The Bat Segundo Show: Neal Stephenson

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 the Institute for Advanced Study, Platonism, Edmund Husserl, the Kantian influence in Anathem, units of measurement, Gene Wolfe, the use of “runcible,” using very old words to avoid the high tech feel, “aut” and auto-da-fe, devising quasi-Latin lingo, Riddley Walker, learning new words as an essential part of the experience of literature, considering the general reader, devising a script that went through the entire text to determine how many words were invented, concocting an intuitive vernacular, cognitive philosophy concerning the fly, the bat, and the worm inspired by Husserl, reader accessibility, My Dinner with Andre, the danger of getting caught up in an invented world, the snowscape journey as a side quest, finding humor in unexpected places, Ras as the anti-Enoch Root, Robert Heinlein’s YA novels, Ras’s perception of music, music and mathematics, literal and figurative meanings, Max Tegmark’s The Mathematical Universe, creating a metaverse and happy accidents, being “family-based” and types of relationships within the Avout, Laura Miller’s suggestion that Anathem is “a campus novel,” use of the first-person, narrative constraints, criticism about women as nurturers, female characters, and the risk of writing books about ideas.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: Going back to the idea of the general reader, or the common reader — whatever we want to call the audience here — the philosophical proposition involving the fly, the bat, and the worm expressing basic cognitive abilities, and how cognitive abilities come together so that humans are a higher form of animal than other animals, this was a very clear way of expressing this particular concept of individual senses. And I’m wondering if this was something that you concocted. Or that you took from Kant. Because I actually tried to find a philosophical precedent for this as well.

Stephenson: It’s more from [Edmund] Husserl. So Husserl was an amazing guy who could just sit in his office and look at a copper ashtray, and then write at great length about all of the processes that went on in his mind when he was perceiving that ashtray, and recognizing it from one moment to the next as being the same object. And so he’s got a number of lengthy books about this, which, as you can imagine, are pretty hard to read. So the content of the dialogue, or the parable you mention — the fly, the bat, and the worm — really comes from him. But it’s me trying to write a somewhat more accessible version of similar ideas.

Correspondent: So you really wanted to be accessible in some sense, it seems to me.

Stephenson: In some sense, yeah.

Correspondent: Well, what sense exactly?

Stephenson: (laughs) Well…

Correspondent: If the reader doesn’t matter and, at the same time, there’s this accessibility here, it seems…what’s the real story? (laughs)

Stephenson: Oh no. The reader matters. The criterion is very simple. It’s got to be a good yarn. If it’s not a good yarn, then the whole enterprise fails. So I think that to have a good yarn, you’ve got to have characters that people are interested in. And they’ve got to get into situations that make for a good story. It’s okay to stop the action and have them sit down and have an interesting conversation. You know, for some reason, I always go back to the movie, My Dinner with Andre, which is a long movie consisting of two guys just sitting there talking with each other. But it’s a completely engaging and fascinating movie. That’s kind of an existence proof that you can build a good yarn that consists largely of people just having conversations. And so that was kind of my guiding — that was my guideline, I guess you could say, for trying to work that material in.

BSS #245: Neal Stephenson (Download MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

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: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (director of Tokyo Sonata)

Subjects Discussed: Delving into the issue of whether or not contemporary Tokyo is now a city without a voice, collaborating with screenwriter Max Mannix, Ozu’s trains, crossing the axis, the noisy train behind the family house, characters pretending to be employed, the artistic blood within the family line, pretending as a coping mechanism, pretending to pretend to pretend, whether or not the idea of being adult involves accepting a false allegation, weapons of mass destruction, the relationship between authority and active behavior from subordinates, framing characters so that the audience doesn’t see a phone call, blocking actors so that they walk in very precise lines, the Tokyo organization men, showing more ancillary characters, the human infrastructure of Tokyo, using a pen as a microphone, symbolism, cleaning fluid and specialization, and the dramatic presentation of conformity.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: You have this train running behind the Sasaki home. And this suggested to me, along with the fact that you cut this film frequently crossing the axis in the editing — crossing the 180 line — it almost suggests an Ozu parody. Or the kind of movie that Ozu would have made if he were to live in our particular times. And I wanted to ask you how this visual style originated, as well as the subway line.

Kurosawa: (through translator) Yes, Ozu was the name I was most dreading hearing, if only because I’m such a huge maniacal fan of him. I really tried to shut him out of my brain. But I guess subconsciously a little bit of his influence remained.

Correspondent: Back to this notion. Ozu was not a part of developing this script? The subway line, I didn’t get an answer for the train behind the house. And I’m very curious about that. Because it very much reminded me of Ozu’s trains.

Kurosawa: (through translator) Actually, that train and the proximity to the house of the Sasakis was not in the script at all. It wasn’t intentional. As I wandered around Tokyo looking for the right home for the Sasaki family, there happened to be a train track next to that particular house.

BSS #244: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Download MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Charlie Kaufman

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. Kaufman has to do to impress our interviewer and the audience, how Mr. Kaufman changes, the issues that arise from Mr. Kaufman’s experiences, coming closer to a complete resolution of the world, shots of clocks in Synecdoche, New York, misunderstandings from Hollywood journalists, initial assemblies, how time seems to speed up as Mr. Kaufman gets older, walking by a clock that was a piece of graffiti on the wall, Caden and his colors, how Mr. Kaufman talks with the costume designer, whether or not clothes are comfortable on Philip Seymour Hoffman, Beckett’s Act Without Words, Mr. Kaufman trying to get closer to who he is, trying to avoid copying presentations of relationships from movies, Death of a Salesman, The Trial, literary influences, Equus, Proust, near literalisms, writing the Harold Pinter scene when revising the screenplay, and verifying real world headlines through the act of writing.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: It’s safe to say that you are an idea man. So I must ask you: to what degree do you worry about an idea? Does your mind brim with more ideas — even correct ideas — than you can possibly use? Are you thinking of ideas right now? Is there a slight sense of panic with any idea? What is your idea of ideas?

Kaufman: Well, this whole question is based on the premise that I am an idea man, which I’m not sure that I agree with.

Correspondent: Oh.

Kaufman: So I’m trying to break down what you asked me. And I don’t know. How am I an idea man? To turn this around. On you, Ed.

Correspondent: Well, I would argue that this film is laced with endless ideas meshing against each other.

Kaufman: Yes, it has a lot of ideas. But the ideas came over a two-year period, as I wrote the script. It’s not that I was furiously — like you or your girlfriend — furiously writing 700 pages in two days so that you could read it two days later. I mean, it’s slow. And sometimes it doesn’t happen at all for long periods of time.

Correspondent: So it’s the impression, I suppose, of being an idea man based on the final output here.

Kaufman: It’s not like it happens in real time. It’s not like there’s a two-hour movie and I wrote it in two hours.

Correspondent: Okay, well then let’s turn that…

Kaufman: I mean, I think you thought that before.

Correspondent: Oh certainly!

Kaufman: But it’s not true.

Correspondent: Let’s talk about it.

Kaufman: Let’s turn it around.

Correspondent: Okay. What is the actual ratio of you coming up with an idea? Is it one idea every 2.2 days? What’s the deal?

Kaufman: I would say that…(to himself) you figure two years….maybe it’s an idea a week.

Correspondent: And you have to determine whether…

Kaufman: And this is terribly disappointing for you.

Correspondent: Oh no! It’s actually quite interesting! I’m wondering. Do you have a certain….? Over the course of a week, do you determine whether that idea is correct in association with another idea? Is there kind of an idea peer review process that you run across in your mind? I mean, what’s the situation here?

Kaufman: There is no correct for ideas. Ideas are ideas. And if they’re interesting to me, they’re interesting to me. You know, I don’t know what an idea is actually. I think I think more in terms of emotions than ideas, although there are conceptual things that I utilize. Conceptual things that are devices or that are interesting to me. But the meat of the work for me is the emotional aspect of it. And I don’t know if you would consider those ideas or…

Correspondent: I think an emotional idea is nevertheless an idea.

Kaufman: Okay, then I…

Correspondent: You’re assuming that an idea is based entirely on cerebral terms. And I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.

Kaufman: Well, it may just be more the way that you’re presenting it. It feels….when you talk about ideas, and how many ideas you come up with, blah blah blah.

Correspondent: We’re presenting it in statistical data, yeah. (laughs)

Kaufman: It feels very cerebral.

Correspondent: Okay.

Kaufman: And scientific. And so yes, I have emotional ideas.

BSS #243: Charlie Kaufman (Download MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Pale Young Gentlemen

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 fitting together, certain things didn’t work at all anymore, didn’t work for the mood of the entire album anymore. So we had to change the arrangement so it fit better. Drums are one of the things that I have absolutely no knowledge about.

Correspondent: So you defer to Matt.

Reisenauer: I can’t play them. So he’ll play things. And he’ll do things. “Don’t do that anymore.” “That’s bad.” “That’s great.” Or “do that again.” You know, that kind of stuff.

Correspondent: I’m curious. Do you have any input on specific sounds? Or is that all Matthew? I note, for example, there’s that sound during “The Crook of My Good Arm,” where you have something that sounds between a cowbell and a gas station bell.

Reisenauer: Yeah, I can tell you what that is. I was having trouble with that song, and so I decided I’d just demo it in my apartment on an eight-track. So I just had the guitar line. And I was just messing around. And I was headed at a table. And at the table was a Pottery Barn-like fruit bowl. And so I just took the end of a handle on some scissors and banged on the inside of it.

Correspondent: Really?

Reisenauer: We used that on the record too. We brought that bowl into the studio.

Correspondent: It was that bowl.

Reisenauer: With the back of the scissors.

Correspondent: Did you try any other bowls out?

Reisenauer: No! It was the perfect sound right away.

Correspondent: It was one bowl and it worked out.

Reisenauer: Yeah, we didn’t mess with it at all.

Correspondent: Are there any other percussive scenarios like that? Where you banged on something and it turned out to be just that particular one? A divine act of serendipity?

Reisenauer: (laughs) Nothing like that on the album. We tried other various things. Matt had an idea for a song using a wrench. A ratchet wrench going KWHLEKT. Like that. That kind of stuff. But it didn’t end up fitting well for the album.

BSS #242: Pale Young Gentlemen (Download MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Megan Hustad

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. And what they all say, at heart, is that you’re not going to be successful — in life, in your relationships, in your career, what have you — if you’re not fulfilling someone else’s needs. If you’re not being of use to someone else. And that usefulness is at the heart of success. And whatever needs you have will be fulfilled through being of service.

Correspondent: But isn’t that a bit of a Machiavellian scenario? I mean, I’m not looking at this conversation as, “Oh, Megan’s being very useful to me!” I’m actually just curious about your book.

Hustad: Well, they would say that that’s an artificial distinction. You can be sincere and yet know that you will benefit from this sort of interaction. You can be sincerely interested with the knowledge that some good will come out of it.

Correspondent: So you can be subconsciously useful perhaps? I mean, how do you factor something like the prisoner’s dilemma into this situation?

Hustad: (laughs)

Correspondent: Certainly that’s the ultimate in useful diabolic results here.

Hustad: You’re going to have to tell me exactly, and perhaps remind your audience, what is the prisoner’s dilemma.

Correspondent: Well, the prisoner’s dilemma. You have two prisoners in a cell. If you rat on your partner, you will be let go for seven years or whatever the terms of the argument are. And so what ends up happening is that — if you have a little box here, a little four square box — if one rats on the other, it depends on how the circumstances play out. It’s like a big thing in game theory. It just comes to mind when thinking about usefulness.

Hustad: How? How so? (laughs)

Correspondent: Well, how so? Because the results are so terrible no matter how they end up!

Hustad: But we’re talking about good things here. We’re talking about people doing good for one another. Not evil!

Correspondent: Okay, but in the framing of this very influential theorem, which game theory is modeled upon, this is the ultimate way to perceive usefulness. Okay, I’ll get off of that.

BSS #241: Megan Hustad (Download MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #240. Ms. Robinson is most recently the author of Home.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Avoiding the relationship potential of malfunctioning XLR cables.

Author: Marilynne Robinson

Subjects Discussed: Revisiting the Gilead universe, Lawrence Durrell, Robinson’s aversion to sequels, the parable of the prodigal son, the role of letters and text within Gilead and Home, text as a lively and disturbing realm, affirming identity by chronicling detail, seizing the day, Bob Marley, the depiction of the home in Housekeeping in relation to the vertical landscape, “home” as a value-charged word, listening to vernacular hymns, characters who listen to the radio, music as the great common ground, music and memory, banishing certain words, whacking sentences down, characters and educational background, the advantages of not speaking, circular food in the Boughton household, the virtues of toast, family meals and communion, the frequency of dialogue in Robinson’s novels, the predestination colloquy in Gilead and Home, James Wood’s review, the advantage and limitations of third-person perspective, interpretation vs. living the events, the shifting definition of sin during the 20th century, Iowa and anti-miscegenation laws, the Chrysler DeSoto vs. Hernando De Soto, the Kennedys, secular figures within novels, Jonathan Edwards, hypocrisy and religion, the origins of character names, the role of judgment within family, Das Kapital and Jack’s Marxism, the history of The Nation, the writer-reader relationship, using a BlackBerry, and parody and the contemporary novel.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I wanted to ask you about the tale of the prodigal son, which of course comes from Luke 15:11. The onus of guilt in that parable, however, falls largely on the son. Specifically, the quote is “Father I have sinned against heaven, and before thee / And am no more worthy to be called they son; make me as one of thy hired servants.” But Jack, he calls his father “Sir.” Not “Dad.” Although there’s a slight discrepancy near the end. He works on the DeSoto of his own accord. He’s often summoned to play on the piano and the like, and also work in the garden. But he’s sometimes an unapologetic sinner. And other times, he drowns his sorrows in alcohol. So the interesting question here about the prodigal son is: The framework of the Scriptures is clearly there in this book, but I’m curious as to when you decided to launch away from that. Likewise, was this actually a starting point? Or was it an intuitive process of trying to obvert what we know about that particular story from Luke?

Robinson: Well, I have a slightly different interpretation of that story than the one that’s generally circulated.

Correspondent: I think so. (laughs)

Robinson: You notice that the prodigal son says, “I am no longer worthy to be called thy son.” But from the father’s point of view, this is never an issue. He doesn’t ask for the son to satisfy any standards of his. He doesn’t ask for confession. He doesn’t ask for some plea for forgiveness. He sees his son coming from a distance and wants to meet him before he knows anything about him, except that he’s his son coming home. And I think that the point of the parable really is grace rather than forgiveness. The fact that the father is always the father. Despite and without conditions. And this is true in Boughton’s case. As far as he concerned, Jack is his son. And that’s the beginning and the end of it. Jack is not able to accept his father’s embrace.

Correspondent: It’s basically approaching a parable or a well-known story from a kind of cockeyed manner. Really, it comes down to this notion of the text as Scripture. I think certainly in Gilead, that was the case. And in this case, you have them throwing away letters. You have, of course, the love letters that are thrown down the drain. The letters that Jack sends out, which come back RETURN TO SENDER. And of course, they’re schlepping off a number of magazines to Ames, who lives down the block. So this is very interesting to me. Whereas the first book dealt explicitly with this idea of text as this panacea for loneliness, this book deals with disseminating the text out to other people, or getting rid of text. Which is why I ask the question as to how this relates to Scripture. Is text really something for us to cling onto in this? Whether it be a book or whether it be the Bible? Whether it be religious or literary or what not, there are matters of interpretation in life that go well beyond text and well beyond the idea of fulfilling this need to cure loneliness.

Robinson: Well, I think of text — by the analogy to Scripture that you’re making — I think of it is as something that is lively and disturbing. Disruptive. I mean, for example, say that Ames’s best hopes are met and his son receives the voice of his father when his son is an adult, that would completely jar the sense of memory, the sense of proximity to another human person, and all kinds of things that we think we understand. The letters that come to Jack and the letters that don’t come to him — they’re central. They’re alive, even though they are profoundly problematic. And I think of, in a way, text and Scripture as active in that way. As a sort of eccentric presence in human experience.

BSS #240: Marilynne Robinson (Download MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh is the filmmaker behind Naked, Life is Sweet, Vera Drake, and, most recently, Happy-Go-Lucky, which is currently playing the New York Film Festival (among many others) and opens in the United States on October 10.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Too unhappy and too unlucky.

Guest: Mike Leigh

Subjects Discussed: Vocational symmetries within Leigh’s films, Oscar Wilde, looking at a community, bad teachers, Leigh’s considerable frustrations about Poppy being “too happy,” the difficulties of filming Poppy’s jewelry, audience members misperceiving details, the confusion over Scott being a taxi driver, Bechdel’s Rule, depicting women who aren’t in relationships, the duty to portray life, Leigh’s problems with semiotics, collaborating with cinematographer Dick Pope, feeling the buzz of a visual instinct, devising Naked‘s opening shot, getting an Ozu fix, pursuing the issue of technology, flamenco dancing, MySpace, drawings and investigating domestic violence, “En-ra-ha,” Aleister Crowley, gloomy bookstore employees and literary references, shooting in High Definition, and film financing.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Leigh: But as to the jewelry as a symbol of cyclical anything, I don’t know whether I’d go along with that one.

Correspondent: Okay. Well, fair enough.

Leigh: (laughs) Nice try.

Correspondent: Well, let’s talk about another possible symbol. The back pain that she experiences. This to me suggests that here we have Poppy moving forward as her specific identity — “happy-go-lucky” — and yet there is this pain in the back. And, of course, she laughs it off while she’s at the chiropractor’s office. But the thing that’s fascinating about this to me is that, well, this is behind her. So it’s almost as if she has her blinders on. She’s so focused in on moving forward that she doesn’t notice what she’s feeling in the back. And I’m wondering again how much one should read symbols into these particular choices.

Leigh: I think as we progress into this conversation — I think you are plainly a fundamental, unreconstituted, top-rate intellectual. Which I’m not. I think it’s fascinating, your analysis. But I think it’s a load of old rope. Basically. And I can’t go along with it at all. I mean, the fact is, she gets a bend in the back because she pulls her back when she’s trampolining. And it happens to be her back because that’s what she pulls. The back muscle. I think what’s more interesting about that unfortunate thing that happens to her, which gets fixed by an osteopath, not a chiropractor…

Correspondent: My apologies.

Leigh: No, no, you couldn’t, you know. But I think what is interesting, I’ve found, is that, you know, a lot of people — this has nothing to do with your question, but it’s talking about the same part of the film.

Correspondent: Sure.

Leigh: The same aspect of what happens to Poppy. You know, people are conditioned — mainly, courtesy of Hollywood — into the inevitability that something terrible is going to happen. And a number of people have thought, “Oh! She’s got cancer of the kidneys! That’s what this film is about!” Partly because the last film I made was about an abortionist. The fact is that it’s not about that. People say, “Well, couldn’t something terrible happen to her in the film?” And then you think of that. And you say, “No. Because that’s not what it’s about.” Of course, this could become a film about a woman who dies of cancer of the kidneys. But so what? That’s not what it’s about. It’s about somebody who giggles at stuff and is positive.

Correspondent: You also quibbled in another interview over people identifying Scott as a taxi driver instead of a driving instructor.

Leigh: Yeah, people say “that scene with the taxi driver.” I mean, it’s amazing. The number of people everywhere — here, in Paris, in London, in Berlin, and we’re talking about international fests — who call him a taxi driver. And it’s very curious. It’s as though this is a film about an airline pilot and people are calling him a doctor. It’s very strange.

Correspondent: I mean, I’m wondering. Could it be the way that you actually shot him? Because I know that you and Mr. Pope actually used lipstick cams to get…

Leigh: No, no. Come on. You cannot construct any correlation between how the film was shot and the fact that, for some reason, people call a driving instructor a taxi driver. You really can’t do that.

Correspondent: So it’s the audience’s problem. Not yours.

Leigh: No, no. It’s just a weird thing. I mean, I don’t think it’s even a problem. It’s just a strange quirk. But I don’t think anything should be made of it really.

BSS #238: Mike Leigh (Download MP3)

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Segundo Torrent Pack #11 Released

The eleventh Bat Segundo torrent pack has been uploaded to The Pirate Bay. This torrent pack includes interviews with Mark Sarvas, Errol Morris, Sarah Hall, Tobias Wolff, Ed Park, Ralph Bakshi, Mort Walker, Rachel Shukert, and Thomas M. Disch.

To download the other ten packs, some of which are now being seeded by a few other parties, start here. Be sure to download and be sure to help seed the torrents!

I’ll release a twelfth torrent pack when we get to Show #240, which will probably be sometime in the next few weeks.

The Bat Segundo Show: Bonnie Tyler

Bonnie Tyler appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #237. Tyler is the legendary singer behind such tracks as “Vernal Equinox of the Mind” and “Holding Out for a Supervillain.”

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Nothing he can say, a total eclipse of the Bat

Guest: Bonnie Tyler

Subjects Discussed: Tyler co-writing most of the tracks on the album, Wings, singing vs. songwriting, breaking up with managers, shyness, hairs that stand up on the back of the neck, turning down a song by Jim Steinman, songs that involve the devil, Desmond Child, James Bond, Tyler turning down the Never Say Never Again theme, Heartstrings and recording cover songs mostly from male recording artists, the song selection process, Meat Loaf, rehearsing “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” the seven minute opuses on Faster Than the Speed of Night, a group of passengers who were traumatized by Tyler singing on an Air France jet, Noel Gallagher, contending with hardcore fans, a 15-year-old Australian who claimed to be Tyler’s daughter, avoiding retirement, the number of shows Tyler performs a year, the endless onslaught of greatest hits albums, the Psion SMX and iPods, country music, Duffy, what Bonnie reads, Les Dawson, Tyler tells a bawdy joke, Botox, ageism, music videos and photo shoots, being judged on physical appearance, looks vs. voice, MTV and YouTube videos, the nightmare of making music videos, restrictions from record companies, independent labels, and music and the Internet.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: Going back to Wings, I actually wanted to talk about “Crying in Berlin.” This song, out of all the songs that I’ve listened to of yours, sounds the most like a James Bond song. And I do know the Hindustan Times reported in 2006 that the only thing that could bring you out of retirement was recording a James Bond theme of some sort. I’m wondering if you’ve considered approaching the Bond producers to sing a song just as you called up and contacted [Jim] Steinman, and said, “Hey, I want you to go ahead and produce this particular album.”

Tyler: No. It just happened. They just asked me. Would I like to do a song? And they sent me the song. “Never Say Never,” right?

Correspondent: Yeah.

Tyler: And I listened to it, and I thought, “Ugh! Shit! I don’t like it.”

Correspondent: It is one of the weakest of all the Bond themes.

Tyler: I really would die to do a James Bond song, you know? But I can’t do it. My heart wouldn’t have been in it. I had to turn it down. Now how many people turn down a Bond song, I don’t know. But I turned it down because I didn’t like it. And I was proved right. Because I think out of all the songs.

Correspondent: Who remembers it?

Tyler: I can’t even remember it.

Correspondent: (sings) “Never say never again.” Yeah, I know.

Tyler: I don’t remember. It didn’t appeal to me at all. So I turned it down. And that’s the only regret that I have. But it was…

Correspondent: It wasn’t actually an official Bond movie, technically speaking. Because it was produced outside the [Albert] Broccoli camp. So I think you’re on safe ground.

Tyler: It was a Bond movie!

Correspondent: It was a Bond movie, but it wasn’t official under the Albert Broccoli camp. It was a Sean Connery once-over. Because it was also Thunderball revisited.

Tyler: Whatever. I got offered one and I turned it down.

Correspondent: Did you consider reapproaching them and saying, “Hey, I’d love to do a James Bond song. But this one doesn’t cut it. Can I bring in one of these many songwriters who are sending me songs?” Did you try that tactic?

Tyler: No, I didn’t. But you’ve just given me a good idea. (laughs)

BSS #237: Bonnie Tyler (Download MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Courtney Humphries

Courtney Humphries appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #234. Humphries is the author of Superdove

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Severely underestimating the carnivorous impulses of pigeons.

Author: Courtney Humphries

Subjects Discussed: Eating squab, pigeon dining options in restaurants, Robert Dunn’s pigeon paradox, urban forms of nature, pigeons as an ineluctable aspect of the city, people’s attitudes towards wildlife, the pigeon’s place in the food chain, pigeons as the garbage disposal of Mother Nature, feral pigeons, interbreeding, when baby pigeons fend for themselves, distinguishing pigeon types, corpulent vs. svelte pigeons, individual variation, Daniel Haag-Wackernagel’s efforts to reduce the pigeon population in Basel, Switzerland, synanthropy vs. symbiotic relationships, the human failure to consider other species within our current habitats, being a social synanthropic animal, cooing sounds, birds imitating urban sounds, the difficulties of raising funds to study pigeons, Richard Johnston’s Feral Pigeons, artificial selection, General Mills’s funding of B.F. Skinner’s Project Pigeon, the folly of the pigeon-guided missile, overstating the cognitive potential of pigeons, Robert Cook’s experiments at Tufts, and Charles Walcott and pigeon homing.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: You’ve actually dined on squab. You allude to the fact that it’s delicious, that it’s dark meat. But as a carnivore and somewhat of a curio, I had to ask whether it tasted like chicken or like duck or like turkey. I mean, you didn’t go into specifics here. And I’m wondering if the experience was possibly unsettling or you couldn’t convince yourself completely that it was delicious. Because you also sympathized with these birds. But what of this?

Humphries: Yeah, I was a little bit nervous about eating them. At the time, I had been looking at pigeons for a long time and was working on this book. And so I was very interested in them. So I was a little worried about eating a pigeon, how I’d feel about it. But it was really good. Because it’s dark meat. They’re small birds. So you’re not getting huge pieces of meat. But it’s kind of a dense meat. It’s not fatty like duck is. But it’s good. And I had it again recently in Chinatown — in Boston, where I live — and it was crispy fried squab, where they didn’t deep-fry the whole bird. And they serve it to you cut in pieces including the head. So that was a little more.

Correspondent: With the head included, yeah.

Humphries: That was a little unnerving to me to have the head just lying there.

Correspondent: But you ate it anyway.

Humphries: I did. But I have to admit that I didn’t feel as great about it as the first time I had it, which was a very nice upscale restaurant. They just served some pieces of the squab sitting on some rice.

Correspondent: So that’s twice you’ve had pigeon?

Humphries: Yes.

Correspondent: Have you had it any other time?

Humphries: No, well, for one thing, it’s very expensive when you go to the nice restaurants. It can cost you a lot. You know, I wouldn’t mind trying more different varieties. I do feel that if I was eating pigeon all the time and talking about how great they are, maybe I wouldn’t. I’d feel strange.

Correspondent: You’d be branded in some sense.

BSS #234: Courtney Humphries

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The Bat Segundo Show: Brent Spiner

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 for Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back, getting mechanical rights for the songs, merging “I Love You” with “Nice and Easy,” the difficulties of getting Cole Porter’s “Let’s Fall in Love,” DJ Giagni, tap dancing and footfalls, sound effects, maracas that appear on the left speaker, arguments for and against the older man-younger woman musical trope, certain elements that are holding back Dreamland from being transposed to a live performance, the belting quality of Spiner’s voice, wrestling, Spiner’s extraordinary claims as an opera singer, Mark Hamill as a figure to help smooth over the rancor between two popular science fiction franchises, growing up in Houston, the demolition of the Shamrock Hilton in June 1987, Cecil Pickett and the brothers Quaid, Randy Quaid and Actors’ Equity, Spiner’s complex feelings for Rutger Hauer, Hauer and Whoopi Goldberg, taking umbrage with YouTube commenters, working with Maude Maggart, signing on for a six-year contract for a show that rhymes with “car wreck,” committing to a project without knowing when it will end, Threshold, negotiating the limitations of television, the relationship between art vs. commerce, why Spiner moved to Los Angeles, Superhero Movie, living like a college student vs. an adult lifestyle, and the trappings and consistent struggles of being an actor.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I should observe that you grew up in Houston.

Spiner: Yes.

Correspondent: Of course, for a long time, the Shamrock Hilton was there.

Spiner: Right.

Correspondent: And what is rather unusual is that it was demolished in June 1987, which almost exactly coincides with your big break on the show that shall not be named. I was wondering if you ever contemplated this connection, and whether the hotel [in Dreamland] may have jumped out because of this. Why did you choose the hotel? And what of the Shamrock Hilton?

Spiner: You know what, Ed, I’m not sure what the question is really. And I’m not even sure you know what the question is.

Correspondent: No, no, I’m just throwing associations at you.

Spiner: Yeah, you know what?

Correspondent: I figured that you can handle this.

Spiner: Let me say, and I will say the word, I did Star Trek purposefully because of the demise of the Shamrock Hotel.

Correspondent: Yeah. I knew it.

Spiner: There was no other reason that I took that job. When they told me…

Correspondent: …that Houston was dead to you.

Spiner: Yeah, Houston was dead to me once the Shamrock Hilton was gone. But let me just say this. How do you know about the Shamrock Hilton?

Correspondent: I just am curious.

Spiner: Are you from Houston?

Correspondent: No, I’m not. I’ve never actually been in Texas, aside from, I believe, a layover. But I just knew about it. I knew that big people came through there.

Spiner: Yup. Oh! Please.

Correspondent: And so I figured you hung out there.

Spiner: I did.

Correspondent: When these big people made their way through there.

Spiner: I once saw Mel Torme at the Shamrock.

Correspondent: Really?

Spiner: At the Shamrock pool. Walking fast. And even more importantly, I once saw Jock Mahoney doing chin-ups outside by the Shamrock pool.

Correspondent: Did you talk with these folks when you were there?

Spiner: You know, I didn’t. I wish I’d talked to Jock Mahoney, which is another story altogether.

Download BSS #233: Brent Spiner (MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Sarah Manguso

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 and foreshadowing meaning, mosaic tiles, the goofy perils of being called a poet, incidental metaphors, the engine of intelligence getting in the way, the uncertainty of employment, the solipsistic degrees of writing, stumbling upon a cohesive idea of what the universe entails, other memoirs of illness, categorization and after-the-fact marketing, reading fiction while writing, John Cheever’s Falconer, surveillance and paranoia, the alphabetical pursuit of hobbies, and the identity of the famous writer baffled by the idea of a hobby other than writing.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Manguso: I thought of the pieces as an arrangement in two phases. The first phase was completely chaotic and the second phase was orderly. And during the chaotic first draft phase, the project that I set myself was really just to try to remember everything I could remember about this nine-year period in my life. Just everything. Every individual memory that I could bring up. And after my latest revision had lasted seven years, after that time, it really did seem that the memories had become particulate. Like there really was just one memory that espoused the insertion of the first central line in my chest. And it really did seem to have hardened in my memory into this item, this thing, this chunk of this chapter. And so while I was first writing the book, I didn’t think about chronology. Mainly because I had no idea how to write a book about one thing. I’d never done it before. And I didn’t know anything about narrative or what should come first. I really just wrote the pages all as individual files. And once I couldn’t remember anything else, I printed them all out and tried to notate based on memory and based on asking people what months and what year each thing had happened. And then I just put them in chronological order.

Correspondent: Well, there’s specific phrasing for some of these “thingies.” Pardon my…

Manguso: Let’s call them chapters now. I think that sounds more professional.

Correspondent: These particular word arrangement units. WAUs. Wows?

Manguso: Wows.

Correspondent: We’ll call them wows. Or waz.

Manguso: I’m going to call them chapters. But I like wow.

Correspondent: You often have text within text. With this italicization. But you have a particular timeline. Because you often use “the day before the decision I wrote” or “I wrote this three months after the diagnosis.” And so it seems that not only arranging these wows into themes, but also into a timeline. I’m wondering how you place prioritization upon a theme over a timeline. Were there certain circumstances? Was this entirely an organic process? Or was there just a lot of tinkering around with order and with rhythm? The way we were talking about this, it almost seems like this quarto of some sort.

Manguso: Well, I wish I knew. I’m not really sure how to differentiate an organic process from an inorganic process.

Correspondent: Okay. Let’s just say blindly intuitive vs. carefully planned and calculated.

Manguso: Well, at the risk of sounding difficult, I’m really trying my best to remember what it was like to write this book. But I made the thing. And the thing is a result of my guiding intelligence engaged with my memory. And I don’t know if I can really distinguish between the decisions that were more intellectual than intuitive. Or more intuitive than intellectual. I wish I knew. It is true that, after the book was done or after the final draft was done, it does seem that there were themes that had been inserted or injected into the book by some planning mechanism that I didn’t really recognize. But I think that’s kind of a familiar recognition to have after you make a thing. It makes sense in ways that you weren’t exactly planning. I’d rather not say that the whole thing is mysterious to me. But I think enough of it is that I’m hesitant to say, “Well, I meant to this, this, and this.” I don’t know what I really meant.

Correspondent: Well, I mean, how much should we be really dwelling upon dichotomies?

Download BSS #232: Sarah Manguso (MP3)

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The Bat Segundo Show: Paul Auster

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 of The Brooklyn Follies, the political nature of ending novels, the 2000 presidential election, parallel worlds, the death of Uri Grossman, didactic novels, the comfort of books, the Auster eye-popping moment, the party scene in The Book of Illusions, violence, reminding the reader that he is in a novel, emotional states revealed through imaginary material, Vermont’s frequent appearance in Auster’s novel, Virginia Blaine as the shared element between Brill and Brick in Man in the Dark, magic, The Invention of Solitude, memorializing memory, Rose Hawthorne, website archives, Auster’s relationship with the Internet, having an email surrogate, Auster’s concern for specific dollar amounts in Man in the Dark and Oracle Night, Hand to Mouth, Auster’s reading habits, the 8-10 contemporary novelists Auster follows closely, being distracted, the intrusive nature of the telephone, diner moments in Auster’s most recent novels, perception and stock situations, summaries of books and films within Auster’s books, and intimate moments in great movies.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I wanted to ask you about something that I’ve long been interested in your books, and that is your concern for specific dollar amounts. Again, it plays up here in the Pulaski Diner, where everything is five dollars. And I also think about the scenario with M.R. Chang in Oracle Night, in which there’s the whole situation between the ten dollar notebook and the ten thousand dollar notebook.

Auster: Right.

Correspondent: And again it becomes completely, ridiculously violent. But there is something about the propinquity of the dollar amount that you keep coming back to in your work. What is it about money? And what is it about a specific figure like this?

Auster: It’s funny. I never, never thought about that. Wow. Well, listen, money’s important. Everyone cares about money. And when you don’t have money, money becomes the overriding obsession of your life. I wrote a whole book about that.

Correspondent: Yeah.

Auster: Hand to Mouth. And the only good thing about making money is that you don’t have to think about money. It’s the only value. Because if you don’t have it, you’re crushed. And for a long period in my life, I was crushed. And so maybe this is a reflection of those tough years. I don’t know. I don’t know.

Correspondent: Or maybe there is something absurd about a specific dollar amount or something. I mean, certainly, when I go to a store and I see that something is set at a particular dollar amount or it fluctuates, it becomes a rather ridiculous scenario. Because all you want to do is get that particular object.

Auster: Yes, yes, yes. But often in my books, people don’t have a lot of money in their pockets. So they have to budget themselves carefully.

Correspondent: Well, not always. You tend to have characters like, for example in The Brooklyn Follies, people who have a good windfall to fall back on and who also offer frequently to help pay for things, and their efforts are often rejected out of pride by your supporting characters. And so again, money is this interesting concern. But I’m wondering why you’ve held on to this notion. It’s now thirty years since the events depicted in Hand to Mouth. I mean, is this something you just haven’t forgotten about?

Auster: I guess I haven’t forgotten about it. (laughs)

Correspondent: Do you still pinch pennies to this day?

Auster: No, no, no. Not at all. No, I’m not a tightwad at all.

Correspondent: (laughs)

Auster: I’m generous. I give good tips. It’s just — the way I live my life, ironically enough, is: I don’t want anything. I’m not a consumer. I don’t crave objects. I don’t have a car. We don’t have a country house. We don’t have a boat. We don’t have anything that lots of people have. And I’m not interested. I barely can go shopping for clothes. I find it difficult to walk into stores. The whole thing bores me so much. I guess the only thing that I spend money on is cigars and food and alcohol. Those are the main expenses.

Correspondent: Not books?

Auster: No. Because our library in the house is so bursting, we have no more room. We have things on the floor. And books come into the house at the rate of — you see, three came today for example. I’m pointing to them on the table. So we’re just inundated with books.

Download BSS #231: Paul Auster (MP3)

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Bat Segundo: Technical Issues & Some Developments

Because IE and Safari users were having difficulty accessing the Bat Segundo site, I’ve temporarily disabled podPress. I’ve tested the site on Firefox, Seamonkey, IE, Safari, and Opera, and you should be able to stream the files during this transition. The podPress developer had pledged that he would fix the “Operation Aborted” problem by Sunday, but, sadly, he still has not offered an update. And regrettably, due to my failure to backup the database when caught up in the geeky excitement of upgrading, I cannot downgrade from WordPress 2.6 to 2.5 to make the current version of the plugin work.

The show is still appearing on iTunes, and you can play the shows and still download them to your iPod. But we’re not going to have specific metadata available until either (a) podPress is updated or (b) I adopt an alternative. I have momentarily activated a barebones Audio Player plugin so that those who listen to the show on the main Segundo site will be able to hear it.

For any podcasters who are currently using the podPress plugin, my advice is to not upgrade to WordPress 2.6 until the podPress developer has worked out the kinks. And for any WordPress user who is upgrading in general, be sure to make a backup of your database before you upgrade. WordPress 2.6 is experiencing problems with its image editor and several Flash-related plugins cannot operate under the current code. Since many of the plugins originate from hobbyists who are doing all this all on their free time, this creates a situation in which one must be especially cautious.

I’m going to have some additional news about the Save Segundo campaign in a few days. I am making efforts right now to keep the show running through the end of the year at its current level of prolificity. I also managed to squeeze in another eleventh-hour interview before the hiatus, which I am trying to cut down from unspecified months to a few weeks at most. The interview relates to the lexicon unveiled yesterday.

In the meantime, you can now access the show directly at http://www.batsegundo.com. I’ve also made the site W3C complaint. There will be more this week. Bear with me.

Bat Segundo and IE/Safari Users

A few listeners have informed me that they are having difficulties accessing The Bat Segundo Show site using Internet Explorer and Safari. Unfortunately, the podPress plugin used to stream the programs has proven to be incompatible with WordPress 2.6. (And had I known this, I never would have upgraded.) I would downgrade to WP 2.5 to solve this, but then that would mean using an old backup of the database and losing entries. And the gentleman behind this plugin has yet to release a new version, although he has promised one in the next few days.

So we essentially have to wait this out until this programmer, who is working a very time-consuming day job, can find time to fix this.

However, after a bit of code tweaking, I’ve made everything operational under Firefox. So I would recommend using Firefox for the time being.

The Bat Segundo Show: Andre Dubus III

Andre Dubus III appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #218. Dubus is most recently the author of The Garden of Last Days.

Condition of the Show: Plagued by decaying verdure and intrusive catering managers.

Author: Andre Dubus III

Subjects Discussed: The propinquity of Roman numerals after surnames, Richard Flanagan’s The Unknown Terrorist, Heinrich Böll, books being categorized as post-9/11 novels, on letting a book go after publication, political novels, writing longhand in cars, Tobias Wolff, the car as shared confessional experience, Flannery O’Connor, writing as a dreamworld, verisimilitude, getting an approximation of an outsider’s character or experience, “White Trees, Hammer Moon,” prison, capitalism, serial description in a declarative sentence, considering the reader, realism vs. postmodernism, self-indulgence in writing, Blaise Pascal, the dangers of the author pleasing himself, taking twenty-five years to write a novel, Dubus’s beverage motif, whether or not specific details in a novel are symbolic, the advantages that come from confined and sustained narratives, sensuality, writing in short sustained bursts, vicarious moral outrage, poems and Books on Tape, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, an interruption by a catering manager, Dubus’s early life bumping around, the responsibilities of a novelist, honesty, novelists who impose endings on books, fiction as a pack of lies vs. fiction as truth, Picasso, sincerity, characters who become truer than real people, and the absence of fathers and husbands in The Garden of Last Days.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I had to remark on the beverage motif throughout this book. We open this book with, of course, April having a plastic coffee cup with her legs. And then two hundred, three hundred pages in, we see the cop with the #1 GRANDDAD mug. And then we also have Virginia heating a cold cup of coffee in the microwave. So…

Dubus: Ho ho! This is brilliant, man. (laughs)

Correspondent: But the concern for coffee in this is rather extraordinary! Because coffee is almost this life force of good versus the drinking one sees from the antagonists in this book. All the antagonists tend to drink. Or they resist drink in order to be good. And so…

Dubus: Oh, this is fascinating.

Correspondent: So there’s a certain coffee-alcohol axis I had to ask you about.

Dubus: Well, God, it just sounds like a weekend in my life.

Correspondent: (laughs)

Dubus: Drink Friday night, drink coffee on Saturday morning. Fascinating. Wow. I hadn’t even known that. Listen, I do believe that we live in our bodies. Even those of us who live very ethereally from the chin up. And I truly believe that these central details shape us and guide us. You know, I had this experience a few years ago where my wife and I had a little spat over money the first thing in the morning. My coffee was cold, gone cold during the fight. I get in the car. It hardly starts up. And I’m worried about money and can I fix this clutch. I drive off. A guy cuts me off in his truck. And I’m telling you. If that car could go fast, I’d go down the road, rip him off the truck, and beat on him.

The next day, my wife and I were fine. We weren’t having a spat. My coffee was delicious. It was the perfect cup of dark French roast. Black. That I like. And it was just the right temperature. I had a little cup, driving cup. And it wasn’t spilling. The car started up. I pull out into the word and another guy cuts me off. And this time, Ed, I said, “Go in peace, my brother. You should be careful. You might hurt someone or yourself.” I had all this good will. And it had to do with my coffee being good. (laughs)

Correspondent: But I’m wondering how this…

Dubus: This stuff isn’t unimportant?

Correspondent: It’s important. But I’m curious. You have to be aware — since there is so much coffee in this book — that you’re repeating this symbol over and over again. So readers like me say, “Well, coffee. Might be a symbol.” Or as we’re suggesting here, it may not be a symbol at all. It may just be some aspect of the world you’re drawing from that just happens to repeat itself.

Dubus: But, Ed, man, I really believe that the reader tends to know more than the writer. At least, certainly in my case.

The Bat Segundo Show: Rachel Shukert

Rachel Shukert appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #217. Shukert is the author of Have You No Shame? Incidentally, she’ll be appearing at the July 17th installment of the In the Flesh reading series.

Condition of the Show: Contending with tenuous widows and the mysterious circumstances of Mr. Segundo’s death.

Author: Rachel Shukert

Subjects Discussed: Whether Ms. Shukert is still on the Viacom blacklist, the soul-crushing aspects of temping, working odd jobs in Amsterdam, Anne Frank as a constant in life, the holy similarities between Northw__t and G_d, plane crashes vs. car crashes, airlines and gods, the legal system and divine repercussions, lawyers in Nebraska, talk show hosts who come from Nebraska, Montgomery Clift, the relationship between Jewish identity and location, Omaha vs. New York, the notion of stretching out time, writing truthfully about scatological topics, placing a parental advisory warning, expanding the limitations of personal experience, on being perceived by others, limits on confessional writing, room for the persona to grow within annotation, elevated prose, abandoned sets of footnotes left out of the book, David Foster Wallace’s “Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko,” David Macaulay’s Motel of the Mysteries, Will Self’s The Book of Dave, Newt Gingrich, writing letters vs. email, using all caps in print vs. online, grouping people into taxonomies, Fred Savage and Jason Priestley, first crushes, being published as a paperback original, The Anorexic’s Cookbook vs. The Anarchist’s Cookbook, and performing pieces in front of a crowd.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Shukert: Jason Priestly and Fred Savage were the two guys on TV who I had big crushes on as a child. I had a picture of Fred Savage in my locker that I cut out from the newspaper. I remember that he was holding a candy box. Like a Valentine’s heart box. And I would pretend that he was holding it for me. And then when I got a little older, I thought Jason Priestly was the handsomest man I had ever seen. I mean, when I say “a little older,” I mean ten. But I had a big poster of him in my room too.

Correspondent: Who was the first crush you had?

Shukert: Gene Kelly.

Correspondent: Really? And he’s not referenced in the book.

Shukert: No. That’s private. (laughs)

Correspondent: Not anymore. It’s public now. But this is an interesting distinction. Are you slightly ashamed of these crushes?

Shukert: No, I’m not ashamed. But there’s a difference between being ashamed of something and just having something close to your heart. (laughs)

Correspondent: Wow. Well, I’m curious. How much does a crush linger over the course of one’s life like this? I mean, you can be safe with Jason Priestly and Fred Savage, but…

Shukert: I don’t have crushes on them anymore.

Correspondent: But you still have a crush on Gene Kelly.

Shukert: Yes, but he’s dead.

Correspondent: He’s dead. The dead people are the ones to really lust after the best.

Shukert: Yeah, I think that that’s true.

Correspondent: Because there’s no way that you can possibly consummate it.

Shukert: I also loved Paul Newman as a child.

Correspondent: What are you going to do when he dies?

Shukert: I’ll be sad. I’ll mourn like a widow.

The Bat Segundo Show: Mort Walker

Mort Walker appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #216. Mort Walker is the creator of Beetle Bailey. A volume of the first two years of Beetle Bailey is now out.

Condition of the Show: Observing fifty years of development.

Author: Mort Walker

Subjects Discussed: Walker’s drawing pace, the Beetle Bailey production cycle, filtering through the gags, rejected strips sent to Sweden, Beetle’s early days as a slacker in college, the military as the common experience, Walker’s relationship with the syndicate, the curly hair look of Buzz and Lois, portrait-like illustrations of women, early attention to background, the shrinking space of newspaper comics, Berkeley Breathed and Bill Watterson’s fights for space, appealing to the greatest number of readers, the development of Sarge’s girth and teeth, Plato as the only other character carryover, covering the eyes of characters, Dik Browne, Beetle’s early square form and perpendicular limbs, Walker as Lt. Fuzz, Lt. Jack Flap, African-American characters in comic strips, being confronted by editors by Ebony, Colin Powell’s approval of Flap, code numbers associated with the comic strip, writing a military-based comic strip without reference to Iraq, General Halftrack’s skirt-chasing and later sensitivity training, the circumstances that will cause Walker to change his strip, why Walker hasn’t included women soldiers, aborted cliffhangers, and characters staying the same in the Beetle Bailey universe.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: Here we have a military strip. But there’s no reference to Iraq. And I wanted to ask you about this kind of balance.

Walker: I try to avoid anything controversial. Because if you do something pro-Bush, fifty percent of your readers are going to get mad, fifty percent of your readers might like it. But I’m after the whole broad spectrum. So I’m really avoid those things.

Correspondent: But to talk about the broader audience, I mean, Bush’s approval rating isn’t exactly the best in the world. It’s under 30%. So you have 70% of the audience if you were to play around with this kind of thing.

Walker: Yeah. Well, anyway, I try not to get too topical or controversial. That’s why I’ve avoided the war pretty much. I don’t mention Iraq very much. Very seldom.

Correspondent: Even though this war has lasted longer than World War II? I mean, doesn’t it seem…?

Walker: But there’s so many people that are angry about it that I’ve got to be really careful about how I treat it. Mostly, I just ignore it. People say, “Well, when is Beetle going to go to Iraq?” I said, “Jesus Christ. I hope never!” You know, I don’t want to send him there because it’s very difficult to deal with. I’m just keeping him in basic training. It’s the common experience that all soldiers have. If I take him out somewhere and specify into some particular kind of work, I’ll lose a lot of my readers there. They won’t be interested or they won’t understand it. But everybody understands basic training. That’s where I keep him.

Correspondent: I mean, you had this similar situation with Jack Flap. That’s why I present this as well. I mean, that didn’t hurt you. In fact, that got Beetle Bailey more attention, you know?

Walker: Yeah, but it was a common experience. Anyway, that hasn’t hurt me.

The Bat Segundo Show: Christian Bauman

Christian Bauman appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #215. Bauman is most recently the author of In Hoboken.

Condition of the Show: Contending with contentious Midtown diners.

Author: Christian Bauman

Subjects Discussed: Defining a rock and roll novel, writing an ensemble novel with Hoboken as a character, references to paper storms and 9/11, chronological foreshadowing, using real-life Hoboken locations vs. invented locations, the Hoboken-New York rivalry, playing the rube vs. genuine sincerity as a reflection of irony in the 1990s, balancing real-life incidents and invented narrative, the benefits of vaguely knowing someone, whether or not a particular city is important to a narrative, writing about the worker hierarchy, writing about characters who live cheaply, socioeconomics in literature, locative contexts that make novels different, trying not to anticipate the next novel, songwriting phrases, reconfiguring essays and other pieces into a novel, and the modified omniscient voice.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: You have this particular rock ‘n’ roll novel dwelling upon Hoboken, as well as Mona Smith, who is this Erica Jong-like figure, who is the mother of Thatcher. But I wanted to ask you about this. Because it’s very fascinating to me. I have the belief that if you write a rock ‘n’ roll novel, there needs to be some additional element. Some additional hook. Because if you dwell too much on rock ‘n’ roll music, well, it’s going to possibly be something of a circlejerk. So I wanted to ask you. Was this a consideration in setting this book in Hoboken? The Hoboken aspect came first? What happened here?

Bauman: Yeah, I think the Hoboken aspect came first. Well, first of all, I should point out that everyone keeps calling it a rock ‘n’ roll novel. It is actually a folk novel. So we should just be clear here. There’s a lot more Woody Guthrie here than anything else. But it’s a good point. You know, the whole thing I wanted to do, in as far as I wanted to anything and it didn’t just happen the way it happened — I was trying very hard this time to do two things. One was to write about a place. A very specific place to the point where the place became one of the characters in the book. And of those places where I’ve either lived or been alive in my life, Hoboken was one of them that stood out as a good place to go. And the other one was that I really wanted to try and write an ensemble novel to the best of my ability. And I kind of failed in that aspect.

The Bat Segundo Show: Ralph Bakshi

Ralph Bakshi appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #214. Bakshi is the director of such films as Heavy Traffic, Coonskin, and American Pop. There is also a recent book, Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph Bakshi, now out that collects his work.

Condition of the Show: Caught in a musical daydream.

Guest: Ralph Bakshi

Subjects Discussed: The role of music in Bakshi’s films, making good films without a lot of money, emotionally correct songs, daydreaming, Bakshi’s record collection, the original idea of using Led Zeppelin for Lord of the Ring, Leonard Rosenman, Bakshi’s relationships with composers, Andrew Belling’s Wizards score, the “Maybelline” sequence in Heavy Traffic, artistic freedom, why Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” was the final song in American Pop, the relationship between writing fast scripts and revising in animation, the ending of Heavy Traffic, subconscious symbolism, the use of long shots and extended takes, Sergei Eisenstein, Aleksander Nevsky, giving Thomas Kinkade his first big break, on Fire and Ice not being a Bakshi film, using imagination with pre-existing visual elements, rotoscoping, getting the little artistic details, Edward Hopper, designers vs. montage, operating in the present as an artist, being honest, The Last Days of Coney Island, the impending collapse of America, Barack Obama, burning out, American avarice, and Bill Plympton.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I wanted to ask you about music in your films. It’s certainly important in American Pop. You pilfered from your record collection for that, as well as the “Maybelline” sequence in Heavy Traffic. And there’s “Ah’m a Niggerman” from Coonskin, which you wrote. I’m wondering if you did this because you have an aversion to Carl Stalling-style orchestral music.

Bakshi: First of all, I love music. I’ve always loved music. And I’ve loved various kinds of music. Music is part of our lives. It’s part of the soundtrack that what we all grow up with. Especially in my day. I don’t know today. There’s so many things going on. I’m talking about yesterday and my day, which are the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. Music is so emotionally important to the movie. It’s just as important as anything else. If the song is emotionally correct for a scene, the scene plays better. Or the scene plays better than it would have with a different song. So music is so critical to movies. I chose songs that I knew emotionally worked with these scenes that I wrote. Because whenever I listened to music while either driving in a car or sitting at a bar or listening to Coltrane or Billy Holiday – you daydream. If you don’t daydream to music, then you’re not listening to good music.

(Lengthier excerpts from this program can be found here and here.)

The Bat Segundo Show: Ed Park

Ed Park appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #211. Park is most recently the author of Personal Days. His book was reviewed today in the NYTBR by Mark Sarvas.

Condition of the Show: Plagued by brutal downsizing.

Author: Ed Park

Subjects Discussed: Literary people named Ed, writing Personal Days and using vacation days while employed at the Voice, counting words written per day, B.S. Johnson, Jonathan Coe’s Like a Fiery Elephant, Harry Stephen Keeler, staying productive as a writer, the other Ed Park novels (The Dizzies, Chinese Whispers, The Diet of Worms, Dementia Americana, et al.), Stone Reader, lost books, writing within tight stylistic constraints, the section titles, “restructuring,” references to Hollywood and the quest for narrative, figuring out “Operation JASON,” waiting for the Eureka moment, making patterns emerge, patterns within character names and working within limitations, the use of italics, writing the third part without a period, having an affinity for exclamation points, Lester Bangs’s Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, Elizabeth Crane’s “My Life is Awesome! And Great!,” the office as a microcosm for New York, William Gaddis, Harry Matthews, Cigarettes and The Journalist, the relationship between the ability to calculate vs. the loss of the first person plural, consciousness in attrition, Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End, The Office, avoiding the influence of other topical art, Crease in Personal Days vs. Creed in The Office, style vs. content, specific typographical symbols, voice recognition and gobbledygook, William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition and Gaddis’s The Recognitions, office detritus, paperclips that pierce, setting limitations when veering down dark and scatological territory, and the pathological corporate impulse.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Park: It’s such a pleasure to talk to someone who’s also named Ed.

Correspondent: Yes, I know. I mean, it’s a hell of a first name. There needs to be a Society of Eds set up in the five boroughs.

Park: It’s pretty rare.

Correspondent: I know. I wanted to ask you a commonplace question and then get to the nitty-gritty of this book. I know that you wrote a good chunk of this book while you were working at the Voice. But the sense I got was that you didn’t write all of it at the Voice. So I’m curious as to how much of this was written in a Voice-less setting, so to speak.

Park: Well, if you mean by “at the Voice,” while I was still employed by them, that’s true. Most of it was written before I left the Voice. I was let go at, basically, Labor Day. Right before Labor Day Weekend of ’06. But by that time, I did actually have a draft. There were many changes that I knew were necessary. I wrote it though. In terms of physical space, I could never even write my articles at the Voice. Just in the Voice office. I was hired as an editor. Basically editing, sending emails, on the phone, stuff like that. So it wasn’t really a place where, ironically enough, I could get a lot of writing done. So all the writing took place in my apartment. I was living on 89th Street. A lot of it was the same as I’d done for my previous fictional projects, where I would just try to write in the morning before coming into work. What was a little bit different about this book was that, as things got more tense at the Voice, as things really looked like they were going in a bad way, I took some vacation days, personal days, and would really treat the book as my job in a way.

The Bat Segundo Show: Cynthia Ozick

Cynthia Ozick appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #210. Ozick is most recently the author of Dictation.

Condition of the Show: Overtaken by a tyrannical dictator.

Author: Cynthia Ozick

Subjects Discussed: Balancing two authors, two secretaries and other stylistic repetitions that evoke typewriters in “Dictation,” purloining language from Henry James and Joseph Conrad’s letters, Henry James’s “forgotten umbrella,” “Literary Entrails,” parallels between the last two turns of the century, feeling like Queen Victoria, the language GNU within “What Happened to the Baby?” and open source GNU, crosswords in “Actors,” agonizing over every particular sentence, the slowness of sentences, auctorial fingerprints, John Updike, not wanting to be a writer of drafts, a lost manuscript by Lionel Trilling, whether postwar critics are being suitably remembered, those who mock Trilling for his moral seriousness, the origin of names, fiction as a pack of lies, being a stickler for the details vs. sustaining ambiguity, contradicting yourself in essays, when essays are unduly compared with fiction, John Barth’s “The Literature of Exhaustion,” the current literary critical environment, E.M. Forster, descriptive references to necks, on not leaving the house, not writing stories set in the present day, getting lost in one’s head, re-rereading Sense and Sensibility, how much Ozick has to think about a book before writing it, the reputation of America over the past fifty years, defining a “contemporary” novel, the dangers of writing in the present moment, clinging to brand names, books that rethink a particular epoch, religious identity in “At Fumicaro,” pretending about pretending, literary impersonation and multiple personalities, and anchoring fiction with reality.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I wanted to ask you about “Dictation,” the title story. This was very interesting to me for a number of reasons. Because here you have two writers, Henry James and Joseph Conrad, two secretaries of Henry James and Joseph Conrad, and then on top of that, you have a number of repetitions throughout the story, as if to echo or beckon the typewriter. Like in the very beginning, when you have Henry James describing Almayer’s Folly, you kept saying, “He saw. He saw.” And there’s a number of interesting things you are doing in the syntax of the story that almost echoes the typewriter. So I wanted to ask how this particular stylistic device came about. I know you spend a lot of time on your sentences. So you had to have been at least somewhat aware of this.

Ozick: Well not so much of the repetition in consonance with the typewriter, no. I wasn’t aware of that at all. And I’m rather taken aback by hearing you say, “Have you actually seen this or heard this?” I have not. (laughs) I have not. I’m sorry to disappoint. That is not what I had in mind. What I had in mind really was the joy of the mischief when it occurred to me. And the stylistic aspect had to do more not with the sounds — if that’s what you’re getting at — but with the tones and styles of speech of these people in that era. Particularly with the formality of the young ladies, who must call each other “Miss.” To venture into a first name is really quite forward and not to be countenanced by polite society at first. And also the great pleasure of, I suppose, my parodying of James and Conrad. Though, here’s a confession, and having very much to do with style. I purloined certain phrases directly from the letters of James and Conrad. So there are sentences buried in there which are absolutely authentic. Because they’re stolen directly. Not full sentences, but phrases here and there. So that gave me a lot of joy too. Because it was a kind of imitation, mimicry, reflection of what these two amanuenses were up to in their mischievous plan.

The Bat Segundo Show: Sloane Crosley

Sloane Crosley appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #209. She is the author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake, which was recently sold to HBO for series development.

Condition of the Show: Placing the authors and book titles under too much scrutiny.

Author: Sloane Crosley

Subjects Discussed: Marie Antoinette, caring about perception, Veganism, the personal essay as a series of impersonations and observations, on being perceived as “nice,” the text as a prism between author and reader, negotiating the balance between writer and publicist, putting on the “nice face,” assumptions of lying, Oregon Trail, being nice vs. being true, exuberance, imposing internal censorship, the harsh nature of the wedding essay, why things were cut out, David Rakoff’s Fraud, Roberto Benigni, issues that cut into identity, filtering candor, whether personal essayists “tell it like it is,” David Sedaris, defining the nature of truth, using composite characters and disguising real people, speculation and judgment, lax Judaism and free association, criticism through metaphor, the relationship between adjectives and specificity and keeping the floodgates open, inverting language, Twin Peaks, dealing with sentences in essays that contradict each other, on not being prepared to turn sixteen, the original version of the book set up at Harper, the role of Gawker in Crosley’s career, online etiquette, the elusive “they,” being beholden to the BlackBerry, and stealing wi-fi.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: In “Lay Like Broccoli,” you write, “Being a vegetarian in New York is not unlike being gay.” But I must ask you. Why care so much about how you are perceived? Because that’s essentially what this is all about.

Crosley: That specific essay or the whole book?

Correspondent: Well, that specific essay. But also the whole book. Because there’s a bit of hiding behind the essays.

Crosley: Well, is there? I think it’s more that clash between trying to grow up and trying to realize who you actually are once you become a grown-up. So I’m not actually hiding behind any specific concern I have about people’s perceptions, but more just trying to figure out who you are. It’s like you’re trying on different cells. I was telling someone the other day that my favorite part of In Cold Blood — I assure you this makes sense for an interview about a humor collection.

Correspondent: I’m sure. Go for it. Please.

Crosley: My favorite part of In Cold Blood is actually this tiny detail where he finds Nancy’s diary and he’s going through it, and obviously it becomes a huge part of the book. But he talks about the actual handwriting and the different various inks and the different colors she would use as she’s trying on different cells, as if to say, “Is this Nancy? Is this Nancy? Is this Nancy? ” Now granted, she’s what — sixteen at the time> So in an ideal world, I would have less colors of ink and different styles of handwriting to try on at twenty-nine years old. So when I say the thing about the vegetarian thing, and the vegan thing, it’s more observational than something I’m actually petrified with living with on a day-to-day basis.

The Bat Segundo Show: Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #208. Wolff is most recently the author of Our Story Begins.

Condition of the Show: Speculating upon Mr. Wolff’s unknown powers.

Author: Tobias Wolff

Subjects Discussed: Writing first-person stories that don’t seem like first-person stories, the use of the word “I,” contemporary short stories and therapy sessions, fiction and narcissism, William Trevor, knowing the lay of the land, the symbols of the everyday universe, tulle fog, writing endings before the endings, Tolstoy vs. Chekhov, whether “Bullet to the Brain” had any specific literary critic in mind for its premise, dog stories, conversations in cars as the common American confessional, the open road, the consciousness of dogs, straying from realism, stories that end with an italicized line or a whisper, the precise and imprecise details within a sentence, arranging the short story order within a collection, “Best Of” vs. “Selected” stories, psychology and the skillful lack of overt specificity within “The Rich Brother,” hiding a story’s design, Flannery O’Connor, and how Wolff contends with variegated reader reactions.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: This idea of first-person narration that is somewhat removed — maybe this is more of a classical sense of the short story, in the sense that today, contemporary short stories are, as you point out, more of a gushing therapy session. Maybe that’s what we’re talking about.

Wolff: Well, I don’t know. Again, when I think, for example, of Philip Roth’s first-person narrators, they are interested in the world at least as much as they are interested in themselves and interested in other people. And that shows up in the narration. It would be a pretty boring story that was so — if I could put it this way — narcissistically defined if you didn’t get a sense of the world beyond the narrator or of other people beyond it. I would think that, unless it was deliberately taking on the pathology of narcissism, it would be a deficiency of the story. Some stories, of course — some first-person stories — rely on a very heavy colloquial. And that may be something that you’re noticing with some of the stories. Like the one I just quoted from, “Next Door,” is quite colloquial. In other stories, you get the sense that the narrator is telling the story not in the immediate moment of the story, but perhaps from a distance. Which also would give you a wider vision of the circumstances and the people involved. And also perhaps a more articulate voice. A more capacious voice. So it isn’t just a Catcher in the Rye, moment-by-moment narration, but something that would open up a little more in the way of Philip Roth or William Trevor. The way their first person stories work.

(A lengthier excerpt from the show can be found here.)

The Bat Segundo Show: David Hajdu

David Hajdu appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #207. Hajdu is most recently the author of The Ten-Cent Plague.

Condition of the Show: Dabbling into hidden threats.

Author: David Hajdu

Subjects Discussed: Hajdu’s approach to journalism, primary sources vs. secondary sources, categories of people to talk with when preparing a book, tracking down people who disappeared, grassroots methods of finding people, changing names, the untold story of women in comics, Irvin Kersener’s early career as an agitprop documentary filmmaker*, corroborating facts against shifting memory, telling history without a fully documented record, Billy Strayhorn’s career before Duke Ellington, remembering details based on a nugget, the ever-shifting complexities of William Gaines, whether EC Comics could have survived if it shifted to magazine format, Will Eisner on not being taken seriously, what caused the great comics scare, literate comics, the fear of kids turning on parents because of a medium, Frederic Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocents and the media’s willingness to give credence to Wertham’s anti-scientific tract, why America needs a lowbrow cultural blaming point for social ills, cultural class bias, pornography and other populist mediums as subliterary forms, comics decency legislation vs. the Hays Production Code, postwar censorship, comics being placed in a position not to challenge authority, Charles Biro’s Crime Does Not Pay vs. yellow journalism, and Bob Wood bludgeoning a woman to death.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I’m wondering if certain artists may have changed their names because the comic book industry was considered a great calumny for many of these various artists and writers. Did you face a problem along those lines in tracking people down?

Hajdu: I did. I had trouble with people who changed their names, but not for that reason. Because most people used their real names. Most people, but not all. Some use pseudonyms. Still do in comics. But most people intended to use their real names. But women married. And women who married in that time took on their husbands’ names. And I was surprised to find when I was doing my research how many women there were in comics. I mean, dozens and dozens of women who did terrific, beautiful, important work. Marcia Snider is one. I was never able to find her. I’d been told that she’d married. And nobody I could find knew what her married name was. In the case of the great many women artists, I only had their maiden names. And I couldn’t find them. I tried social security records, but they weren’t of that much value. And I did hit a wall with women artists. And I’m sure to this day, much of their story remains untold because they’ve been impossible to find.

Correspondent: Well, what steps did you take to atone for this? Because if you’re slicing off a portion of comic book history — a very important part of comic book history that involved women — I mean, how did you make up for this?

Hajdu: Well, I sought to do justice to the story that I can tell. I don’t know what I don’t know. I did make a point to ask about those women to the people who I could find. And that’s the only recourse.

* — Despite Hajdu’s representations in this interview, Kershner remains quite alive!

The Bat Segundo Show: Sarah Hall

Sarah Hall appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #206. Hall is most recently the author of Daughters of the North (published in the UK as The Carhullan Army). My essay on Sarah Hall can be found at the B&N Review.

Condition of the Show: Remaining optimistic about a dystopian future.

Author: Sarah Hall

Subjects Discussed: Daughters of the North vs. The Carhullan Army, writing books that aren’t set in the present day, concern for environmental details, the comforts of familiar territory, catastrophe knocking everything to the past, the wandering impulse within British dystopian novels, Rupert Thomson, Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed, the tension between town and country, literary conversations and outdoing Margaret Atwood’s sense of terror, overcoming perceptions associated with women writers, Samantha Power’s castigation, being overly scrutinized, presentation of the author, the authenticity of testimony, writing a pageturner vs. a leisurely literary novel, being more selective with sentences, writing within confining environments, switching to first person, the origins of the Nixon surname, characters with reddened faces, rural words, Brave New World, names that echo across history, the origins of Rith, schools and buildings that shut down after centuries, Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” the dog box and the military training that inspired it, a microutopia within a macrodystopia, nitpicking the apathy within Daughters of the North, the possibilities of revolt and verisimilitude, manipulating the reader and gray areas, violence that occurs offstage, women and violence, bumps on heads, the beauty of corporeal flaws and dilapidated environments, how society transforms the body, To Kill a Mockingbird, Robert C. O’Brien’s Z for Zachariah, sudden relationships and getting to the naughty bits, pornography, the risks of thinking on the page, and romance.

EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Hall: I think familiar territory is always of comfort to a writer. I find the North of England, where I’m from, fascinating. It’s a very dramatic landscape. It’s kind of a Wordsworth country. So you’ve got the Romantic sense on one hand. And then you’ve got the strange past battling with the future. I suppose Hardy did this to an extent as well. You pick a territory. And even if it’s rural, you have human beings working within that arena. So human drama is going to arise out of those interactions. And I’ve always felt, even though the settings are sometimes quite remote and underpopulated in my fiction, there’s enough going on. You can explore ideas of civilization, breakdown of civilization, human emotional dramas. All the rest of that. But I think what’s interesting with Daughters of the North is — even though we’re casting ahead maybe thirty, forty years from now — and I think British science fiction and speculative fiction does this a lot — there’s this idea of play. When catastrophe happens, everything is knocked back to the past. And so here is what you’re left with. Day of the Triffids. This strange science fiction going on. But at the same time, everybody’s going down to the pub like they always have.

Segundo Torrents

I’ve learned that a number of people have been trying to download the Bat Segundo torrent packs without success. My apologies for this. The original Segundo torrents bit the dust on an old hard drive partition that has, rather magically, been resuscitated. In an effort to offer a quick fix, I have attempted to reseed the existing files, but I have been informed that this process will take 28 days and 6 hours to effect. Because of this, I’ll be setting up repackaged torrent packs for all the shows in the next few weeks, apprising you all of the updated links, while also providing a few additional torrent packs that should get both torrent packs and existing shows caught up to Show #220. Bear with me. There’s a lot I’m juggling right now.

Nine New Segundo Shows

This week, nine new installments of The Bat Segundo Show were released from the factory. I’ll be cross-posting the full capsules here at Reluctant Habits (the new preposterous name of this place) as soon as I find some time to complete them. (Books are now migrating their way to the new location, and this has been keeping me busy.) But for those who wish to plunge into the conversations right now, here’s a list of recent shows:

206. Sarah Hall. Hall, the recent winner of the James Tiptree Award, is an extraordinary writer. I’ve written a piece on all three of her books that will be appearing at another place. But in the meantime, you can listen to the nearly 70 minute conversation we conducted on her work as a whole. We carried out despite fire alarms and some lively debate.

207. David Hajdu. Hajdu is the author of The Ten-Cent Plague, but this conversation touches largely upon much of the journalistic methods he used in tracking down some of his subjects.

208. Tobias Wolff. This conversation has been excerpted elsewhere. Wolff was guarded, but he gradually warmed up as the conversation progressed, offering some interesting insights into how he puts together a short story.

209. Sloane Crosley. Ms. Crosley is regrettably known more for her shiny hair than her essays. Hopefully, this discussion will rectify this impression.

210. Cynthia Ozick. I was greatly honored to talk with the wonderful Ms. Ozick, winner of two recent lifetime achievement awards, a few days before her eightieth birthday.

211. Ed Park! Ed Park has written a very good debut novel. I had so many observations about his book that I had to cram into our conversation that we ended up talking for more than an hour.

212. Fiona Maazel. Despite the intrusive presence of a coffee grinder, Fiona and I managed to talk more or less intelligibly about Last, Last Chance.

213. Steven Greenhouse. I reviewed Greenhouse’s The Big Squeeze for the B&N Review last week. This conversation reflects some of my observations and delves into very important labor issues.

214. Ralph Bakshi. One of my most anarchic interviews, but in a very good way. If you aren’t aware of Bakshi’s accomplishments in underground animation (Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, Coonskin), you’ll want to give this a listen.

215. Christian Bauman. We were ejected from a Midtown diner midway through our conversation, but this didn’t stop Mr. Bauman and I from discussing In Hoboken, which Mr. Bauman assures me is a “folk novel” and not a “rock ‘n’ roll novel.”

216. Mort Walker. The creator of Beetle Bailey reveals a number of unexpected attitudes about war and women.

Interview with Ralph Bakshi

I recently had the opportunity to talk with underground animator Ralph Bakshi. A portion of our conversation appears this afternoon at Vulture, where you will discover the song that was originally going to play during the finale of American Pop. (For the specific reasons why, you will have to wait for the podcast.) Unfortunately, there were space constraints. So what follows is some of the additional material that didn’t make it into the piece. The entire conversation, which includes even more from Bakshi, will be released as a future installment of The Bat Segundo Show. (Please note that edited elements of the same conversation appear both here and at Vulture.)

Correspondent: I wanted to ask you about music in your films. It’s certainly important in American Pop. You pilfered from your record collection for that, as well as the “Maybelline” sequence in Heavy Traffic. And there’s “Ah’m a Niggerman” from Coonskin, which you wrote. I’m wondering if you did this because you have an aversion to Carl Stalling-style orchestral music.

Bakshi: First of all, I love music. I’ve always loved music. And I’ve loved various kinds of music. Music is part of our lives. It’s part of the soundtrack that what we all grow up with. Especially in my day. I don’t know today. There’s so many things going on. I’m talking about yesterday and my day, which are the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. Music is so emotionally important to the movie. It’s just as important as anything else. If the song is emotionally correct for a scene, the scene plays better. Or the scene plays better than it would have with a different song. So music is so critical to movies. I chose songs that I knew emotionally worked with these scenes that I wrote. Because whenever I listened to music while either driving in a car or sitting at a bar or listening to Coltrane or Billy Holiday – you daydream. If you don’t daydream to music, then you’re not listening to good music.

I went out and I bought every record that I’ve ever loved that was right for the scene. “Yesterday” by Billie Holiday for Fritz the Cat was perfect for Big Bertha and coming into Harlem. You know, it was a classic song. “Maybelline” and “Twist and Shout.” And all these records. “Scarborough Fair.” All these records I used, I got for fifty to a hundred bucks. They were dirt cheap. I could buy any record I wanted for under two hundred dollars. Why was that? Unbelievable.

Because everybody else was scoring their films. And why were they scoring their films? Because if they had a hit, they’d own the music. They’d make money from the score. They’d own their own records. I can’t release Billie Holiday’s “Yesterday” and make any money out of it. I never considered that. The issue was what was right for the movie. I couldn’t believe the cheap prices I was getting. And I had a low-budget film! So I could afford to get anything I wanted.

Correspondent: But you had Andrew Belling on Wizards. I’m curious if you gave these composers specific instructions.

Bakshi: Well, Andrew Belling on Wizards did an absolutely brilliant job. Let’s talk about Wizards. Wizards is very low-budget. One million two. Okay. I’m not going to fall back on my records, because it’s not that kind of movie. I need a score. But I need a score that I love. And I don’t remember how I got to Belling. I’d been to New York with a lot of other guys. But Belling came with a little synthesizer. One little machine which was a very big deal. We didn’t have any orchestra. We had synthesizers. All that music was done with Belling in the room. And he said the right things and he did the right things. And he came back and he played me a piece of music that was beautiful. I think Belling did an incredible job in that song he wrote. And the battle scenes. And the emotion. Belling nailed it. He did it himself and everything. It was all done without an orchestra. It was good.

Correspondent: This is an interesting conundrum. I think one of the reasons why the “Maybelline” sequence in Heavy Traffic is so stirring is largely because of that music. But here you have a scenario in which someone else is composing music that doesn’t originate from another source.

Bakshi: I was terrified what he would do. I was scared. I was nervous. I had nightmares that it wouldn’t work. And he nailed it. I don’t know how he did it. I had nothing to do with it. How do you talk to another composer about music? Now look. Let’s talk about freedom. I demand freedom as a director. I demand the right to fuck up, to do what I want. I am not about to take that freedom away from another artist. If Belling walks in and says that he’s a composer, and I believe what he has to say and I believe that he’s sensitive enough and I believe it, man, prove it. Go do your music. It’s not my job to write the music for him.

(I also discussed with Baskhi why he hired Thomas Kinkade. In addition to the remarks at Vulture, Bakshi also had this to say.)

Bakshi: In the middle of the picture, [Kinkade] stands up and he says, “I’m going away with Gurney for three weeks. We’re traveling cross country.” And I said, “Well, wait a minute. We’re doing a picture.” “All right. We’ll be back on a certain date. We will paint enough before we go. And when we get back, we’ll double paintings.”

He worked with Frank Frazetta. Those kids, Gurney and Kinkade, painted wonderful paintings so fast. And Frank Frazetta would come in — he was a great illustrator – and show Kinkade a lot of tricks. Both of those guys, when they painted other stuff, when Kinkade painted closer to the Ashcan school, which I loved very much, wonderful. He can sell anything. He opened up galleries. He’s building a city now. He’s raised hundreds of millions of dollars. He owns half of California. So I have nothing against Kinkade. He’s funny. He is like Elmer Gantry. He’s ‘s a great painter. But he likes to make money. And he does. He doesn’t like the stuff he’s painting.

Correspondent: But that’s anathema to your position, which is about making it as true and as honest as possible.

Bakshi: By the time I got to Fire and Ice, I was bitter. It’s not my picture. I was burned out. I was through. Though people may like it, I don’t consider that a Bakshi film. That’s a Frazetta film. That’s me not caring. I was burned out. I was tired. At that point, I was gone. And I did. I closed the studio and then I left. I had no emotional interest in Fire and Ice to tell you the truth.