October 10, 2006
Even a Q & A Is Better Than Nothing
Mykel Board, the punk elder and columnist for Maximum Rock 'N' Roll, wondered if he'd be happier in Outer Mongolia - mostly because it was the farthest and most foreboding place he could imagine - and so spent a year teaching English there at the National University in Ulaanbaatar.
When he wasn't looking for a little companionship at the Hollywood Bar, providing security for Hillary Clinton or finding the best hotel in Moron.
Board takes his road show to town Wednesday evening, when he'll read from Even A Daughter is Better Than Nothing, his account of his muttonous adventures in the former Communist outpost. He appears at 9 p.m. for free with Sid Yiddish at The Grey Lodge Pub, 6235 Frankford Avenue, Phila. The book's title is from a Mongolian proverb.
He agreed to answer a few question by email. Here we go:
Q: If you were to make the Mongolian playlist, what songs would be part of it, and why?
A: I couldn't pick the song titles, but I could tell you the genres, and a couple of the bands.
1. Hurd (pronounced HORT), the only Mongolian metal band. Their fast stuff is terrific and they have a great style of projecting an almost stadium presence in a very small space.
2. Traditional Mongolian / Tuvan throat singing. Maybe this is the most familiar Mongolian music to Americans. For those who've never heard it, it is almost electronic sounding. Made by singing two different notes simultaneously, one through the mouth and one through the nose.
3. Mongolian Long Songs, so called NOT because each song is long, but because each NOTE is long. Really strange and haunting music that will make you instantly sad.
4. Mongolian horsehead fiddle music. It reminds me a little of bluegrass. Very fast and very stringed. It is the music that made the camel nurse its kid in the movie.
Q: Was there one moment you hold in your mind when you start missing Mongolia?
A: Naw, there are hundreds of moments I hold in my mind. Sex under the stairs at the disco. Sitting in the Gobi under more stars than I have ever seen in my life. Walking on a glacier in the middle of the desert. Being invited to eat a meal of pure fat. Being kissed by an 80 year old man when he found out I was American. Answering the door after finals to find a student waiting for me in a mini-skirt, with a bottle of vodka. That's for starters.
Q: Why Mongolia. (I know you answer this at the start of the book, but most of my readers have not yet read the book, I'd guess.)
A: I wanted to go the furthest AWAY I could go. Even the name Mongolia was like a joke. NOBODY goes there. My kind of place.
Q: I remember getting advice from Brit royal marines during "hostile-environment training" on how to travel through exotic places. "Be the grey man," they said. (They used an e in grey because they're Brits.) The grey man is less noticeable, and that's better for not sticking out and getting stuck up. What advice can you give to Americans traveling in these times to exotic posts.
A: I'm always the man in black, but never the grey man. If a place is hostile to Americans, (and what place isn't these days?), then you need to show yourself as an individual, not just another yank. Act like YOU, not like the demanding loudmouth, cowboy boot-wearing person they expect. My experience has shown me that once people get past "American," they'll judge you as a human being on your own (de-)merits. Of course, this wasn't a problem in Mongolia. They love (or loved) Americans, though the Mormons were doing their best to ruin that.
Q: What is next for you?
A: Rather boring, I'm afraid. Australia and New Zealand to promote my books. One of my dreams is to go to Africa. Another one of those places the people talk about as if in a far off universe. I don't want to do the boring Kenya animal safari, though. I want to go to Senegal and see how the street
My second dream is to go to MacDonald and Starbuck Islands. Both in the Pacific. I think Starbuck Island is just a big pile of bird#$%, but it has a name. That way, people will ask, "How did you spend your time on the Pacific?" and I can answer "I went to MacDonald's and Starbucks," and make
that something worthwhile.
October 09, 2006
IMs Back In The Day
It's immediately clear that the Instant Message does not threaten the Shakespearean sonnet's place in the literature of the seduction of the underaged. It's a painful harbinger of the degradation of our times to compare
A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion
Maf54 (8:04:58 PM): love to slip them off of you
Xxxxxxxxx (8:05:08 PM): haha
Maf54 (8:05:53 PM): and gram the one eyed snake
Maf54 (8:06:13 PM): grab
To make his point that our Instant Message seduction scandal in Congress is nothing novel, By Neddie Jingo! goes back in time. ... well past 1983 and Rep. Gerry Studds
... to 1882 and the forgotten case of Cong. Ezra Canney-Pickham, of Ohio's Third District, and the object of his desires, a Congressional page from Georgia named Elmo Trotwoodie.
This was a great press scandal of the day, By Neddie Jingo! reminds in a Saturday post titled "Gram the One-Eyed Snake."
And he reprints the instant messages of the day to prove it -- the telegraph.
NAUSEA ENSUES STOP SLOW THINGS DOWN STOP AM ONLY SEVENTEEN STOP NOT EIGHTEEN UNTIL FEB 23 STOP SERIOUSLY STOP STOP STOP STOP ELMO
A classic, via The Tattered Coat.
Note to my editor: This might not be actually true. I Googled young Trotwoodie and found only By Neddie Jingo's post. I have my suspicions. Suggest taking the rest of the week off so I might head for the Savannah, Ga., library stacks and conduct further research. Please forward mail to the Hamilton-Turner Inn.
August 17, 2006
I've been waiting to read how thoughtful Germans are reacting to the admission from Guenter Grass, 78, the Nobel Prize-winning author, that he served in the Nazi Waffen SS as a teenager. Finally, some strong stuff in English.
During the three years I lived in Berlin, 2000-2003, there tentatively emerged a genre of memoir and history that gave voice to Germans' own feeling of victimhood during the war. I interviewed the author of a popular book called The Fire: Germany Under Bombardment, 1940-1945, which considered the 635,000 Germans killed during Allied bombing raids. Jorg Friedrich's previous work had dug into the crimes of his parents' generation. W.E. Sebald was another writing powerfully of the Germans' suffering in the war they brought on themselves. It made for an amazing national dialogue.
Grass weighed in with Crabwalk, which examined the torpedoing of a German refugee ship in the Baltic Sea. He has long served as the German left's most prominent anti-war conscience. It was long thought he'd been conscripted as an assistant to an anti-aircraft gunner - a common job for teens.
Then the shocker: In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine, Grass last week disclosed that he had volunteered for military service at 15 to get out from under his parent's watch, and joined a labor service. It was a while before he realized he'd been called up to the Waffen SS as the war was winding down. He fought as a marksman in a tank division until wounded and imprisoned by Americans.
The SS was a protective force that began as a body unit for Hitler and grew into the killing machine that operated concentration camps and carried out mass exterminations. Grass, who discloses more about his war service in a forthcoming memoir, told the paper: "It weighed on me. My silence over all these years is one of the reasons I wrote this book. It had to come out, finally…. Later this feeling of shame burdened me."
Yesterday, Sign and Sight did the service of translating into English some of the reactions of more prominent Germans. Read them here. It's fascinating reading from a country that doesn't shirk from facing its Nazi-era crimes.
Joachim C. Fest (79), Historian: "I wouldn't buy a used car from this man. I don't understand how someone can present himself as the nation's guilty conscience for 60 years and then admit to himself having been deeply involved."
Martin Walser (78), writer: "The most responsible of all contemporaries can not disclose after 60 years that he landed in the Waffen SS through no fault of his own. That casts a devastating light on our climate of coping with its normalized modes of thinking and talking. Grass' independent statement should act as a lesson to this adaptable moral climate."
Erich Loest (80), Author: "Grass does not need to be accused for what he has said. He was very young and was without any influence that could have prevented him. I also wanted to register with the Waffen-SS but my school director prevented it. Grass should tell us, why he is only writing about it now."
Klaus Theweleit (64), Essayist and cultural studies scholar: "This is an advertising campaign for a publicity addict who has written a new book. When Grass reads in a survey that not 102 percent of all Germans know who he is, ideas like this occur to him."
And from Henryk Broder, a German Jewish writer, who explained in Der Spiegel Online how he wasn't surprised: "The normal case of citizen Grass illustrates how strong the craving is for authorities and role models, even in a liberal and permissive society. And that is why the disappointment is so great when you find out suddenly that you were following a false idol. But Grass can't do anything about that. On the contrary, Grass the politician has repeatedly demonstrated an arrogant incompetence, which his fans misunderstand as the wise words of the great prayer leader. There is only one annoying aspect of the affair: That through Grass, the Waffen-SS will be rehabilitated. If Grass was there, and his hands did not get dirty, our boys must not have been so bad - just fighting troops, somewhat aloof, the material of which novels are made. The memorial has been knocked down. But the pedestal remains."
May 04, 2006
Every Day I Write The Book
But could they write it in less than 300 words?
If so, The Autobiography Project would love to read it, and a panel is aiming to cull the best of these Philadelphia stories and slap them on bus station walls this summer.
The project honors Ben Franklin, who wrote a popular autobiography himself.
So far The Autobiography Project's Web site has posted about 50 pieces. People wanting to share something about their lives and times have until May 17th to get their stories down. And in. The Ben Franklin Tercentenary is behind the program, as is One Book, One Philadelphia. The Inquirer is also sponsor. Don't let that stop you.
Page through the Web site to read about:
Charlotte Wilson, whose answer to a personal ad brought her visits from a TV crew and the interest of the U.S. Secret Service.
David Sylvester, who lost a friend named on Sept. 11, 2001, and then biked across the country to raise awareness for a scholarship he started in his friend's name. Which led to biking across two continents, and filming a documentary, and writing for a national magazine to keep alive the memory of Kevin Bowser.
Rosalind Kaplan, cherishing the chaos of her household.
Jake Simon, a Hockessin, Del., boy with three robotic dogs and dreams of inventing a sun-powered hover car at MIT.
Candi Petock, the self-styled "Queen of Suburbia" who kept to her Bucks County burg, wary of the crime-ridden big city, until one day discovered Betsy Ross' house, then Old City and ultimately a local feast called cheesesteaks. She's now addicted.
Some of these tales are heart-tugging accounts of remembrance and loss. Many are joyous.
Here's Dennis Capoferri's birthday message to his father, gone since 1973. It's called "Having a Great Time, Wish You Were Here:"
It’s 2006 and a lot has happened to me and the world you knew when you left in ‘73.
I’ve been a painting contractor for 25 years.
Back then, a new dad. Now, a grandfather.
I know you always liked technology, inventions and construction. You would have liked Cell Phones, GPS, E-mail, HDTV, TiVo, Digicams, Plasma Screens, DVDs, Surround Sound, the Internet, cordless tools and drywall screws. Everything has a clock and a remote control. You have no idea what you’re missing.
On the down side, they’ve tampered with the simple perfection of the potato chip, made beer “lite” and burgers “turkey”. All signs of the apocalypse.
They actually, finally built the Blue Route, a stadium called Waterfront Park stands where you once worked and sleepy Newtown has a Bypass. The World Trade Center they were building then is gone now, I’ll explain later.
I like more types of music now than when I just liked what annoyed you.
I have a bench that once occupied the Reading Terminal waiting room. Maybe we sat on it back in the 50’s, switching trains on our way to Royersford before we finally bought that ’63 Rambler.
Did I mention EVERYTHING has a remote control?
I still drive fast. Eat fast. Grind my teeth. Work with my hands. Hate rules (this piece is 301 words) and put too much cheese on everything. My pet is a parrot.
Apparently, high cholesterol in the blood causes heart attacks so I take medicine to lower it rather than quit eating cheesesteaks.
Cars don’t rust and usually start but gas is $3.
And that birdhouse you made in 1961 hangs from my apple tree. Unoccupied for 45 years, it finally has a tenant. Moved in May 1st…. Happy Birthday Dad.
March 21, 2006
T Is For Tolstoy, O For O Henry
We'll lay off T.O. soon in this space, but he keeps doing such noteworthy things. First he records a rap about his cheddah payday with the Cowboys. Now he's writing a book. Another one. Presumably not like George Clooney writes a blog.
"Ineligible Receiver" is the name. "The Real Story of My Journey From the Super Bowl to the Sidelines" is the subtitle. David Rosenthal, an exec with the publishing house Simon & Schuster, says "it's an important chapter in the long-term struggle for players' rights in the NFL."
The Eagles, you'll remember, benched Owens for four games for poisoning the locker room, then placed him on the inactive list over the last five weeks of the season before cutting him this month rather than pay him another $5 million. The new agreement between the players union and the owners bans deactivating a player for disciplinary reasons.
The book is out in July. Until then, we must make do with some of these quote highlights from the man who once said, "Exposure is exposure, whether it's good or bad."
Owens is already a notable author, having written 2004's Catch This! Going Deep With the NFL's Sharpest Weapon with Stephen Singular. This was the blurb pulled off of Amazon:
In Catch This! Owens takes readers back to his hardscrabble childhood in rural Alabama, where he was raised by a stern grandmother and loving mother. By the time he won an athletic scholarship for football at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, the once small, bullied boy had transformed himself into a very large man with a super body and an iron will to succeed. He takes us behind his apprenticeship to -- and eventual eclipsing of -- the legendary 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice. He pulls no punches when it comes to his extremely public fight with San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci -- a relationship so sour that they didn't speak at all during the crucial final weeks of the 2001 season. And, finally, he lets loose on the free agent scandal that shook the NFL in 2004 -- and reveals the truth behind the NFL's attempt to deny him free agency, his fraudulent trade to the Baltimore Ravens, and his ultimate happy landing with the Philadelphia Eagles. For those who think they know both Terrell Owens and TO, catch this story.
Expect more truth-telling in Ineligible Receiver. We're hoping for insight into the difficulties of feeding a family on $49 million, how the Eagles failed to recognize his 100th touchdown, some driveway exercise tips and locker room memories of Nicole Sheridan and Hugh Douglas.
And perhaps he talk about how he plans to get along with the Dallas fans behind the "Feed My Family Foundation" found on Cowboystalk.com - the ones who called him a "low life loser."
Or, he could just read Sally Swift, who will miss the Pro-Bowl player and marketer.
January 27, 2006
Her guest - squirming in his chair, his voice rising from whine to squeak - was James Frey, the author whose memoir "A Million Little Pieces," turns out to have gotten more than a few of those pieces wrong. Or have been tweaked a little too much. Or made up out of whole cloth.
And Oprah, who had stood by the man, after handing Frey fame and fortune by picking "Pieces" for her book club, wasn't stopping until he was crispy.
Here's how Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post handled it this morning:
Oprah Winfrey, embarrassed by her defense of a memoir after it was exposed as partially fabricated, apologized yesterday and then lectured the sheepish-looking author and his publisher in an emotional hour of televised penance.
Two weeks after standing by James Frey's falsified tale of crime and drugs, the talk-show queen reversed herself following a spate of newspaper editorials and columns assailing her credibility.
Chicago Tribune blogger Steve Johnson called the broadcast "galvanizing" and reminded why Winfrey remains on top:
She retains, despite her wealth, fame and the insularity they bring, a strong moral compass and great instincts. One of the greatest of those is the ability to say, simply, "I was wrong."
"TKO" ruled a LiveJournal blogger named Tree Woman:
Tiffani called to tell me to turn Oprah on. Whoo-wee! was she ever mad! (Oprah, not Tiffani.) I've never seen her so angry in my life. She was glowering the entire show.
Gawker was moved enough to liveblog the event. It tells you what you need to know:
Oprah opens the show by saying she’s sorry; she also apologizes for calling Larry King to defend Frey. And then the kicker: Oprah says to Frey, “You betrayed millions of readers.” Remember how we said Oprah had totally saved Frey’s ass? Yeah, not anymore.
After commerical, Frey appears. Of the Smoking Gun report that broke this story, Frey says they “did a good job.” He admits to Oprah that he lied to her about jail. “I made a mistake,” he says.
Oprah’s not satisfied and keeps pushing. Frey admits that Lilly didn’t hang herself; claims that in reality she cut her wrist. “Why did you have to lie about that?” responds Oprah.
But I'm still confused how people are dragging President Bush in this.
January 24, 2006
Where We Find Free Stuff
Couple deals out there. First the tunes.
eMusic is so convinced you'll approve of its taste that it is offering two-week trial subscriptions to its music service that include 50 downloads. You have to cancel after that period if you don't like the online service, but you get to keep the songs, and they are MP3s that play on any digital music player. (The basic paid plan allows 40 monthly downloads at a quarter each.)
So what sort of songs are they giving away?
Giant Magazine, which has a deal with eMusic that allows new magazine subscribers to download 100 of the songs, has compiled 50 picks. They're not bad at all.
Giant's recs range from Guided By Voices's "I am a Scientist" to the Drive By Truckers's "18 Wheels of Love" to Beck's "Halo of Gold" to Ray Charles's "I Got a Woman" to John Coltrane's "The Way You Look Tonight" to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds's "Babe, I'm on Fire." There's some Tortoise, Taj and Townes Van Zandt, and no one should miss the opportunity to grab "September Gurls," that great, power pop pearl from Big Star.
At the same time, Unabridged Books is offering 12 full-length titles for free, and a library of other audio books for under $10 each (cheap!).
We're not talking The History of Wheat here.
There's Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Jack London's Call of the Wild, Charles Dickens's The Haunted House, Henry James's Portait of a Lady, Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native. And others.
November 17, 2005
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What's this? Text message cramming for Romeo & Juliet, according to the BBC. Duh!
And this? Who's first to name the SMS classic:
5Sistrs WntngHsbnds. NwMeninTwn-Bingly&Darcy. Fit&Loadd.BigSis Jane Fals 4B,2ndSisLiz H8s D Coz Hes Proud. Slimy Soljr Wikam Sys DHs Shady Past.Trns Out Hes Actuly ARlyNysGuy &RlyFancysLiz. She Decyds She Lyks Him.Evry1 Gts Maryd.
November 08, 2005
R.I.P. John Fowles
John Fowles, 1926 - 2005
The Magus was one of those books that watched over me as a teenager. It was my older brother's book, and it sat unread in the bookshelf by my bed, despite its exotic locale and racy cover. (Not this one. The one with the buxom, raven-haired beauty.)
Then I finally cracked it, and it became one of those books that stirred the blood, and made me realize I was a reader. Absolutely spellbinding.
He died Saturday, after a long illness, at his home in Lyme Regis, England.
October 31, 2005
He could feel her heart beneath his hands. He moved his hands slowly lower still and she arched her back to help him and her lower leg came against his.
I have to snip there for next comes a word we don't easily slip into the newspaper. Wait, this is a blog.
He held her breasts in his hands. Oddly, he thought, the lower one might be larger. . . . One of her breasts now hung loosely in his hand near his face and he knew not how best to touch her.
I need a damned cigarette. The New Yorker deconstructs the sex scenes in 1996's The Apprentice, Libby's novel that takes place in a rural Japanese province at the turn of the 20th century. Diligently, the magazine writer compares his sanguinary style with that of other hardcore Republicans, including Erlichman, Safire, Buckley and O'Reilly.
Even runs his work past Nancy Sladek, the editor of Britain’s Literary Review, which holds an annual contest for bad sex writing in fiction.
The men of the Nixon White House had a term for political dirty tricks that had to do with rats. Looks like deer are more Libby's style.