Reluctant Habits

Is Conan O’Brien a Corporate Shill?

Posted by in Advertising, Television

We saw Prime Minster John Key on David Letterman’s show pushing Cinnabon while reading the Top Ten List. But what happens if you’re a world leader who appears on a late night program and you don’t even have a choice? Take Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s September 28, 2009 appearance on The Tonight Show. The production team grabbed a clip and decided to add subtitles featuring Subway products. Indeed, Conan O’Brien’s zeal for Subway is so strong that he interrupts jockey Joe Talamo, which you can see at the 0:47 mark….read more

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Is David Letterman a Corporate Shill?

Posted by in Advertising, Television

While David Letterman isn’t as prolific as Jay Leno with his in-show hawking, Letterman does shower his opening monologues with products. Applebee’s and Hooters are frequent mentions. But very often, Letterman will name a product and speak of it in a way that is reminiscent of a commercial. Watch how Letterman names KOA at the 0:10 mark and starts talking about KOA’s electrical hookup, swimming pools, and vending machines. (Paul Shaffer is heard reinforcing this by responding, “They have everything you need.”) Later, in the same show, Letterman’s writers have…read more

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Wooden Disposition

Posted by in Powers, Richard, wood-james

It is difficult to respond to James Wood’s remarkable misreading of Richard Powers’s Generosity without giving away the ending. As someone who respects a reader’s sense of discovery and who therefore stays mum on “spoilers” — a term that I suspect Wood is unfamiliar with — I would not dare give up the ghost. Needless to say, as I anticipated, Wood has again demonstrated his predictably vanilla failings with idea-driven novels. He is once again hysterical, starving and naked in a sad but interesting way, about a novel that is…read more

Is Jay Leno a Corporate Shill?

Posted by in Advertising, Television

You’d think that with a whopping 20 minutes carved out of an hour for commercials, the actual television program itself would be devoid of commercials, right? Not so. Jay Leno has a considerable preoccupation with naming products on his show (and, in the video above, interviewing the Wendy’s girl). The above video, featuring moments only from the September 25, 2009 episode of The Jay Leno Show, features blatant references to Cialis, Walmart, Photoshop, Waffle House, numerous tire companies, Wendy’s, and Microsoft’s Bing, calling into question the notion that The Jay…read more

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Nitrous Oxide

Posted by in Uncategorized

Reality is a toxic oxidant that we inhale at least eight hours a day. We take in the redolent whiff of the shit-stained social contract that we never got a chance to revise or look over. Learn the language and you get lost in clauses, becoming one of the lawdogs barking a sweet song in court just after spooning oodles of corn-based sugar in a rushed breakfast of dry cereal. It is hard to dwell on this nightmare without sounding like a strident agitator. They’ve taken our passions and transmuted…read more

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Freedom of Assembly

Posted by in Activism

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “‘It was all students and no protesters — it looked like any Friday night in Oakland but with more people,’ said Nathan Lanzendorfer, 23, of Mt. Lebanon. He went to Oakland out of curiosity to see the protests. Shortly before midnight he was caught on Forbes Avenue, with police deploying OC gas from two directions. “He was hit with a rubber bullet in his right leg and his left, started to run, and was then hit in an arm and his lower back. “‘I never heard any warning…read more

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The Bat Segundo Show: Nicholas Meyer

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Film, Star Trek

Nicholas Meyer appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #310. Nicholas Meyer is perhaps best known for his work on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He is most recently the author of The View from the Bridge. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Ah, listener my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served cold? Author: Nicholas Meyer Subjects Discussed: Lotus positions, talking back to prescience, writing books when the Writers Guild goes on strike, Samuel Johnson, the origins of The Seven…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Brian Evenson

Posted by in Bat Segundo

Brian Evenson appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #309. Brian Evenson is most recently the author of Fugue State and Last Days. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Latching onto toccata. Author: Brian Evenson Subjects Discussed: Knowing when a story concept has legs, ideas that never come to anything, the origins of “A Pursuit,” The Open Curtain, maintaining surprise, text sources vs. personal experience, writing fiction moments that hit two simultaneous emotions, grisly moments and descriptive detail, the reader’s imagination, revision and rhythm, not showing work to people, the surprise of audience…read more

Review: Capitalism: A Love Story

Posted by in Film

It seems to me that, if you’re rolling out the howitzers with the intent to destroy an ideology, you should probably blow the shit out of everything. But Michael Moore’s latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story, feels passe and diffident, despite the fact that it has gone out of its way to include footage from only a few weeks ago. Maybe this film’s dated feel has much to do with our present information age. In an age of YouTube and Twitter, how can any well-meaning documentary capture a permanent image…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Lawrence Block

Posted by in Bat Segundo

Lawrence Block appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #308. Lawrence Block is most recently the author of Step by Step. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Ruminating upon a life of exquisite indolence. Author: Lawrence Block Subjects Discussed: Step by Step as an anti-memoir, exploring childhood experience in print, randomness and finding connections, writing with a greater degree of freedom, Random Walk, concerns about a limited audience, earlier attempts at memoir, attempts by Block to write memoirs in the mid-1990s, the virtues of getting older, being less guarded with age, following up…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Michael Muhammad Knight

Posted by in Bat Segundo

Michael Muhammad Knight appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #307. Michael Muhammad Knight is most recently the author of Impossible Man and Osama Van Halen. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Expressing forceful words about his distinct identity. Author: Michael Muhammad Knight Subjects Discussed: Knight’s powers of prescience, Muslim punk, fictional suicide as a form of personal critique, the fictional character Mike Knight vs. the real Mike Knight, the Amazing Ayyub, character creation as the author arguing with himself, spiritual poles and quasi-Mikes talking with Mike creations, romanticizing the failure to be…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Laurie Sandell

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Comics

Laurie Sandell recently appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #306. Laurie Sandell is the author of The Impostor’s Daughter. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Wondering if the coalminer was an impostor. Author: Laurie Sandell Subjects Discussed: Chicken recipes, the quest for truth within memoir, how narrative shapes and stretches truth, subjective vs. objective accounts, the essay written anonymously for Esquire, memory vs. concrete evidence, emails from Ashley Judd, how hard evidence enhances a visual diagram, lawyers sifting through evidence, the use of clothing against background, working with a colorist, becoming one’s…read more

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Posted by in Relationships

The girl broke his heart. Just like the previous one had. And the one before that. But it was meant to be this way. This was his lot in life. He hadn’t intended it to play out like this, but it always did. And he was helpless when it came to the horrible side effects of his strangely appealing character. Three years from now, he would discover that the latest girl who broke his heart would be married to somebody else. A man less photogenic on Flickr, some Romeo who…read more

It Takes a Tough Man to Make a Tender Forecast, Nick

Posted by in News, Television

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The Follies of Emotional Expression

Posted by in Communication, Obama, Philosophy, Rushdie, Salman, west-kanye

ITEM: September 1, 2009. A YouTube video surfaces. In the video, Van Jones calls Congressional Republicans “assholes.” The video is from an event in February 11, 2009. Jones was appointed by President Obama in March 2009. After considerable outcry from conservatives, Jones resigns from his White House position as Special Advisor for Green Jobs. ITEM: September 8, 2009. President Obama delivers a speech before Congress. Rep. Joe Wilson (R – SC) shouts “You lie!” in the middle of the speech. Wilson apologizes, but the matter isn’t dropped. There are countless…read more

Housing Works Report

Posted by in Uncategorized

The bloggers won tonight. But that’s only because our teammate Catherine Lacey knew her stuff. If I learned anything from the last time bloggers went up against an opposing team, it’s that men really don’t know anything, even when they think they do, and that they should hold their tongues. Sure enough, I held my tongue many times — in large part because Time Out New York mentioned something about cunnilingus after the event and for a more practical reason — the buzzer I was using had a two second…read more

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Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Posted by in Film

It’s safe to say that any imaginative soul will welcome the prospect of tasty food descending from the heavens. It’s a great idea. Not only does this cut down or entirely eliminate precious minutes in the kitchen, but it also benefits the lazy and profligate types who eat out all the time. Instead of driving to some restaurant, you could merely stick your hands out a window and await immediate results. You wouldn’t even need a microwave. Then again, if the food isn’t prepared to your liking, you’re not exactly…read more

RIP Patrick Swayze

Posted by in Film, Obits

If you don’t enjoy Roadhouse, I’m convinced that you don’t have a soul. The fact remains that this cheesy movie wouldn’t be so magical had not Swayze understood the material so well. Watch how he sells the above scene. It’s all in the delivery and that modest Swayze head jerk. I liked Patrick Swayze. Who didn’t? He could take syrupy screenplays and give them backbone. Not unlike David Carradine, come to think of it.

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Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #6

Posted by in Dramatic Readings, Hate Mail

A few weeks ago, I learned that somebody had been pretending to be friendly with me for quite a long time. This person was uninterested in explicating feelings or having any rational point of reference. What mattered most to this person was hostility. As you will soon see, the email was ridiculously petty and obstinately worded. Therefore, my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue. The following clip represents my dramatic reading of the hate mail in question, read in the style of a Miss Manners…read more

Quiz Show — September 17th

Posted by in Events

I have been enlisted to serve as quiz show participant for something called the “Don’t Know Much About Literature Quiz Show” at the Housing Works on September 17, 2009, at 7:00 PM. I am not sure what this evening entails exactly, but it looks to be very fun and apparently Kenneth C. Davis is involved. Davis is the guy who has authored such books as Don’t Know Much About History, Don’t Know Much About Quantum Physics, Don’t Know Much About Euclidean Geometry, Don’t Know Much About Tax Code, Don’t Know…read more

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Jelly Spills and Underwear: A Manifesto

Posted by in Jelly, Underwear

I am not wearing pants. This is the optimal thinking position. And this makes my recent failure slightly humiliating. You see, there are several globs of grape jelly that spilled onto my boxers. This was because I faced the common domestic problem of making a jelly sandwich with the hope of using the maximum amount of jelly possible. The trouble was that there was just enough jelly left in the jar for about a sandwich and a half. An immediate decision was made. Finish off the jelly. Who would want…read more

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Sarah Hall Roundtable — Part Five

Posted by in hall-sarah, Roundtable

(This is the fifth of a five-part roundtable discussion of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man.) Other Installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four More on Hall: “The Early Fiction of Sarah Hall” and a one hour radio interview I conducted with Hall in 2008. Many thanks to all the participants, to Gregory Henry at Harper for getting the books out to everyone so quickly, and to Sarah Hall for her gracious eleventh-hour participation. Judith Zissman writes: Ed started us out with this, among other things:…read more

Sarah Hall Roundtable — Part Four

Posted by in hall-sarah, Roundtable

(This is the fourth of a five-part roundtable discussion of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man.) Other Installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Five More on Hall: “The Early Fiction of Sarah Hall” and a one hour radio interview I conducted with Hall in 2008. Jenny Davidson writes: Ugh, I am feeling awful about this — I don’t like writing negative reviews, I’ve been dragging my heels on finishing the book and writing a few thoughts for your consideration – but now that I’ve finished reading…read more

Review: 9 (2009)

Posted by in Film

“We had such potential, such promise,” croaks an apocalyptic voice at the beginning of an apocalyptic movie. That may as well be director Shane Acker and screenwriter Pamela Pettler talking. 9 is the kind of film you expect from a mirthless marketing team stumbling onto a hip concept discovered two years too late (“Oooh! Steampunk! That’s what the kids are into!”), only to fumble so desperately in the conception. Sure, the filmmakers were given enough money to attract Christopher Plummer, Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, and numerous other…read more

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #5

Posted by in Dramatic Readings, Hate Mail

A few days ago, somebody forwarded me an email. Apparently, someone had sent an angry email to the writer Jason Sanford, claiming that the writer Jason Sanford, despite writing fantasy and science fiction, was apparently ignorant of the genre. The name “Harlan Ellison” was evoked within the email, presumably to secure the maximum hatred possible. Therefore, my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue. The following clip represents my dramatic reading of the hate mail sent to the writer Jason Sanford, read in the style of…read more

Sarah Hall Roundtable — Part Three

Posted by in hall-sarah, Roundtable

(This is the third of a five-part roundtable discussion of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man.) Other Installments: Part One, Part Two, Part Four, Part Five More on Hall: “The Early Fiction of Sarah Hall” and a one hour radio interview I conducted with Hall in 2008. Brian Francis Slattery writes: This has all been a pleasure to read so far, and good to be meeting some of you, if electronically, for the first time. When I was in my first year or so of college, and an…read more

A Special Musical Interlude from Stacey Q!

Posted by in Music

This text will be replaced Fun Facts! The song was recorded on a TASCAM 85-16. (Source) In 1986, Tampa Bay DJ Bubba the Love Sponge of WFLZ managed to talk a women out of suicide. She had called in to request “Two of Hearts” as her last song. (Source) Stacey Q played a character named “Cinnamon” on an episode of The Facts of Life and sang the song at the end. The episode was called “Off-Broadway Baby” and was the fifth episode in season eight. It originally aired on November…read more

Sarah Hall Roundtable — Part Two

Posted by in hall-sarah, Roundtable

(This is the second of a five-part roundtable discussion of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man.) Other Installments: Part One, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five More on Hall: “The Early Fiction of Sarah Hall” and a one hour radio interview I conducted with Hall in 2008. Miracle Jones writes: “You turned instead to the place where all depraved civilian requests are made and met: the internet.” — Sarah Hall, How to Paint a Dead Man This book was chilly.  Cold, cold, cold.  Not just cold: frozen.  Ordinarily,…read more

Sarah Hall Roundtable — Part One

Posted by in hall-sarah, Roundtable

(This is the first of a five-part roundtable discussion of Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man.) Other Installments: Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five More on Hall: “The Early Fiction of Sarah Hall” and a one hour radio interview I conducted with Hall in 2008. This week, Sarah Hall’s fourth novel, How to Paint a Dead Man, hits bookstores in the United States. And this website will be devoting the entire week to discussing Hall’s book. We’ll be serializing the conversation in five chunky installments from…read more

Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project #4

Posted by in Dramatic Readings, Hate Mail

A few days ago, somebody forwarded me an email. Apparently, someone had sent an angry email to the writer Sean Aden Lovelace, quibbling with certain fiction categories and forms of prose that the writer Sean Aden Lovelace used. Therefore, my audio series — Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project — must continue. The following clip represents my dramatic reading of the hate mail sent to the writer Sean Aden Lovelace, read in the style of a drunken Irishman. During the course of my dramatic reading, I began to crave beverages of…read more