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You’ve played the Great Gatsby video game right? Where you get to slay enemies by flinging Nick Carroway’s fedora at them and collect glowing martini glasses for bonus points? You must. 

You’ve played the Great Gatsby video game right? Where you get to slay enemies by flinging Nick Carroway’s fedora at them and collect glowing martini glasses for bonus points? You must. 

Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal.
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (via Rebecca Joines Schinsky
13 April 2011: A maddening crowd of one…

Assignment: None. Between assignments. Between jobs. Feeling a little at loose ends. In those situations, writing always makes me feel a bit less lost. 

Where my head went: 

  • BOMB Magazine
  • When you don’t know whom they’re talking about. 
  • AC/DC
  • Alone v. Together in LA

Why? 

I was reading an old issue of BOMB today in an attempt (a failed one) to get through a pile of unread magazines. I had about two interviews left to read so brought the magazine on a walk to my neighborhood bookstore. While sitting on a stool and reading both pieces, I realized I a) hadn’t heard of any of the 4 artists speaking to one another and b) no matter what they said, I’d finish reading with the same sentiment. 

"Hmm, perhaps I should learn more about these artists I’ve never heard of" 

So I stopped reading and left the magazine in a nearby recycling bin. 

On the way home, I found myself listening to AC/DC’s rather newish track "Rock n’ Roll Train." It naturally sounds like every other AC/DC song in creation which means a) thundering b) stupid and c) absolutely wonderful because of it. I remembered the Slate Culture Gabfest had endorsed AC/DC this week which made me feel great. 

When that happened, I recited to myself a little speech I like to give doubters about The Thunder from Down Under. 

"When AC/DC started recording in 1974, they invented chocolate cake. And for the past 40 years, they’ve just kept making chocolate cake. It’s not nourishing, it’s far from original but, who can argue with chocolate cake?" 

I’m headed to Los Angeles on Sunday. I haven’t been in a good 4 years and I have many friends I’d like to visit with and places and things I’d like to see. I’d also like to have some time to myself to write and think. But this is a very odd, in-between-stage of life for me and I often drive myself batty when I dwell on it. I tend to lead in with thinking I need a silent retreat or something, I don’t get it then everything turns out fine anyway. 

Trouble with being both cerebral and loving people, me thinks. 

12 February 2011. Talking about Doing

Empty Microphone

Assignment: Various dogsbody tasks. 

Where my head went: 

Why? I had this idea on a walk a few days ago that a funny blog/podcast/something would be asking hackneyed questions about current events and answering them with a completely unrelated answer.

Let’s try.

Q: What do you think about the revolution in Egypt? 

A: Egypt is revolving? Good for it. That lard butt needed to lose some around the torso!

Skewed Subject News is the title I came up with which I don’t think is very good, even for a first effort. 

Recall last time we spoke of New Year’s Resolutions (yes, it’s been that long. I must repent) and mine to prioritize the reading of books by friends and to drill down into an author’s bibliography instead of my sluttier style of grabbing this book and that one and oh that looks fun! So around Christmas time, I finished reading The Great Gatsby and figured, time to drill down into Fiztgerald and set Tender is the Night on top of Mt. To-Be-Read. 

Tender is the Night is 320 pages. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, another classic I’d like to read is 116. The lure of finishing something is a seductive cracky trance. 

I spend far too much time futzing with the design of Tumblr and far too little writing anything on it. Futzing is easier and deceptively productive, as if sharpening pencils will help you compose a symphony. Said futzing will not bring me any closer to an overriding career goal of mine, to get paid to yammer with people while a crowd watches.

Career heroes of mine like Kevin Smith and Adam Carolla have figured this out, Smith to the extent that he’s said after one more movie, he’d done directing and will focus on producing, distribution and his growing talk empire. In an interview on Carolla’s podcast, Smith stated that filmmaking gave him an opportunity to be heard which he (and I too) wanted all along. 

All well and good but you gotta do something before you can talk about it. Jesse Thorn don’t got Maximum Fun without The Sound of Young America. And right now what I got is 50,000 followers on Twitter waiting to talk about something great I do. 

Can I do it? Please? 

28 December, 2010: Wounded Knees

Wounded Knee Massacre

Assignment: Job applications. Did I mention I’m on the market? 

Where my head went:

Why? I heard a recommendation (ok, about the 20th) for the novel Skippy Dies on the most recent episode of The Bookrageous Podcast and it sounded like just my kind of book (coming of age, Ireland, premature expiration). Since I recently got a bookseller gift card from my wife’s grandmother as a holiday present, I think I’ll be buying it shortly in hardcover, an indulgence best indulged with someone else’s money. 

I got to thinking this morning that, in order to save money on magazine subscriptions, perhaps I could offer to tweet my favorite articles from each month’s issue in exchange for a free subscription. And the first magazine that came to mind for this arrangement was The New Republic, which is odd as I’ve never subscribed to it and have barely read it in the past. 

It’s getting to the point each year where I take myself and a legal pad somewhere private and write out my New Year’s Resolutions for the year. I’m thinking Thursday. 

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre. May we remember our mistakes long enough to both say we’re sorry and put forth a real effort to not repeat them. 

6 December, 2010: Pawing at Pornographers

Assignment: A deadly boring piece on social media for authors. For my company blog

Location: Philz Coffee (aka “The Office”). 

Where my head went:

Why? I wrote this whole piece listening to the 5 songs I liked from The New Pornographer’s most recent (and very strong) album "Together." Which is catchy beyond all get-out but makes one’s prose sound like its being chanted by a marching band.  Which is a flipped-coin worse than how I feel my writing normally sounds which is fussy, over phrased and lustfully stringing together depended clauses. Made me wish I could write like Joan Didion who never seems to have a word or phrase out of place, like a set of pearls on a string. And I was mad anyway, because I had to write this essay but there really isn’t anything new to add to the discussion. Betsy Lerner’s great piece for Publishing Perspectives really said it all. 

When I’m restless these days, I spend too much time searching jobs on Linkedin. Because I’m on the market. Picture me a horse pawing at the dirt. There’s a fence to leap over somewhere. I’m looking for it. 

30 November 2010: Cutting tape with Bo.

Bo.

Assignment: Writing and recording Episode #3 of The Pick 3 Podcast

Location: Dining room table (which produced a funny-sounding echo. Listen for yourself). 

Where my head went: 

Why? I was working on a piece about football (about a book about football but never mind) and, since I’m a Michigan boy, born and raised, I cannot think about football without thinking about the great Bo Schembechler. Which reminded me is was damn near time for Channukah (which is damn early this year) and I needed to get some presents for my family. I got my parents these salt shakers and some other Michigany stuff.  

After I was done editing, I noticed that whenever I cut audio, I do it too tightly so I sound like I’m interrupting myself after each paragraph. For (more than) a moment, I felt sorry for myself that I couldn’t edit with the grace Brooke Gladstone does with On The Media. Which got me to thinking about another great editor, this one in film, Thelma Schoonmaker. Schoonmaker’s edited most of Martin Scorcese’s films and has won three Oscars. 

    18 November 2010: Hairpins of the Damned

    Postcard of a Boblo Island boat.

    Assignment: Book review for Rain Taxi

    Location: My bed. 

    Where my head went: 

    Why? Title of the book I was review had the words “lost art” in it. Which always gets me nostalgic, an itch I like to scratch by looking up dead/decommissioned/torn down things on wikipedia. Boblo Island was an amusement park in the middle of the Detroit River which you got to by giant steam boat. I never went as a kid (though I remember vividly the television commercials) and the whole thing shut down in the early 90s. Boblo Island is now being redeveloped as a condominium community. 

    Someone in my review I used the word “joust” to describe an argument because I thought I was being clever. Joust was a very difficult, yet wonderfully creative stand-out from the early days of arcade games. The world “awl” popped up somewhere else in the review which sent me on a mad search to find the name of the newly launched sister site to the website The Awl. The answer is The Hairpin, which I fell over on Twitter, the way one does over a badly-placed ashcan (not on Twitter). 

    Near the end of the piece, I made reference to F. Scott Fitzgerald and couldn’t think of another novel of his besides Gatsby and Tender is the Night. Looked up his bibliography and picked the name I like best. For no good reason. Well, it was getting late and I was sick of the review. Which still isn’t a good reason. 

    12 November 2010: The Horror…Of Sausages.

    "The horror. The horror..."

    Assignment: A post for my wife’s blog on “Flight of the Valkyries” and its inclusion in Apocalypse Now.  

    Location: Our dining room table. 

    Where my head went: 

    Why? Every time I wrote (and misspelled) “valkyrie” I heard myself saying "Valkyrie needs food. Badly." And I always chose the valkyrie character when I played Gauntlet as a kid. 

    "What’s Opera Doc?" is the famous Bugs Bunny interpretation of Wagner’s “Ring Cycle.” The “Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit.” section is set to the melody of “Flight of the Valkyries.” And since Wagner was German, which I remembered everytime I mouthed his first name (Ricard, pronounced “Ree-Card”, like spitting out a nail) I remembered how German he was. And since I was hungry I got to thinking about German foods and that I knew very few that did not look like sausages and that I had never known the difference between Bratwurst and Knockwurst. 

    Answer? Bratwurst is made of pork and generally not spiced. Knockwurst is made with veal and usually spiced with garlic. Both are sausages. 

    10 November: “Dip your pen in chili…”

    Luchino Visconti

    Assignment: Prepping for a seminar I was teaching the next day in conjunction with Writer’s Digest.  

    Location: My bed. I like to write there in the afternoons. 

    Where my head went: 

    Why? My wife was kind enough on Monday to buy my a really nice Visconti pen for our 1st (aka “paper”) anniversary. I was thinking about it and how I realized I’d never heard of this pen company and only remembered the word “Visconti” as the last name of an Italian filmmaker (no relation, apparently).

    My wife purchased the pen at Flax in San Francisco where, that same night, I fondled a few Field Notes notebooks and wondered if I should buy a few (I did not). At which point I felt guilty for not working, refocused then remembered (lord knows why) that Writer’s Digest was based in Cincinnati. I’ve never been to Cincinnati and know it only as home to The Reds, Procter & Gamble, and "cincinnati-style chili" which is chili made with cinnamon and cloves instead of chili powder, beans instead of beef and served over spaghetti. 

    This got me hungry which made me remember that my company’s intern had taken to photographing what she eats on her blog and linked to some place in New York called "Dessert Club, Chickalicious" which I will be visiting, eh, yesterday.