game so I didn’t get to see what inane crap led up to the actual footage from Miami.

» But I did tune in time to see the Colts get introduced onto the field to the same song by The Who that opens up every episode of CSI:Miami, which turned out to be all of The Who I needed.

» Queen Latifah sang America The Beautiful with a choir and musical accompaniment. It didn’t really work all that well. Looked like she was never really in sync. Carrie Underwood sang The Star-Spangled Banner and it was better. During all this, cameras were on Peyton Manning, who looked amped to the point he was cursing the fact Francis Scott Key and Katharine Bates were ever born.

» The next class of inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame were introduced as honorary whatevers to the coin toss. Emmitt Smith was the honorary coin tosser. Saints called heads. Smith flipped the coin directly at the Saints players, who sidestepped it. It was heads. Saints got the ball.

1st Quarter – 6:20(ish) PM

» Betty White and Abe Vigoda starred in a clever ad for Snickers. I’m completely sure those two actors were used because about 99% of viewers thought both had died years ago.

» The ad for the Boost Mobile Shuffle, featuring prominent members of the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears, was awful.

» In keeping with Hollywood’s trend of recycling, there’s another Robin Hood movie coming out starring Russell Crowe. Looks like both Braveheart and Gladiator ate a bunch of bows and arrows and vomited on each other. I’ll probably go see it.

» First quarter came to a close. Colts-10. Saints-0. I wasn’t paying much attention to the actual game.

2nd Quarter – 7:00 PM

» Pretty fast 1st quarter. At this point, I was certain the Colts were going to run away with the game.

» A Cars.com ad came on, detailing the life of a boy genius type doing all sorts of amazing boy genius type stuff. But when it came time to buy a car, he was at a loss. He looked to his mobile device for answers and, you guessed it, Cars.com came to the rescue. At one point during the ad, the boy genius delivered a baby Bengal tiger while on safari. That kicked off a conversation between my girlfriend and I where we discussed her desire to bring a baby panther into the apartment. Negotiations reached a stalemate after she refused to budge on the name of the baby panther. Oh well.

» The Saints began to make a game of it. Pretty sure they kicked a field goal.

» One ad had Jay Leno, Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman on the same couch talking about something. I’m not sure what because I was distracted. Leno didn’t look like he was actually there. The next ad (maybe) had Brett Favre making fun of the fact he never actually retires. I like it when celebrities/athletes know to do that.

» The Colts stopped the Saints on a 4th and goal from the 1-yard line with less than 2 minutes remaining in the half. See? I pay mind to the important stuff.

» I wasn’t quite sure how it happened but the Saints kick another field goal just as time expires on the 1st half. Colts – 10. Saints – 6.

Halftime – 7:50 PM

» The Who played. The Who sucked. I monitored Twitter feeds instead. Best Tweet? “Wake up your great grandma. The Who is on.”

3rd Quarter – 8:22 PM

» The Saints began the 2nd half with an onside kick. Which they recovered. Which turned out to be huge. Saints – 13. Colts – 10.

» According to a new Volkswagen ad, the classic car game, Punch Buggy, has now been expanded to include the entire Volkswagen fleet. As a matter of fact, it seems whatever substance it’s painting its cars with nowadays is so cutting edge, even Stevie Wonder can see it. Much to the chagrin of an arm sore Tracy Morgan. Classic.

» The Colts’ Joseph Addai ran in for a touchdown. Colts – 17. Saints – 13. I was a little disappointed about how good of a game it was becoming. I’m not used to the Super Bowl being about the Super Bowl. Not being able to run out of the room in between commercials was messing with my head.

» Two commercials gave me pause in different ways. First, the new E*TRADE baby wasn’t half as funny as the original. Second, Google aired its first ever television ad. I think.

» The Saints kicked another field goal which flew under my radar. End of the 3rd quarter. Colts – 17. Saints – 16.

4th Quarter – 8:56 PM

» Honestly, I should’ve been playing closer attention. The Saints started scoring. They took the lead. They intercepted a very important Peyton Manning pass at a crucial time. I watched the whole thing. I swear. But, as happens more than not, I became embroiled in a debate that made the game take a backseat.

» Super Bowl XLIV ended at 9:45 PM. The New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts by the score of 31-17. If I bet the game the way I thought it would go, I would’ve been dead wrong. Yet another reason why I’m not a gambling man.

Overall, a most exhilarating football contest. The best Super Bowl in years. Congrats, New Orleans. Call me when you’re done partying. That should be around June.

quotation

Everybody gets told to write about what they know. The trouble with many of us is that at the earlier stages of life we think we know everything- or to put it more usefully, we are often unaware of the scope and structure of our ignorance.Thomas Pynchon

tune

One band from the 80s that doesn’t get enough credit is The Housemartins. I like to think of them as a sort of catchier version of  The Smiths. Also, they’ve got one of the best titled songs ever – “The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death.” Actually, after just listening to it, it seems to work nowadays as well.

gallimaufry

→ I just got done reading King of Russia: A Year in the Russian Super League, and it was simple and great. Former NHL head coach and current Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Dave King narrates his experiences as the first ever Canadian coach in Russia. The guy really knows his stuff and he provides great insight into Russian hockey and its players, especially Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Evgeny Malkin.

→ Speaking of the Pittsburgh Penguins, yesterday afternoon’s game between them and the Washington Capitals was just about as complete as you could ask for. Caps won it in overtime 5-4 after being down 4-2 going into the third period.

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