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Friday, February 27, 2009

92 words a minute on the subway, standing up.

So good to be in the swing of a new story. This is a short one, and I'm not usually good with writing short stories -- I tend to either build up too much steam so I trick myself into thinking I'm working on a novel, and then 60 or 70 pages later I look up and, woops, I realize I forgot these things are supposed to end.

But I have a good feeling about this one. It started when I was listening to this album, which you can download free from that link, so if anyone wants to start writing, we can have a fun little war.

Also fun: Neil Gaiman's new children's book has been turned into a Flash film by his publishers. A little bit magic, but a little bit cheesy. A friend at HC says that they're starting to do this for all their picture books. Reactions?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Richard Nash Leaves Soft Skull

OK, I'm as freaked out as you are -- here is the story, if you haven't heard. The halloween candy-size version: Richard Nash, who took over Soft Skull Press and polished it and shined it made it (even) great(er), is relinquishing command.

My guess is as good as yours, people. I thought that, if it ever happened, Richard would blast off straight into some new Web 4.0 idea of Twitter novels or Books That Read You or something even more revolutionary. Of course, what he says on his site makes just as much sense -- that he'll be consulting publishers and working to save our industry.

According to their press release, Soft Skull will keep going. Candy in Action will stay in print -- and have I mentioned it looks great in paperback? -- and I'm still friendly with them, as far as I know....and yes, if "Orthodox Girls" gets made into a movie and I sell a million copies of all my books, I still want to put out all my future books on a tiny indie press. There is no back catalogue I have a crush on more than Soft Skull's, from Daphne Gottlieb's manifestos to Mike Doughty's couplets. And, praise G-d, they're still going to be alive (well, except for Doughty, who went out of print a while ago....dammit). And Soft Skull's associate editor is sticking around, which gives me hope for the future, as much as it does for the present.

So there is no reason to be afraid. And every reason to think that Soft Skull will keep going, and that Richard will get under the skin of other publishers and implant little Soft Skull-like parasites there and create new little Soft Skull-inspired life forms crawling through Random House and Harper's and even (gasp) Scholastic...Hey, here's hoping.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A very short review of "Dollhouse"

What did you think of Dollhouse?

I liked it -- I mean, I think I did?? It started slow. Red flag in my brain: this is why Firefly got canceled. If you don't start with a bang, you lose people on TV -- and this is starting with a timid, lo-energy conversation in an office.

It cut to a motorcycle chase. Good intentions, but not as good as it should have been....

The first half didn't seem like a Joss Whedon show at ALL. then the second half was totally Joss Whedon. The show feels a bit manufactured, like it's something they're getting paid to make, whereas Buffy was something that the actors and writers needed to make, whether there was fame and fortune or not...but it was still a pretty damn good action-adventure 45 minutes of my life. The greater plots feel the most forced of all. But last night, the resolution to the kidnapping and the trauma-that-wasn't-really-a-trauma....damn. All of us - me, Itta, house guests - were shaking when we got up afterward.

(And no, we didn't watch it on Shabbos....thank you, Hulu.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Jennifer Blowdryer: How to Write the Great American Novel on Food Stamps

On Jewcy, I interview Jennifer Blowdryer, who might be my favorite person in the world who ever made me inadvertently homeless. Two days before I was supposed to get to New York City and rent her (swoon) East Village apartment for two months -- a block from the Bowery Poetry Club, two from ABC No Rio, and right down the street from the most amazing graffiti in the country -- she told me that some Long Island girl in a bar had offered to pay her five times the going cost.

Somehow, with her writing and her sense of humor, I was okay with that. Eventually.

Okay enough to cover her new and hilarious short novel, The Laziest Secretary in the World, for Jewcy:

Jennifer Blowdryer revels in those truths about ourselves that we'd rather not hear. While that is ostensibly the job of every writer, few do it with such grace, aplomb, and lack of restraint. Part Emily Post and part Morton Downey, Jr., Blowdryer's subjects are punk-rock Artful Dodgers and Malcom MacLaren-worthy bastards, lovable and loathable in equal doses, people who take a free drink when they're given one and scam one when they're not.

The protagonist of her latest book, The Laziest Secretary in the World, is named Latoya (she's white). She's alternately pathetic and brilliant, a powerhouse at drinking, social analysis, and anything that involves the bottom-most echelon of pop culture. Latoya could write for McSweeney's but instead makes fun of tabloid celebrities. She daydreams of the limitless variety of frozen dinners, having an unlimited cash flow, and of being interviewed on a daytime talk show, answering difficult questions with, "Merv, even if I had a million dollars, I would still buy Butterfingers and M&Ms. I mean, what could possibly replace them?"


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hasidic Rabbis, Indian Jews, and The Manic Frum Music Report

My latest column on Nextbook: Rabbi Raz Hartman and the songs of the Bnei Menashe tribe of Southeast India.

rabbi raz hartman's shuvaThree minutes is about the length of my attention span—and the average pop song—and within its limits I have come to expect a dance party, a manic heavy-metal freakout, or an angry but ultimately hopeful statement about love. I could never be a product of the classical era. I need pop music. But there are some experiences that can't be captured in a bite-size musical nugget.

Raz Hartman writes songs that, in length and in musical theme, straddle the division between classical, pop, and religious music. I wouldn’t call it music to meditate to, but that’s only because the term has come to mean music to fall asleep to. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Hartman’s spiritual inspiration, said other people tell stories to put themselves to sleep—Jews tell stories to wake themselves up. And Hartman's second album, Shuva (his second) is definitely music to wake up to.


TV Stuff and Free Stuff

First, the free. Courtesy of SimonPulse, by way of Cupcake Witch -- email your favorite fictional couple to pulsespringfling at geemail:

You can say Hava and Charles (ewww) or Candy and Mr. Patterson (double eww) or Jupiter and just about anyone....or, you know, people who are in books I didn't write, as well.

And the TV: I've told you about Chuck, right? At times it feels more like a sanitized TV Show Geeks Should Watch than a TV show that geeks actually do watch...but there are the moments that make it worth everything. And the show's ministering angels really do play a good game of keeping the characters' lives moving in unexpected ways. And then, of course, there are the gimmicks. Like this week, when the episode is shown in 3-D (I shlepped my glasses out of my copy of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier)...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Famous people, socks, and goats.

A truly baffling video advertisement for the 92Y Tribeca, where I host a monthly poetry & music open mic. It was directed by Michael Showalter, stars Paul Rudd, and has a spot from Eugene Mirman, the landlord on "Flight of the Conchords" (and, I'm sure, a bunch of other comedy people I should know but don't). It's very Stella/State humor, which is to say, it's reeeally subtle -- I'm totally down with surrealism and Dada, but this isn't quite surreal, it just has nothing to do with anything. Sub-surrealism? Semidada?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My True, Honest Inner Feelings On Robert Smith of the Cure

There's a new interview with me on Cupcake Witch, a fascinating new young-adult lit blog, which is refreshingly dark and refreshingly not gushy about every manner of YA writing. So far they've covered the new Amanda Palmer album and Poppy Z. Brite's handmade journal collection (side-note: ooogle).

And, me. Marie talked to me about Losers, the underground magazines I used to make, and why I'm so attached to stealing titles of Cure songs for my chapters:

Cupcake Witch: I love how several of the chapters in Losers are named after Cure songs. Did you ever see that South Park episode where Robert Smith comes to save the world from Barbara Streisand and at the end Kyle shouts "Disintegration is the best album ever!"? Do you agree with that statement?

Matthue Roth: You won't believe how long I've waited for someone to ask this question. When I saw that episode -- probably the first time it aired -- I was totally incredulous. Disintegration? Really? Not that I don't like Disintegration, but it feels like the default Cure album, the one for people who've barely heard of the Cure. Pornography is so much better.

But, yes, I was out of my seat and standing on the couch the second that the mecha-dinosaur Robert Smith came on the screen. I think that's one of my life goals -- to get made into a Japanese monster movie on South Park.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Geek Love Doll

One of Itta's friends, I can't remember who, was hanging out with her yesterday, and their babies were playing -- it's what babies do when they don't have to go to time-consuming offices -- and Yalta was sucking on the head of this. When I saw the pictures, I freaked. It's Elly and Iphy from Geek Love. Oh, the girl has hope.

Back to School

The Friday night show at Stony Brook was amazing -- the rabbi had a huge dinner in his house, like 50 people, and more just kept popping in and out and staying for 5 minutes. The performance itself was so cool. The last time i did a college show, I kind of talked too much about my kid, and people were like, "Uh, he's so old," but this time, the preppy kids who NEVER care about this stuff were into it, and coming up to me afterward, and people were flirting with Itta and me and so I feel pretty damn good about the performance.

And I am only being all ego-boosty because it's Monday and here I am, back at the office job, sitting at my desk and answering calls from people who think that because I have extension 1 and they can't wait for the rest of the message, that means I'm the secretary.

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