Reluctant Habits

New Review: Loneliness

Posted by in Uncategorized

My review of John Cacioppo and William Patrick’s Loneliness appears in this morning’s Chicago Sun-Times. The book inspired me to use a very unusual metaphor, and I could have easily devoted another 800 words in response to the book’s arguments. Alas, there was only so much space.


The Dark Side of Denver

Posted by in 2008 Election, Activism, Police Brutality

Denver Post: “One protester said police had used the spray “like a supersoaker” in front of the City and County Building.” Fear and Loathing in Denver: “What has become deemed as the ‘freedom cage’ is where protesters are allowed to sleep at night. With floodlights and cops.” YouTube video: An activist is hit in the face with a baton for no good reason.


The Bat Segundo Show: Brent Spiner

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Music, Star Trek

Brent Spiner appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #233. Spiner is most recently a producer and performer on the album, Dreamland. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Ducking his head and dodging paranoid crooners. Guest: Brent Spiner Subjects Discussed: Natural reverb, conversational limitations, co-owning a recording studio with Dave Way, being a control freak, the shaky profitability of the music industry, self-distributing a CD through Bellarama, David Byrne’s DIY article, the lack of response from magazines and newspapers vs. the response from blogs and online sites, being restricted by self-production, the distribution…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Sarah Manguso

Posted by in Bat Segundo

Sarah Manguso appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #232. Manguso is most recently the author of The Two Kinds of Decay. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contemplating fifty-five additional states of decay. Author: Sarah Manguso Subjects Discussed: David Markson, sentences that originate in other formats, fan mail, whether a paragraph is truly a paragraph, problems with typesetting nomenclature, remembering personal moments at 1,000 words a day, word arrangement units (”WAUs”), themes vs. timeline, organic vs. inorganic writing, unrecognized planning mechanisms, thinking of the reader, Adam Thirlwell’s The Delighted States, syntactic barriers…read more

McCain Picks Palin as Vice President

Posted by in 2008 Election, mccain-john


Responding to Orwell: August 28

Posted by in limbaugh-rush, orwell-george

George: It pleases me immensely that you were fond of using the shorthand term, “ditto.” The word has intriguing etymology and yet you didn’t sprout (as I did) during the 1970s and 1980s, when “ditto” was more commonly used in reference to a mimeographed paper or a copy that was circulated amongst schoolkids and businessmen (who often behaved like schoolkids). But before good ol’ Xerox, it was used in a more common “see previous” capacity. You knew this of course. But let me confess my youthful ignorance. For years, George,…read more


How to Further Enrage Your Customers

Posted by in Customer Service

BBC: “A man who chose ‘Lloyds is pants’ as his telephone banking password said he found it had been changed by a member of staff to ‘no it’s not.’”


Let the Games Begin

Posted by in 2008 Election, mccain-john, Obama

If this interview represents how McCain responds to questions — real questions, not the Leno softball variety, not the questions that result in the old coot offering his trademark “I served as a POW” answer without a followup — I simply cannot wait for the presidential debates to begin. Pass the popcorn and pop open the beer. These debates will feature material more hilarious than Bush’s “Internets” gaffe or his entreaties for us to remember Poland. The man will be flayed alive — should be, if Obama truly wants to…read more


The Blogging Cliche

Posted by in Uncategorized

An eleventh-hour interview, a looming deadline, and a few other things currently occupy just about every minute of my time. (I slept three hours last night.) Because of this, emails are sporadic at best (but I will respond to anyone who tells me that they have terminal cancer or something) and posting has been reduced to one of these typical announcements that you find on a blog, in which the blogger declares how little time he has and proceeds to use a sliver of this temporal paucity to write a…read more


William T. Vollmann’s $55 Book

Posted by in Book Pricing, Vollmann, William

William T. Vollmann’s Imperial, which has been in the works for years, now has a publication date. It’s slated to be released by Viking on April 16, 2009. For those who have scratched their heads in disbelief over Vollmann’s svelte volumes in recent years, don’t worry. The book runs 1,296 pages. And this time, it’s a history of the Imperial County region, chronicling the labor camps, migrant workers, and contemporary day laborers. The book promises to take us into “the dark soul of American imperialism,” with the catalog further informing…read more

Oscar Villalon Out at Chronicle?

Posted by in Book Reviewing, San Francisco Chronicle

This comes from Publishers Weekly‘s Rachel Deahl, whose word must be taken with a grain of salt, but she’s claiming that San Francisco Chronicle books editor Oscar Villalon has taken a buyout and will be leaving the Chron on Friday. This will leave Regan McMahon as the only full-time staffer handling books. I have emails in to a few Chron people to determine what’s happening here and how this Villalon’s buyout will affect future books coverage at my former hometown newspaper. If I learn anything, I will report it here….read more


Oliver Reed vs. Shelley Winters

Posted by in Television

They certainly don’t make television like this anymore. Too bad.


Setting the Filthy Record Straight

Posted by in Uncategorized

As Carolyn Kellogg notes, an angry mob has descended upon Susan Carpenter because Carpenter used the term “cunning linguist” in a review. But Carpenter is not the one to blame. For it was I, dear readers, who sullied the Los Angeles Times back in February 2007 by including the term “cunning linguistics” in a review. And this was a review of a YA title, no less. So I am the one here to blame for infecting the Los Angeles Times with such filth. Approach me with your pitchforks, angry mob….read more


Stanley Fish, Sherry Jones, and the Free Market Apparatchiks

Posted by in Censorship, fish-stanley, Rushdie, Salman

I am certainly not a fan of Salman Rushdie’s limitless capacity for self-promotion, but I am even less enamored of smug academics who wish to split hairs over the term “censorship” to serve their partisan purposes. Rushdie, of course, expressed understandable umbrage over Random House’s decision to withdraw Sherry Jones’s debut novel, The Jewel of Medina from publication. Random House pulled the book because it feared that Jones’s book “could incite racial conflict.” This was, of course, a decision that was every bit as cowardly as those who stood against…read more

An End to War?

Posted by in War

Reuters: “Iraqi Prime Minister Prime Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday that an agreement had been reached in negotiations on a security pact with the United States to end any foreign military presence in Iraq by the end of 2011.”


Five Publicists

Posted by in Publicity

Here are five publicists I’ve dealt with recently: Publicist A: Always sends you to the appropriate publicist, even though it’s not in department. Recognizes that all publicity is good publicity. Sometimes asks me what’s out there on the Web, which I’m happy to answer. Publicist B: Sends not only latest book, but nearly all the backlist titles. Responds to all emails within two hours. Makes interview suggestions months in advance to secure comprehensive interviews with authors. Publicist C: After brief disagreement, calls me to figure out where I’m coming from….read more


LBJ 4: Live Free or Spin Hard

Posted by in Caro, Robert, LBJ

Hillel Italie tracks down Robert Caro and gets some interesting info on the fourth volume of his ongoing Johnson biography. Caro hopes to tackle both LBJ’s vice presidency and presidency in this next volume. And given that it takes Caro almost a decade to write a book, I certainly hope that Caro lives long enough to complete this very important project. Then again, Will and Ariel Durant managed to make it into their nineties, the two dying within weeks of each other, defying expectations that they wouldn’t complete their populist…read more


When Biden Was Bald

Posted by in 2008 Election, Biden, Joseph



Posted by in Roundup

In the past few weeks (and, particularly, the last seven days), I have read many thousands of pages. This is probably more work than one should do for a piece of this type, but I am one of those guys who likes to perform due diligence. It’s too important not to. And really, I’m very honored to have this gig. So there you go. I’m getting close to the finish line. So if things aren’t entirely up to speed here during the next few days, bear with me. Bob Thompson,…read more


Your Tax Dollars At Work

Posted by in Video Games


Podcasting to Outperform Radio?

Posted by in Advertising, Podcasting, Radio

Some new figures released by the Radio Advertising Bureau suggest that radio is now facing problems. At both the local and national levels, radio revenue has dropped over the past year. Off-air revenue growth, meaning advertising that comes with podcasts and digital downloads, has surpassed the RAB’s expectations. It is expected to reach $2 billion by the end of 2008, almost a full year ahead of the RAB’s projected timeline. I don’t know if these trends will result in radio people calling podcasters maggots or claiming them to be trapped…read more



Posted by in 2008 Election, Obama

Joe Biden is Obama’s VP. From a graphic design standpoint, it will be much easier to get the words “Obama-Biden” on a bumper sticker than “Gore-Lieberman.” Obama wisely decided on a VP candidate with two syllables. And I suspect that the natural third B (“Oh-ba-ma-bi”) that comes with that phrase was also a marketing consideration. Of course, should Biden decide to plagiarize again, at least he’d be copying from Obama’s team.


The Story That Has No Name

Posted by in Uncategorized

[EDITOR'S NOTE: While traveling on a bus, several passengers endured the drunken and boisterous clamor from several obnoxious frat boys in the back. They could not be quelled or cajoled to quiet down. In an effort to deal with these circumstances without going insane, my girlfriend and I started writing the following story on a laptop, switching off every 300 words or so until the battery died. The warped results can be read below. Aside from the brain monster and other supernatural elements, this isn't that far removed from more


Responding to Orwell: August 22

Posted by in orwell-george

George: Crazy day, quite sunny, with no showers. So much on the plate that a synapse malfunctioned. Was forced to grovel on the phone to a sadistic friend. Mood starting to ripen. No slugs to speak of here, but plenty of rats. Saw one, measuring about 6″ long, scurrying in the East Village without any remarks from those it passed. Boarded ancient warship the other day and was amazed by four-deck structure, cargo organization belowdecks, and pulley and hatches system used to hold and distribute rations. Would not have wanted…read more


Come On, It’s Friday

Posted by in Personal

In the past twenty-four hours: I learned that someone I knew had committed suicide. A toilet exploded in my face. I spent fifteen minutes, desperate for caffeine, behind a man who unloaded Canadian change at a cafe and had to be informed that he was actually in the United States. He responded by spending another seven minutes going through his American change, trying to figure out the difference between a nickel and a dime. This was just after I received the phone call that someone I knew had committed suicide….read more


Ohmigod! City Lights!

Posted by in Bookstores, City Lights, San Francisco

Like Mr. Orthofer, I’m both delighted and appalled to see City Lights get the profile treatment. There isn’t time right now to investigate whether Times contributor Megan Walsh has a troublesome history of inserting these corny, oh-so-obvious “comic” observations in her work. But I can assure her that City Lights, while jutting in a diagonal manner along the edge of Columbus, is far from “a cake slice of a bookshop.” This concern for the store’s physical appearance overshadows its more important attribute. City Lights maintains a great poetry selection and…read more


Quick Thoughts on Baltimore

Posted by in Baltimore

I’m only flitting through, but there are at least four things I have observed about Baltimore: (a) microsized crosswalk signals, no bigger than two cubic feet, suggesting where all pedestrians stand in the transportation food chain, (b) a considerable offering of peanut shops, roughly one every two blocks, which makes me desire to venture further south, (c) a town understandably in debt to George Washington, with monuments in nearly every part of the city ignored by the locals, and (d) a town in which everything closes up at around 6:00…read more


The Bat Segundo Show: Paul Auster

Posted by in Auster, Paul, Bat Segundo

Paul Auster appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #231. Auster is most recently the author of Man in the Dark. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Opening himself up to explanation. Author: Paul Auster Subjects Discussed: Starting a novel from a title, the advance titles contained within The Book of Illusions, the working title of The Music of Chance, Mr. Blank, the relationship between Travels in the Scriptorium and Man in the Dark, shorter baroque novels vs. longer naturalistic novels, the use and non-use of quotation marks within speech, the writing history…read more

Recent Segundo Shoutouts

Posted by in Bat Segundo

We’ve received some very kind shoutouts lately from The Los Angeles Times‘s Carolyn Kellogg, The Sound of Young America‘s Colin Marshall, and The Fiction Circus’s Miracle Jones. Thanks, folks, for the writeups. They’ve even made Mr. Segundo blush!


Roundup, Sleep When?

Posted by in Roundup

Since the sleeping schedule has gone all to hell, it seems as good a time as any to point to numerous things. (I forgot what happens when my mind remains active without a break for seventeen hours. Must remember to do stupid things so that I can sleep in the future.) The Los Angeles Times checks in with Howard Junker and Zyzzyva, as Junker has just retired. There doesn’t appear to be a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon in Mr. Junker’s hand, but perhaps some unknown moment of spare time…read more