Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gotham Profile

Some of you know that I teach writing through the Gotham Writers' Seminar in NYC (I teach memoir, humor, and beginning writing courses); earlier this week, the school ran a profile of me, which you can read for yourself here.

Quiet, Please Auction

A marked-up copy of "Quiet, Please" (AKA, a version with all kinds of little scribbles and dabbles in the margin by me) is being auctioned off here. The starting bid is 5 bucks, so if you'd like a version of the book that's a bit rare, and that's going to charity, then bid away!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Final Days of David Foster Wallace

Salon posted a nice article about the final days of DFW. It elaborates a little more on just how depressed he was his final year, and speculates that he may not have actually wrote anything in a year.

It also says for the first time anywhere who his wife was, which I've been wondering since I first heard the news of his death (I didn't even know he was married); she is an artist and owns her own studio not far from where Wallace taught called Beautiful Crap.

It definitely put a more human side to the man so many of us felt was immortal; it's easy to get caught up in an authors work and build them up to be almost a work of fiction.

Also, the public memorial service that was being planned at Pomona has now been moved to New York...the date has not been set.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekend Funnies

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Weekend Funnies

OK, this is way more cool than funny, but you still have check out the link below! It has all sorts of things people have made with books. Now if only I coud get the instructions to make them...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Can You Fart on a Cop?

CNN reported today the following as one of their top U.S. stories. Guess it was a slow news day! It's a pretty slow day here to...luckily I have the fine people at CNN to entertain me with stories about why it is not battery to fart on a cop.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Free Book From TOW Books

In case you missed the link on McSweeney's yesterday, or in case you don't go to McSweeney's at all, TOW Books is giving away free copies of their books (both physical copies and ebooks). Read about it here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Instant Photography

Polaroid announced a while back that it was closing up shop on all instant film cameras; many people, my wife included, were horrified by a world without Polaroid pictures. But it's back! Lomography (home of the classic Diana camera) and Fuji are teaming up to get Polaroids back on the market. See the new cameras here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Large Hardron Collider

Few things have freaked me out more in recent weeks then the Larger Hadron Collider; the massive European machine that was built to "simulate the conditions of the 'Big Bang.'" When I first read about the experiment, it was in a national publication and the journalist covering the story admitted he had no idea what the scientist were talking about because it was just too complex; I read similar articles that made this same claim--just too complex for the everyday man to comprehend. That was really the first thing that freaked me out--it was as if all these publications were saying, "sure sounds dangerous, but you're using big fancy words so you must know what you're doing."

The next thing that freaked me out was the people who said it shouldn't be done, because by simulating the Big Bang they might create a black hole and kill us all. That's comforting, right? Scientist assured everyone it wouldn't, but seeing as how us normal people can't understand all their big fancy words I wasn't all too comforted.

To make me feel even more worried, hackers proved these scientist with big words who had spent billions of dollars on this machine, were prone to a computer hack. The hackers didn't really do anything; they just wanted to prove it could be done in hopes that the scientist would shut down the project because, when put in the wrong hands, very bad things could be done.

This weekend it was revealed that the entire project had been stopped for two months because of a major helium leak. If this experiment is so safe and so much money was invested to make sure it was harmless, then why do bad things keep happening to it?

Honestly, I just don't see what we can possibly learn from this experiment that is going to better man; all I see happening is we advance the area of physics and create a new weapon to be used to destroy the world. If we continue with this experiment, I predict in twenty or forty years terrorist will stop using dirty bombs on buildings and use black holes instead.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weekend Funnies

Okay, so this is really more creepy than funny, but in the video below, some guy basically explains (in way too much detail) that the man in the video is Thomas Pynchon and then spends two minutes explaining what we can take away from it.

Some of you might recall that CNN did a story on Pynchon and filmed him walking down a crowded New York street, but did not say who he was in that crowded street. This is the video.

I don't know if this actually is Pynchon; even if I did know what he looked like, it would be hard to say that it's him because the picture is just way too blurry.

Even funnier than the video is the comments to the video. Enjoy...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Weekend Funnies

Friday, September 19, 2008

McCain & the Computer Hack

According to a new statistic, 35% of all Americans would pick their BlackBerries to their spouses. This makes me think two things: 1.) Maybe I should get a BlackBerry, and 2.) Why aren't more people frightened by the fact that the man who could be President does not know how to use a computer?

That statistic tells me that understanding technology is more important to politics than ever. Even the current President knows how to use it...granted he says things like, "I've used 'The Google'" but at least he knows what "The Google" is...kind of.

Adding to the problem is the revelation that Sarah Palin's email was hacked. I use the word "hacked" loosely, because it wasn't really hacked as much as guessed into. What worries me about this is she was careless about how she set the email up; when I read how it was "hacked" into I couldn't believe what I was reading...it was all too simple. You didn't have to be a hacker; you just had to know how to do a bit of research.

It's awfully sad that McCain's hands start to hurt if he uses the computer too much because he was a prisoner of war and was badly beaten. But guess what? There's voice recognition software out there so you don't even have to type.

The Internet is not going away. If some retired farmer in Kansas doesn't want to learn it because he got by fine for 70 years without it, fine. But if you're the President of the United States and you don't know how to send email then you are out of touch with 80%+ of the people you are supposed to be representing.

This is not a political endorsement as much as a cry to McCain to take a computer lesson or two; and why he'sat it, maybe someone can lecture Palin about Internet Security? I'd hate to see her become President and change the missile launch code to "1-2-3."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

No More Seinfeld?

Microsoft has decided that maybe a commercial about nothing is not the best way to promote something. They have decided to stop the Gates/Seinfeld ads. So now I guess we'll never know what happened to the dynamic duo of absurdity. I'm guessing nothing happens to them...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This Day in History: Throughout the Year 2033...

Here's an oldie I did a few years ago for The Door...

Originally published in the March/April 2006 (Issue #204) of The Wittenburg Door(http://archives.wittenburgdoor.com/archives/2033.html)

Twentieth anniversary of the birth of the first cloned apocalypse horse.

Oprah Winfrey, founder of the cultic religion, The Church of Oprah, dies; autopsy reveals she was really a white man.

U2's reunion concert for victims of Galactic war raises 10 trillion euros for orphan aliens.

Value of dollar purportedly inflated; 9 trillion dollars equals 1 euro.

Words are replaced by images. Expert linguist, Rick Warren, announces that God translated to image equals[?].

The last Bible is printed, which brings an end to book publication.

A mysterious illness sweeping the Third World provokes a worldwide call for help. Christians respond by raising $80 trillion to repurpose and distribute milllions of leftover DVD copies of the Jesus film.

Aliens on Jupiter declare Scientology the planet's national religion. An aging Tom Cruise decides to move to Jupiter with his child Ampersand; arrives just after the first Christian missionaries, who have infected the aliens with the common cold, and killed off the entire population. Tom Cruise is left stranded with no food, water or toothpaste.

Tenth anniversary of the day all of godly Christians mysteriously disappeared.

Tim LaHaye named the most influential person found in the Bible.

Goth rocker Marilyn Manson ends years of speculation, when he announces on his deathbed that he had, indeed, been a Christian all along, and that all the angel of death stuff had really been a failed evangelical attempt at reaching out to devil worshipers.

Cardinal Mel Gibson admits that spending all the money he made on The Passion of the Christ to remake Ben Hur in Latin with Chinese subtitles probably wasn't such a good idea after all.

Cardinal Mel Gibson becomes the first actor to become pope (not counting the 2016 election when everyone nominated Bill Cosby as a gag), and is immediately criticized for saying he might be wrong about something. Gibson chooses the holy name, Pope Pedro II.

After watching the live action Smurf movie, Pope Pedro II orders that the first order of holy business will be a holy war on the Smurf people. Vatican officials announce in a reported story that there will no longer be movie night for the new pope.

Because of a translation error in the New Deconstructed Living Bible, many pastors replaced communion bread with cheese.

The long-running TV show The Simpsons named by ChristianityTM (a parent of the Wal-Mart Corporation of China) as the greatest Christian show of the century. Fox announces it has renewed its contract with the show for nine more seasons.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Album Design Tip

Got an old record collection you don't listen to anymore? Why not stick them on the wall?! Check out the picture below from someone using their old record albums to hold paper supplies.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Memories of David Foster Wallace

Beginning tomorrow McSweeney's will begin running various thoughts, anedotes, and memories of David Foster Wallace. If you have anything you'd like to share you can email them to Chris Monks; read the full details on the webpage.

10 Million for This, Bill Gates/Seinfeld - Part II

I'm afraid. I believe I've lost the ability to laugh. One of the funniest men who ever graced my TV screen is in a commercial, and I simply cannot laugh.

Part II of the continuing saga (one can only hope Seinfeld gets a Mac and stops with these ads) was aired last week, and, like the first one, it sucked!

The reason Microsoft has been on the decline lately is quite simple: they simply cannot learn a lesson. Apple should have thought them that world wants simple and stylist, but, like their operation system, this commercial is fat, ugly, and makes no sense.

Shouldn't a commercial about Microsoft have Windows somewhere in it? Maybe just a logo at the end? Or heck, how about a computer somewhere in that house running, oh, I don't know--Windows?!

Instead it's our good friends Bill and Jerry living with some random family because they want to connect. Why do they want to connect? I have no idea.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace, R.I.P.

Those of you who haven't heard, David Foster Wallace killed himself Friday night. I only recently found out, because news of a writers death isn't exactly big news.

It's unfair to even speculate the amount of depression that someone is dealing with when they kill themself at the age of 46. My thoughts go out to his wife and family.

Wallace was by far one of the greatest writers of this generation; his work has influenced myself and thousands of others; I have no doubt that his masterpiece Infinite Jest will hold it's place as one of the greatest books ever wrote.

Like all the masters, he will live on in his work...

Weekend Funnies

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weekend Funnies

Friday, September 12, 2008

You're in for a Sweet Surprise?

I thought I had seen it all when McDonald's got into the "we're healthy for you" game...I was wrong. There's a new ad campaign out that basically says not only is High-Fructose Corn Syrup just like sugar, but it's also appears to made from corn? If by corn they mean chemically modified corn, then I guess that's sort of right...but come on! Are you kidding me?!

The woman in this video has that red fruit punch that is probably 70% corn syrup...there's nothing healthy about that. Maybe it is just like sugar, but that doesn't make it good. The stuff isn't contributing to obesity because tiny portions are in soft drinks...it's contributing because substantial portions are in the drinks. 

I can't even imagine how many people will watch these commercials and be "I knew it! Soft drinks are healthy!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Michael Phelps, I'm Sure You're Somebody's Hero

You remember when athletes used to win some big event/competition and they would say "I'm going to Disneyland"? It wasn't that long ago! Michael Phelps has proved that Vegas is the new Disneyland.

He could have pretty much any girl he wants, and he chooses to drool over some scantly clad girl in Vegas! Way to show class, champ!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Dylan Single

Amazon.com has posted a video of the new Dylan single "Dreamin' of You." Check it out if you get a chance; it's a great song, great video, and sure to be great album.

Monday, September 8, 2008

10 Million for this?

You want to know what's wrong with Microsoft? Watch the video below. I'm not a Microsoft hater. I used to like them! I really did! But they keep coming out with really bad products. I don't like Apple, but at least they can come up with a stable platform. Heck, even the guys and gals at Ubuntu (if you too hate Apple, and are tired of bad Microsoft products, Ubuntu is a great OS once you get used to it) know how to get the job done, and that's free!

If you don't know about the video, basically Microsoft decided they'd go up against the Mac ads that have been running the last couple years; they are going to spend 300 million dollars on the ad campaign. And they pay Seinfeld 10 million to do the commercials. All that money and resource, and the below video is the best they can do!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Weekend Funnies

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Weekend Funnies

Friday, September 5, 2008


Today, I will say what many people have said already: Hancock is a bad movie. But I’ll go above what some critics said, and say not only is it a bad movie, but it is hands down one of the worst movies ever made.

I was excited when I heard about the movie—Will Smith as an alcoholic superhero! How could you go wrong with that? The synopsis of the movie tells you everything that’s going to happen: PR guy helps superhero finds himself and become a better person. Predictable, yes; but predictability isn’t always a bad thing. It’s summer, it’s hot, and a nice predictable action movie isn’t such a bad way to escape the sun.

When I saw the bad reviews, I didn’t really care. I wasn’t racing to the theater or anything, but I knew I’d see it eventually. Eventually came this past weekend (yes, I'm a little late to the game, as the movie is a couple months old), and all I want is my two hours back.

The movie was pretty good the first half. Then it "Jumped the Shark;" usually that’s a term that’s reserved for TV shows. I think an exception needs to be made for this movie.

The moment it turned from good to just plain dumb was when Hancock attempted to kiss Jason Bateman’s wife; those who have seen the movie will know why. After this point the movie loses all predictability and is just weird—really, really weird. What was the writer thinking? It was like he said, "I don't want predictable--people like twist." Yes, people like twist; Batman had a nice twist, but it was a natural one; this one was forced down the throats of the audience, and it didn't even make sense.

What should have happened was this: Hancock is a drunk, PR guy is going to help him, Hancock is helped, Hancock has a crisis that makes him doubt everything (perhaps his love interest is kidnapped because of some error he makes), and something happens to make him resolve this crisis, all is well again. Predictable, but fun. There’s nothing wrong with that.

There have been Will Smith movies that have been just OK (pretty much every drama he does), but usually they are good (pretty much every action movie he does)--not super, but good enough to make me happy. This is the first time I ever left one of his movies angry. I think he needs to stop hanging out with Tom Cruise, or his career will be ruined. His next movie, Seven Pounds, sounds lame as well.

Maybe it's time for him to team up with Alfonso Ribeiro for a buddy-cop movie or a Fresh Prince reunion show where Will decides to run for C0ngress, and Carlton somehow gets addicted to heroin and Will has to put politics aside?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Quiet, Please - Simple Chinese

Earlier this week, Horizon Media (home to such authors as Khaled Hosseini, John le Carre, and Sarah Dunant) made an offer to translate "Quiet, Please" into simple Chinese (as opposed to complex Chinese, which it is already being translated into).

This means simple Chinese will become the third official non-English translation. Expect to see it at an Asian bookstore near you in about two years, give or take.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Does She Still Got It

Does Toni Morrison still have what it takes to depress and confuse readers? Fans will find out just in time for Christmas, when Morrison's latest novel, "A Mercy," about slave trading (what a surprise...I really thought she'd do sci-fi) on November 11th.

I'm not saying I'd be happy to have this book under the Christmas tree (I wouldn't), but the books synopsis says it's a prelude to Beloved, which makes it sound interesting. Maybe reading this book will help me understand what the heck that book was about, because between all the thick-love and weird imagery I didn't know what was going on.

Also, coming to bookstores "Where's Waldo? The Complete Collection" (October 14)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Donald Miller

Those of you who watched the DNC last week (I didn't) may have wondered who the guy was giving the prayer, and why he kept his eyes opened (I thought only Catholics did that?); he is Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What, among others.

Honestly, I caught most of the highlights from the convention on The Daily Show, but I did find it encouraging to see an evangelical at a Democratic Convention.

Miller gave an interview with Christianity Today before the prayer, where he said a lot of things more Christian's (and non-Christians for that matter) should be saying. Thanks to Travis for sharing that interview, which I have also put below:

Monday, September 1, 2008

Inglorious Bastards

When I heard Quentin Tarantino was going to remake the epic war movie Inglorious Bastards, the first thing I thought was, “What the heck is Inglorious Bastards?” I suppose if you’re going to remake a movie, it’s best to do one few people have heard of--that way they won’t complain that you ruined a masterpiece.

Being a fan of war movies, I Netflix’d the older movie right away to see what it was all about. My first thought was why have so few people heard of this movie? It’s one of the best war movies I’ve ever seen. My second thought was he’s going gore it up and ruin a masterpiece.

Going back to my first thought, why have few people heard of this movie, I’m still baffled. One of my favorite war movies is The Battle of Blood Island; it’s campy, cheesy, and full of unknown actors (unless you count Roger Corman as a major actor (he didn't direct it...only acted)). I can understand why few people have heard of that. But this? I’m confused. It’s Italian and dubbed into English, but I don’t think that is enough to scare everyone off.

It has a similar premise as The Dirty Dozen. A bunch of American villains must fight off a bunch of Germans in a secret mission. But everything about it is grander and more epic—from the romance to the final action sequence, which involves a train.

If you’re planning on seeing the remake when it comes out in a year or two, I highly recommend seeing this one first.

I have enjoyed the recent string of war movies like Saving Private Ryan (although, I must admit I agree with Roland (from the book) who says the movie was too "too anti-German") and Flags of our Fathers, but if you want to see a real war movie you have to go back at least twenty years. Who knows what Tarantino will do with this, but one thing I’ve hated about recent war movies is they are too realistic. Yes they’re interesting and fun to watch, but they try to hard to educate and show what it must have been like (if I want that I'll watch a documentary, or, better yet, read a book). There was a time when a war movie was simply a movie with a good storyline that was meant to entertain; people died, but it wasn’t gory and it certainly wasn’t realistic--it was just fun, and I miss that. Directors decided sometime ago if you do a period piece it has to be accurate and full of drama.

If you haven’t seen this movie—if you haven’t even heard of it—do yourself a favor and rent it. You won’t be disappointed.

And if you feel like it, share your thoughts on the movie by commenting below...or share your thoughts on other great movies that no one has ever heard of.