Reluctant Habits

RIP Studs Terkel

Posted by in Obits

Studs Terkel is dead. And the radio world as we now know it has been permanently altered. When I heard the news, I felt a horrible lump within me bunch up and plummet to the floor. I had been talking up Terkel only yesterday, openly contemplating to friends whether today’s podcasters and staid NPR types — who seemed narrowly concerned only with those caught within their fifteen minutes of fame — would even come close to Terkel’s deep and wide-ranging interest in people of all types. The only guy among…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Neal Stephenson

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Stephenson, Neal

Neal Stephenson appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #245. Stephenson is most recently the author of Anathem. It is not known whether or not he “likes cake a lot.” Condition of Mr. Segundo: He likes cake a lot. Author: Neal Stephenson Subjects Discussed: Seven as the ideal number of guests for dinner, William Gibson, the shift from the near future to the past, Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle, science fiction about the alternative present, the various manners in which one interprets information as forms of discipline, Kurt Godel’s life at…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Film, New York Film Festival

Filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #244. Kurosawa is most recently the co-writer and director of Tokyo Sonata, a film that played the New York Film Festival and that will be released by Regent Releasing in the United States on March 17, 2009. For more information on this extraordinary film, please see our review. We also wish to express our many thanks to translator Linda Hoaglund, who assisted us during the course of this interview. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Voiceless, per the requirements of a sonata. Guest:…read more


Posted by in Obits

William Wharton is dead.


Happy, Happy Halloween! Silver Shamrock!

Posted by in Holidays


Responding to Orwell: October 30

Posted by in orwell-george

George: I must again commend you on your succinctness. “Fine, not very hot. One egg” likewise describes many sad Sunday mornings in my twenties. There was a period in which I would wake up alone in my San Francisco hovel after a night of unsuccessful carousing, realizing that it was “not very hot” in both the literal and figurative senses. I would then walk to the refrigerator, ponder breakfast, and observe that there was one lone egg in a cardboard carton. (Which in turn reminds me of my crazed attempt…read more


Replace “Waldo” with “Joe the Plumber” and You’ll Have a Cottage Industry!

Posted by in 2008 Election, Joe the Plumber, mccain-john

John McCain: a closet Spartacus fan?


Passive-Aggressive Newspaper Drones in Training at Montclair

Posted by in Censorship, Comics, knight-keith, Newspapers

I learned through The Beat (via Eric) that an installment of Keith Knight’s The K Chronicle has caused an uproar at the Montclair State University newspaper. Despite Knight basing his strip on a real-life incident and not even printing the full word in question, the editors of the student newspaper issued a campus-wide apology, with Montclarion editor-in-chief Bobby Melok stating, “It is never The Montclarion’s intention to offend its readership, and we sincerely apologize to all who were upset with this comic.” I don’t know what’s more disheartening here: a…read more

Obama, the Medicare “Doughnut Hole,” and the Working Poor

Posted by in 2008 Election, Health Care, Medicare, Obama

Last night, on Twitter, I got into a lively exchange relating to last night’s Obama infomercial. I had initially watched ten minutes of this broadcast, and I grew increasingly upset by the manner in which basic realities about health care and the working poor have been severely overlooked in this presidential race. Upon being pressed, I watched the whole thing from the beginning. “Those weren’t the working poor in that video? The 72 year old guy working at WalMart not poor enough?” argued Seth Harwood. While retired railroad man Larry…read more

Roundup (With Many References to Violent Elocution Instrutors)

Posted by in Roundup

The British Library is releasing some snazzy and rare recordings of authors. And the Guardian article includes an audio clip with Virginia Woolf sounding like an elocution instructor who will beat the shit out of you with a sharp riding crop until you crawl across her parquet, bleeding and pleading until the “uhs” and “you knows” are most definitely out of your vernacular. For Patrick Kurp, one of the reasons he’ll never contemplate suicide is the proliferation of color in the world. I wonder if Mr. Kurp has read A.S….read more


Stephen King and “Literary” Aspirations

Posted by in King, Stephen

Salon’s John Marks recently talked with Stephen King on the occasion of The Stand‘s 30th anniversary, where King has revealed that he has written “a very long book” called Under the Dome that deals with themes similar to his 1978 opus. The Q&A has led Splice Today‘s John Lingan to likewise reconsider King’s place. Lingan points out that King has a distinctly American “avoidance of bullshit at all costs” and that he writes “purely for the visceral thrill of storytelling.” But this assessment fails to take into account King’s undeniable…read more



Posted by in Farting

I am pleased to report that I farted at 3:46 PM this afternoon. The fart’s intensity was somewhere between one of those silent stinkers that people are often in denial about and one of those noisy rattlers, reminiscent of a distant motorboat, that can be heard in an adjacent room. In volume, it was perhaps a few decibels; in odor, it lingered around long enough to require a slight crack of the window. (From one crack comes another.) I presume that this afternoon’s lunch — with its plentiful egg and…read more


How to Determine the Election At This Point

Posted by in 2008 Election


Good Greif

Posted by in Television

In a predictable piece of contrarianism, n+1 manboy Mark Greif completely misses the point of Mad Men. Calling the famed television show “an unpleasant little entry in the genre of Now We Know Better,” Greif dismisses the idea that television should depict unpleasant human realities such as sexism, racism, and other assorted human weaknesses. Greif has neither the balls nor the acumen to understand that Don Draper likewise possesses a throwback masculinity that is the key to his apparent success and his command at the ad agency. Jon Hamm plays…read more



Posted by in New York

The economic downturn is shaking up the rabble just south of Times Square. I was walking along Eighth Avenue, and a man leaped at me some fifteen feet from the edge of the sidewalk, grabbing my forearm. There had been a guy who almost tore the lapel off my wool coat last winter. But somehow the man today was more desperate. More determined to seize another’s attention. More compelled to invade personal space. Wanting to survive, needing to matter, bowling alone. I chatted with a thin woman bundled in a…read more


Jesus in America #1

Posted by in Jesus in America


Posted by in Roundup

As widely reported, Tony Hillerman has died. Newspaper circulation is down, down, down! And the cuts at the Star-Ledger, the Los Angeles Times, and numerous other places will ensure that newspapers will woo back these subscribers, yes? The failure of editors to take on fresh talent or freelancers who haven’t yet abdicated their passion or journalistic commitment will almost certainly ensure that subscribers will remain on board, yes? The continued employment of senile geezers like Rex Reed, who cannot be bothered to note details correctly or unmix his metaphors, will…read more


Al Franken: Known to BBQ Newborn Babies for Brunch and Ass-Rape Dyslexic Second Graders. Is This Man Fit for Office?

Posted by in 2008 Election


Mark Millar: The Pursuit of Popularity

Posted by in Comics

Michael Czobit is a writer based in Mississauga, Ontario. He’s not fond of lengthy writer biographies. So the editor has provided two additional sentences to this introduction to provide Mr. Czobit with some necessary heft. When the credits rolled, many people watching last summer’s film adaptation of Wanted didn’t really know Mark Millar. The audience may have known that he created, with artist J.G. Jones, the comic book series that the film was based upon. And “based upon” is important. Despite Wanted‘s (potentially offensive) violence, the movie was scrubbed of…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Charlie Kaufman

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Film, kaufman-charlie

Charlie Kaufman recently appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #243. Kaufman is most recently the writer-director of Synecdoche, New York, now playing in limited theaters. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Lost in the endless ebb and flow of emotional and cerebral ideas. Guest: Charlie Kaufman Subjects Discussed: Mr. Kaufman confronting more energy than he is accustomed to, whether or not Mr. Kaufman is an idea man, Mr. Kaufman’s slow conceptual process, exploring the possibilities of an idea peer review process for Mr. Kaufman, whether an idea can be emotional, what Mr….read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Pale Young Gentlemen

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Music

Pale Young Gentlemen appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #242. The band is currently touring across the United States, and has just released its second album, Black Forest (tra la la). Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contending with unexpected discrimination during the economic crisis. Guest: Michael Reisenauer (of Pale Young Gentlemen) Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming] EXCERPT FROM SHOW: Reisenauer: We’ll actually write through entire songs and entire arrangements, and then cast them away and then start over. Correspondent: Really? Reisenauer: That happened a lot with this album. As the songs started…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Megan Hustad

Posted by in Bat Segundo

Megan Hustad recently appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #241. Hustad is most recently the author of How to Be Useful Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contemplating the usefulness of political candidates. Author: Megan Hustad Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming] EXCERPT FROM SHOW: Hustad: The book is, in part, a survey of the genre of success literature. And I spent a year of my life holed up in the New York Public Library reading all these books. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Think and Grow Rich!, the list goes on….read more

Idiot Pundits: New Jobs for Out-of-Work Journalists?

Posted by in Journalism


David Perel: Fuckhead of the Month

Posted by in Media

Among the many media casualties on this Black Friday was Radar going down. I’ve been told that Radar staffers were asked to clear their desks by 3:00 PM and likewise asked to sign off on a voluntary layoff form. And as if these developments weren’t disgusting enough, editor David Perel announced on the same day just how happy he was to be on board. Perel, moving to Radar from the National Enquirer, had this to say to Mark Paretsky’s Cover Awards this afternoon: “I have already been contacted today by…read more

02138 Shut Down

Posted by in 02138, Publishing

This afternoon, the New York Observer reported that 02138 was suspended by Manhattan Media. Editor David Blum assigned me to write a Books column, which I turned in a week ago. This was a shame for many reasons, and they extend beyond my own involvement with the magazine. There seems to have been a lot of snark from the Gawker crowd that this version of 02138 was going to be a trivial magazine, a vanity project, a bauble. I can assure you that this wasn’t the case at all. Blum…read more


Harriet Klausner: From Amazon Top Reviewer to Unhelpful Hack

Posted by in Amazon, klausner-harriet

Harriet Klausner, known for many years as Amazon’s “top reviewer,” has banged out uncritical reviews for damn near any book that came her way, “writing” as many as seven reviews a day. But it appears that Klausner’s glory days are now over. Amazon recently modified the criteria that determines the rank for Amazon’s top reviewers. Here’s the first priority to becoming a top reviewer under the new system: Review helpfulness plays a larger part in determining rank. Writing thousands of reviews that customers don’t find helpful won’t move a reviewer…read more



Posted by in Roundup

It is laughable that Sarah Palin considers herself an intellectual. That she “always wanted a son named Zamboni” is a sure sign that this nation is well on its way to a dystopia in which Gatorade has replaced water. (One thing that can be confirmed: Sarah Palin’s got electrolytes!) This John Updike profile would have played better with me, had Emily Nussbaum written in a manner suggesting that she had thoroughly read the book. But Nussbaum spends most of her time dwelling on Updike’s personal life, playing amateur psychiatrist like…read more


RIP Rudy Ray Moore

Posted by in Film, Obits

You could categorize Dolemite, which was “based on a short story by Rudy Ray Moore” and starred him, as a righteous blaxploitation assault on hayseed white culture, but, on a baser level, it’s a fun flick about a badass who didn’t let a damn thing stand in his way. I have no idea if it was Moore’s idea for Dolemite to wear the crazy white suit in the above scene, but the metaphor is clear. Moore could outdo Boorman and Dickey in his sleep. One can’t imagine a film like…read more


Pino En Espanol!

Posted by in Music

Pino D’Angio will not only kick your ass with lackadaisical swagger in Italian, but he will outsmoke you in Spanish. The time has clearly come for D’Angio to come over to the States and tear Justin Timberlake into a thousand pieces with his formidable gaze.


Don’t Give Up

Posted by in Art

It is a late hour, or, rather, an early one. But then it’s possible that the hour I am writing this post matters very little to you. Nevertheless, I announce my temporal bearings not to recuse myself, but to put this post into some kind of perspective. I am now pondering a future without the delightful band, Blah Blah Blah, who recently announced on their MySpace page that they had given up. I’m saddened by this news. I am now very worried about all the other artists out there who…read more