Today Patton Osawlt tweeted, "Where do people find the social wattage to build & maintain an entourage? I thought success meant you earned quiet & solitude." It made me think of this portrait of Sinatra's entourage and his role in it, from Gay Talese's masterpiece "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold." If anything can answer that, it's this:
The first time I ever met Jason Chin, who died yesterday at 46, was in late winter, 1999. I was 24, a student at the iO Theater where he was the at various times the official or the de facto artistic director. I had shown up to watch a Pat Shay Dancers and Deep Schwa show. (Now that I think of it, he was coach of both storied teams). Jason was the house manager that night, and though I knew him, he did not know me. I had forgotten my student ID, which would get me in for free. I waved him down and explained my situation: level one student, down on his luck, missing ID, trying to impress this girl here, etc., etc. I asked if I could be let in, like, just this once. He stared at me for a good ten seconds, shook his head, and said, “No.” And then he walked away.
I would later give him shit for this. He had no memory of it and said that it did not sound like something he’d do. I agreed, but the fact that he did do it amused me. Because Jason was the kind of guy who, 99.9% of the time, would have waved me and all of my friends in. He was warm and generous and friendly, and he loved students. Still, I like thinking of him as that first impression I had: Jason R. Chin, the merciless, take-no-shit Ice Man with a cold, cold stare.
My friend and I disagree about disco in two ways: one a basic matter of taste; and one controversial. I dislike it; he likes it. That’s trouble enough for a pleasant conversation. But the second part of the argument is where it gets interesting. Or, if not interesting, tedious and divisive. He thinks that the bulk of the backlash goes beyond taste and is directly attributable to homophobia. I counter that no, it sucks.
This little entry is in response to Renee Graham’s Boston Globe article, which my bullshit “friend” emailed to me yesterday, titled “Why does rock and roll hate disco?” You may remember that I titled this entry (see above) “Because it sucks.” Get it?
Heh heh heh. I am sticking with the sophomoric title not because I think I am so funny or even because that’s what I think about disco. I am keeping it because I think it is an apt response to the way Graham frames the article: why have so many disco musicians been excluded from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Answer: Because it, the hall, sucks.
The following two quotes appear within a few paragraphs of each other in Thomas Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49," which is about... well, it doesn't matter. Modern urban and suburban life, pop music, restoration plays, paranoia/chaos, secret societies, etc. I kinda forget since it's a difficult book, as all his books are, and I read it over a decade ago. Difficult books, generally, are rarely about anything specific, which is part of what makes them difficult. Aside from feeling dumb while reading a difficult novel--clocking ten pages an hour and resisting the urge to move your lips as you go--you wind up feeling dumb again a decade later when you have trouble saying what it was about.
[The other day I promised a second article that addresses Men's Health issues (oops, I keep capitalizing that phrase for some reason). Here it is. The first one is here.]
Professional blasters, be they powerlifters, weightlifters, or strongmen, have a common saying: “Don’t talk about it: BLAST about it.” That’s good as far as the gym door, but when we find ourselves among weaklings who wouldn’t know a chest fly from a pistol squat, it helps to have a vocab as jacked as your delts.
And so, I have compiled a list of three bad-ass power words to impress in the boardroom… and the bedroom. Or wherever you choose to have intramarital sex.
On October 12, 2004 at 8:43 p.m. Central Time a man disembarked from a plane at O'Hare International Airport carrying the most deadly virus that humanity had ever seen. He was carrying it in his bloodstream. Not, like, in a bag.
The good part was that it was very hard to transmit. Someone had to say, "Yah mo b there!" to the carrier after he said something about a grapefruit festival in Woodstock, Illinois. The virus did not care what, exactly the carrier said to prompt that reply from the other person. It could be an invitation to the festival, obviously, but it could also be a general comment about there being a grapefruit fest in Woodstock (there is not) and then the person hearing about it would have to express interest in going to it using precisely that statement. Once "the phrase that slays" was uttered, (as the evil bioscientist who concocted the virus called it), the carrier would turn an ashen gray and his eyes would fill with pus. The person who said "Yah mo b there!" would not become ill from this encounter, since it takes another two weeks for the virus to become transmittable. But once the carrier wound up at the hospital all covered in pus? Oh man, look out.
[I wrote this listicle and submitted it to a certain Men's Health magazine (not sure why I capitalized those letters there, and my backspace button is busted so I guess I have to leave it) over the summer, but I think they are still meeting about it. Here is the first of two listicles. The other one will be tomorrow, or whenever I feel like it.]
Are the Jock and the Nerd are natural enemies? Nay! ‘Tis the vilest of lies. The Jock is the Nerd’s protector, and the Nerd is the Jock’s benefactor.
The next time, Jock, you blast 450 on the incline bench, know that it took a Nerd to calibrate the mass of your free weights. And next time, Nerd, you board a subway dressed as a Klingon and return unscathed to Instagram about it, trust that a Guardian Jock watched over you. In the weight room of life, one spots the other in aeternum.
So let us celebrate The Brotherhood of the Jock and the Nerd with a list of work-outs worthy of us both.
About fifteen years ago a woman I know had a boyfriend who moved to Chicago without a job. She helped him network by calling another woman I know, a consultant at Arthur Andersen, to flat-out ask her to find him a job.
“Well, what does he want to do?” the second woman asked.
“He wants,” she said, “To be a businessman.”
That’s fantastic. That two people could be so naive --the boyfriend with the vague yet driving ambition, the girlfriend with the blunt execution of it-- strikes me as hilarious, sad, moving and hilarious again all at once. Not finance, accounting, marketing, or banking. He simply wanted to be... a businessman.
I’ve hydromated my current homebrew (pictured) at 7.88 % ABV. The recipe came with no target OG, so when fermentation slowed and I racked to the secondary, I was pleasantly surprised to see the calculation come out as: “Do not drink three of these in a night.”
Don’t worry about the jargon. ABV is obvious. “Fermentation slowing” means an abeyance of yeast activity. “Racking to the secondary” means “filter beer from big bottle to slightly smaller big bottle so it declouds and whatnot.” OG = original gravity. “Abeyance” means "slowing, receding" and “hydromated” is very probably not a word. It just sounds cool. I measured the beer with a hydrometer, which is a thermometer-esque buoy one floats in beer to figure out how much booze is in it. Original Gravity minus Final Gravity times Something Else (mysterious, I use a special lazyman website) equals how strong your beer is.
I’ve only recently gotten into high alcohol beers. The insider term for normal 4 to 5% ABV that I (heh heh) grew up on is “session beer.” For the vast majority of us, that distinction is redundant. Since the noble experiment of Prohibition ended in 1932 until about 2008, beer meant session beer. For seventy years, it was all roughly the same, all roughly as strong.
I wrote a story called "The Reception," and it is in the new volume of Pendulous Breasts Quarterly, a literary journal for the discriminating breast enthusiast.
If you are an elderly relative of mine reading this: take heart. It is not actually a pornographic magazine. It's just a hilarious title thought up by one John Howell Harris, formerly of the Onion and a comedy guy in New York (City). The first volume was great and I expect this new one to be the same. My copy has not arrived yet so I am not going to straight up lie and say it is awesome, but with writers from the Onion, the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, 30 Rock, and what not, Volume II is very likely to be killer. BUY IT HERE.
Back in November, 2012, I meant to write some reflections on Adam Kirsch’s essay “Rocket and Lightship” in that month’s Poetry magazine. It’s a meditation on the inevitable oblivion that all writers face and on the rapidly increasing irrelevance of literature and culture in the contemporary world. The fact it has taken me over 18 months (and that I have read the essay at least four times already) is a complimentary refutation of both premises.
Kirsch depicts the act of writing and of literature in general in grand, austere, spare, and intense language (however contradictory those words are) that you rarely hear in daily American speech outside of a freshman dorm. I mean that more as a dis to contemporary American speech than to Adam Kirsch (or to college freshman). Kirsch is but a pup, born in 1976, but statements like these make him sound like he was born in 1846 in one of Germany’s more bookish regions:
St. Bartholomew Catholic Church
Guided by faith. Called to love.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Pseudo-Volunteering?
Pseudo-Volunteering is for people who love the spiritual satisfaction that comes from volunteering but hate the tedium of volunteering.
How does it work?
Each Saturday a group of pseudo-volunteers from St. Bartholomew visits the Little Sisters of the Needy Scholastic Workshop. We tutor photogenic, disadvantaged youths from 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.
Oh, man. That’s way too early for me. Do you do anything on weeknights?
I am reading The Atlantic right now, an online American magazine founded in 1857. It more preceded than anticipated the Internet, but still.
The article is “Malaysia 370, Day 10: One Fanciful Hypothesis, and Another That Begins to Make Sense,” by James Fallows. Really, it’s a blog post, a phrase that would have befuddled Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and the two other* triple-named founders.
If at any point during my perusal of his insights into this most mysterious flight I grow bored or impatient with Mr. Fallows, The Atlantic conveniently offers a few suggestions right here on the page. You gotta look for them, but they’re there.
There’s James Hamblin’s “The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains” plus “Making the Big Bang Seem Human,” by Megan Garber. There’s a “JUST IN” crawl that reads “Man Who Thought He Signed Up for Obamacare Now Owes $407,000 in Medical…” I assume the last word is “Bills,” and that it will get no play in the conservative press. There’s a banner below The Atlantic logo up at the top offering a few categories: “Politics,” “Business,” “Tech,” “Entertainment,” “Health,” “Education,” “Sexes” (YES), “National,” “Global,” “Video,” and “Magazine.” Each offers six headlines, from “Why Isn't the Fourth Amendment Classified as Top Secret?” to “How to Make a Simple Cup of Coffee: It's subtler business than you might think.” The “Video” offered right now in a box beside Fallows’s title is “Computer Syndrome on You: Save Your Eyes. Take Breaks.” They evidently have a store because the top left corner says “SHOP The Atlantic.”