Monday, December 31, 2001

John Tynes, with whom I had a fantastic dinner last night, shares a response to geek ranting. Knowledge of who Scott is is not necessary for gathering the gist of his comments.

You asked, "Is endless geek ranting and re-allocating of facts from one bucket to another a substitute for actual conversation?"

Having quoted your question, I'm now not going to answer it. Instead I'll comment on something that I've wondered at. Scott uses the neologism "subreference" to mean "a reference thrown out in a conversation or in a creative work not so much because it is to be understood by all and therefore add meaning, but more because it's to be understood by a few and therefore add a sense of belonging." (e.g. "Get up, it's time for work!" "But I was gonna go in to Taschi Station and pick up some more power converters!" "Cut the subreference and get dressed!") It used to annoy me when he'd say "subreference," since I always thought "What's wrong with just saying 'reference'?" But in truth, I think what Scott dubs subreferences are less than a reference and more than an in-joke. They are an in-joke that adds meaning. And I think they are something of a geek phenomenon. They accomplish three goals: 1) Establish the intelligence (or cultural literacy or whatever) of the speaker. 2) Affirm the intelligence of the speaker's comrades. 3) Comment on the situation in an amusing and meaningfully layered way. A simple reference does #3, because it assumes a large enough cultural context (Shakespeare, the Hydra of Greek mythology) to be usefully inclusive. An in-joke does #2. But the geek subreference adds #1 to the pot. It's the equivalent of using your Mensa membership card as the punchline to a self-deprecating joke.

All that said, and it is quite a bit, I want to flip to something else entirely: THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS.

Fantastic movie. Saw it last night with a belly full of great food, in the company of John and Jean-Michele, two of my favorite people, and I have to say that I'm in danger of having my geek card revoked for liking it more than Lord of the Rings. Superb, fantastic movie that did everything AMELIE did for other people, and did it in spades--what a triumph of fun, intelligent story. Quirky characters, but the story mixed with fantastic design swept along and did great work with everyone involved--my favorite Wes Anderson film so far, which is simply to say I liked it more than RUSHMORE.

I feel terribly sad tonight, as I always do on the cusp of a new year--it's even worse on the 1st. My life has changed so much in 12 months, a transformation made all the more surreal by the changes of national consciousness that occured this fall throwing it all into stark relief. I could never have imagined where my life would be now from a year ago--I think I had forgotten how much larger life is than any one man, and that's a kind of hubris I need to have washed from me--but at the same time I miss how certain my life used to be, and how I could see so clearly what success would be, and what the next steps were. Now I'm blind to all that, and I can only do my job and stumble forward. It's good to be in the dark, because you find better things there--it just isn't as comforting day to day, and when you look backward and forward like you do on the 31st it can positively horrify you with the uncertainty.

Okay, enough pop psychology and mournful wailings. I am supposed to be wearing a toga and drinking heavily. To everyone who reads this, my best in the new year, and I hope you're all blessed enough to be stumbling ahead too, heedless of the dark and mindful of the trip.

Sunday, December 30, 2001

The incorrigible John Tynes offers these trenchant observations on Jean Shepard, originator of the I, Libertine phenomenon.

I don't know anything about that particular anecdote. But in case you don't know, Jean Shepherd is the author responsible for the delightful holiday film A CHRISTMAS STORY ("You'll shoot your eye out!") and the author of that piece, Joyce Brabner, is the wife of Harvey Pekar, the creator of the underground autobiographical comics series AMERICAN SPLENDOR. Pekar, an incorrigible ranter, was a regular guest on David Letterman in the late 1980s and was even offered his own talk show, but he alienated Letterman by using the show as a forum to criticize General Electric's corporate practices. His comics are fantastic, however. Before they got married, Brabner helped put together the graphic novel BROUGHT TO LIGHT, about the U.S.'s involvement with the Contras; half of that book was written by Alan Moore and painted by Bill Sienkiewicz.

So. I am defining the hole in my knowledge by carefully walking its perimeter.

Indeed. It feels that as the universe becomes more complex in terms of the burgeoning weight of trivia available, the more often whole schools of thought can develop which consist of simply making connections between one piece of data and another. Are Tynes' observations new information? Is endless geek ranting and re-allocating of facts from one bucket to another a substitute for actual conversation? Tynes won't mind my musings--he's just doing the woolgathering that it seems the Net was designed for. I guess I'm suddenly navel gazing and wondering, "Why am I telling you all of this?"

Guess an essay is coming on. I need to go eat at the Dahlia Lounge first, and maybe it'll turn out I just needed dinner. I get that way. I'll let you know.

Pat promptly found another reference to the fabuilous I, Libertine, which expands upon the info previously posted, and includes a priceless picture of the cover of this non-existant book.

Straight from the good folks at Page Six: Tom Cruise is epitomizing Hollywood excess while promoting his latest flick, "Vanilla Sky." The undersized actor stunned studio reps when he arrived at a Hong Kong publicity stop with an entourage so huge he needed 28 rooms at the Far Eastern Plaza Hotel for them, reports the South China Morning Post. Maybe he needed all the underlings to comfort him after The Post's erudite critic Jonathan Foreman labeled the flick "surprisingly vulgar," "convoluted," "saggy" and "irritating."

This really requires no comment, not even a link:

Bono named 'European of the Year'

Friday, December 28, 2001

Marc Maron is an interesting fellow who performs in the alternative stand-up scene in NYC--his book The Jerusalem Syndrome just came out, and it is based on a one-man show he's done, so you can see as there would be some contextural similarities.

After 9/11 he was asked repeatedly by outsiders "how New York was", and this is his reply:

"New York is like the girl at the office who was raped. Afterwards everyone comes up to her and says, 'Are you okay? I'm so sorry... we were all watching through the window but we couldn't do anything..'"

Acerbic, biting and accurate. Nobody likes being a victim--playing that role is as dehumanizing as any other role. Since I've been visiting in Seattle for the holidays I've been asked a few times if 9/11 was "bad". The flare of anger I feel is so enlightening--I understand veteran's reactions to simplistic questions about combat so much better now.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

Tony Chopkoski brought this fascinating article to my attention, which illustrates that pop-culture hacking has been going on for as long as cultural institutions have been in existence, waiting to be hacked. In this case, a late-night radio host changes the landscape of bestselling books, and the tale makes for great holiday reading. If anyone knows more about this story, write me and let me know.

Because I haven't been able to find the original web location of this article, it is reprinted here in its entirety.

I, Libertine: Making the List

Late-night radio yarn spinner Jean Shepherd was convinced that the New York Times Best Seller List was a sucker's game. He decided to test his theory: "Some little guy('s) . . . job is to call bookstores and find out what's selling this week. Well, Fred Applerot recently bought 500 copies of Who Shot John?, and he still has 497 copies on the shelf. The guy calls and asks what's hot . . . 'Who Shot John? Big Hit!' The little guy puts it on his list and soon everyone goes out and buys it!"

In 1956, the midnight monologist convinced listeners to ask bookstores for a book that didn't exist. Callers suggested the title: I, Libertine by imaginary author Frederick R. Ewing. Shepherd created the plot and author's bio. Set in England during the 1700s, the historical novel, by an "expert in 18th century erotica," detailed the adventures of Lance Courtnay, courtier and Casanovian rakehell. Ewing was British, Shepherd decided, a BBC radio personality and former World War II commander turned civil servant now living in Rhodesia. Published by a Cambridge University press, he even had a wife, Marjorie, "a horsewoman from the North Country."

According to Shepherd: "The first guy walks into the store and asks for I, Libertine. The owner says he never heard of it. Man #2 walks in asking for it. Now he says 'It's on order.' The next guy comes in. Now he's on the phone to the distributor . . . "

Distributors called Publisher's Weekly. The definitive trade mag wrote up the buzz about I, Libertine and it was soon listed in the New York Times Book Review. More articles appeared. There was a backlash. The book was banned in Boston by the Legion of Decency because of its "racy" content�and defended vigorously. College listeners in on the gag submitted apparently erudite research papers on Ewing. The Philadelphia Public Library catalogued the imaginary author, prompting Shepherd to declare "My God! Maybe there was no Chaucer! It could've been some guy 400 years ago, putting on the whole world!"

Life, Time and Newsweek ran stories. More and more people claimed to have read the novel. It was discussed at faculty parties and celebrated by the smart set. Bookstore owners talked knowledgeably about Ewing's oeuvre. New York Post gossip columnist and society insider Earl Wilson told dazzled readers he'd "had lunch with Freddy Ewing yesterday." Ian Ballentine sought paperback rights. As weeks passed, the book attracted international interest. More articles appeared and worldwide bestseller lists touted the fake novel. Shepherd worried the President would soon give his opinion�"Then I wouldn't believe in anything!"

A Wall Street Journal reporter finally called WOR about Shepherd's open secret and a front-page story appeared the next day, creating a second media sensation. Years later, Shepherd recalled, "It was the beginning of an attitude . . . People up until then never questioned politicians or Big Government like they do now."

Ballentine finally did publish I, Libertine. Shepherd and science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon met and decided to team together as "Ewing." All profits went to charity. "Turbulent! Turgid! Tempestuous!" It was a best seller, of course.

--Joyce Brabner

(WBAI Pacifica Radio began rebroadcasting Jean Shepherd's early WOR programs last month. Tune in to "Mass Backwards" 4 AM Mondays EST in the WBAI New York listening area, or from anywhere on the web at

Saturday, December 22, 2001

Last night my friend Trey told me about Google's Zeitgeist and a cool year-end feature, Google's 2001 Timeline, where you can watch the rise and fall of ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US, Mir's falling, 9/11 and more. It's neat, and the trivia is cool. Check it out.

Friday, December 21, 2001

I don't like Noam Chomsky. I think he's smug, arrogant and thrives on victimhood. He's also frightfully intelligent, which makes it difficult to listen to him speak because it can be so hard to build arguements that stand up to his intellect, even when I know he's wrong...especially after 9/11, when for quite some time it became all the rage for Chomsky, Sontag and others to reach their apex of absurd liberalism: terrorist apologism.

So if you, like me, can't always argue with Chomsky or quite pin down just why he isn't right even if he's so damn smart and slippery, this article does a great job of concisely displaying some of his major flaws.

Guess it's a serious posting day.

In this remarkable article Carolyn Briggs details in a few brief paragraphs a horrific insight into the world of religious fundamentalism. I'm excited to read the full book, This Dark World : A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost, to be published in March.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

The other day I wrote, "Wonders of the web: my blog entry from 9/11 was published on November 16th in Jordan's weekly The Star." It would appear I was a little too proud, as I received this from webmaster John Tynes

Wonders of nepotism, I suspect. My cousin Jeff is a staff reporter for the Star there in Jordan, and I think my parents forwarded your 9/11 note to the whole family. How my Virginia cousin ended up living in Jordan as a reporter for an Islamic newspaper is a story that deserves to be a lot more interesting than it actually is. Here's one of his pieces.

Oh many ways it is more interesting to see the real interconnectedness of the web in action than imagining that I'm an international superstar, even if it's a little less glamorous.

Take a gander at Barry Trotter and the Unauthorized Parody, a clever work by Saturday Night Live writer and New Yorker contributor Michael Gerber. The first chapter is available, and while I have a hard time imagining this staying funny for 180 pages, it's a well-constructed parody. He's self publishing for now, but apparently others are showing an interest in this lawsuit waiting to happen.

Lifted directly from the pages of Slashdot, source of geek news:

"Jupiter Media Metrix released a report on Monday about PC gaming - here's one of the more interesting tidbits: 'Similar to past years, Microsoft Windows-bundled games dominated the top rankings in October 2001: Solitaire was number one, with 21.3 million users.' A little math tells us that americans spent about 24 million man-hours in October on Solitarie (estimating that each user spent a little more than an hour over the whole month) That corresponds to about 1 million man-days, or around 2740 man-years! For comparison, I looked up these numbers... Empire State Building: 7 million man-hours (a mere 9 days of Solitaire), Panama Canal: 20 million man-hours (a mere 26 days of Solitaire), Apollo project: 15.5 billion man-hours (or a mere 52 years of Solitaire) Think about it!"

I am thinking about it, and while the natural response is to feel guiltily complicit in this massive timesink, or nod knowingly at the follow of mankind, I find myself strangely encouraged by this statistic. It certainly resembles the way I've been spending my life, and we're a race that can accomplish great things even though we waste so much time.

I also hadn't fully realized how enormous the Apollo project was, but this example really brought it home to me.

Sunday, December 16, 2001

Wil Forbis is an old acquaintance whom I like as much as I enjoy the work of Toshiro Mifune. Check it out. I love Yojimbo.

My good friends at Netslaves are exploring a bittersweet topic...the possibility that we are watching Amazon's last Christmas. Here's my favorite only-slightly-hyperbolic riff:

"...for a company that's roughly 3 billion to the left of zero, reality cannot be avoided indefinitely. "Pro forma" is not going to cut it when creditors finally demand to be paid.
Imagine if you or I wracked up that kind of debt? We'd be in jail fighting off anal rape, not talking up what a big holiday season we're expecting, especially when our business is structured on the principle that the more we make the more we lose."

Quite a few responses to my reactions on Vanilla Sky, including this informed note from my friend Pat:

First, I want to share my agreement (albeit with slightly less vitriol) about VS (the working title for Almost Famous, by the by - "I love this damn title too much not to use it!"). I don't mind the occasional movie headfucking, really I don't - Usual Suspects and Memento spring to mind. But the difference there is they had their feet firmly grounded in *story*. What might be called razzle-dazzle was strictly to service the tale, as opposed to VS's distracting. If your feet aren't on the ground, you're either flying, floating, or falling. And this ain't flying.

Since I know I'm only preaching to the converted, let me bring up one good thing about the movie. The tech support character, looking uncannily like Martin Landau in North by Northwest, is played by Noah Taylor. Taylor may be previously best known as playing the younger, pre-crackers David Helfgott in Shine, but my favorite movie of his will forever be Flirting, a 1992 Aussie film about a prep boy coming of age as he has an illicit interracial romance with Thandie Newton. This is notable because (a) Newton costarred with Cruise in Mission Impossible 2, and (b) both Taylor and Newton costarred in Flirting with (drumroll) Nicole Kidman. Now all three can be connected to Kevin Bacon in one step. And if that's not a good thing...

Reality check: Does Cameron Crowe really think that he can slap a name on a film just because he likes it a lot? I don't think it is too much to ask for the title to have some visceral connection to the film. I wish they'd called it OPEN YOUR EYES, like the original, but that would imply a lower level of suck-assedness and ego-stroking than we see on display here.

I'm done with the film, but if others want to chime in feel free to write and I'll post anyone who puts up a decent defense or interesting details.

Saturday, December 15, 2001

Feast your eyes on the Megway. Brilliant design, sharp innovation and fueled only on water with a little sushi in the evenings. This short film makes clear how fully integratable the Megway can be with everyday lifestyle. They are going to design cities around this little lady!

This is excellent, sharp satire at work--the day is coming where everything on the web will be satirized in realtime.

I hope I'm getting one for Christmas.

Man, I can't stop hating VANILLA SKY. Here are some postings of other's who share my opinion, because it makes me feel better to work out my feelings of rage and frustration through the insane rantings of others:


This guy snuck into a showing and still hated it:

"We decided to jump into VANILLA SKY. My pal had seen OPEN YOUR EYES and liked it enough to buy the DVD. I asked him what it was about. He said, "Explaining the plot to EYES is like trying to explain the plot to the MATRIX." I retorted, "Humanity has been taken over by the very machines it created. After blocking out the sun in hope of disabling the machines power source, humans are now used like batteries to keep the machines running. Some humans have broken out of the virtual reality mental prison created by the machines and now race to find the one person who can use the MATRIX's power against itself and save humanity." He just stared. MATRIX was visually stunning, but the movie ultimately sucked hard! A story that was written over and over again by much more competent writers in TV, comics, and novels in the past. It was a two-hour TWIGHLIGHT ZONE episode without the cleverness of Rod Serling to help.

After VANILLA SKY I felt the same way...only without the really clever visuals and cinematography of MATRIX. VANILLA SKY needed to be a half-hour TV show. I desperately want to spoil this movie for everyone and reveal the 'twist', but I won't. Let me just say I hate watching anything that negates itself in the end. That has characters that you WANT to see dead. That, no matter how hard you try, you cannot gain any sense of emotion for ANY character! I sat in the theater and watched pretty colors flicker on the screen for free and still wanted my money back.


(Comments on a NYTimes review:)
So "Tom Cruise plays his role with... confused narcissism" does he? So he's just playing himself then?


"Vanilla Sky was easily the most predictable film I've seen this millenium. Apart from the great falling SFX, this film was an absolute waste of my time. What was there to think about? The film broadcasts it's reveals a hundred miles away. My girlfriend and I kept saying "Gee, I wonder if he's going to..." and "I wonder if this is going to happen..." all in a sarcastic tone. Then it all came true! The only thing that required any thought from this piece of spoon fed crap is why Tom Cruise felt the need to punctuate every line with his patented laugh."


This film makes me pray for a quick and merciful death. Not for me. For Cruise.

Wonders of the web: my blog entry from 9/11 was published on November 16th in Jordan's weekly The Star. My missives have also shown up in Indiana, Ohio, Hawaii, London, Quebec and New Guinea newspapers. Thank God that head colds can't be transmitted over the web or we would all be constantly sick.

From the New Yorker, November 14, 1994:

"'An Indian will listen to his guru, nod his head, and go home and, even if he's a deeply religious person, ignore fifty per cent of what the guru has told him, because his own sense of the world tells him to do that,' an Indian man who is well versed in Yogic culture said to me recently. But Westerners who jump heart first into a cloistered Indian subculture do not always find it easy to distinguish what is spiritual from what is Indian-or merely the whim of the guru."

The article is mainly about the SYDA foundation's sordid history, and it's jam-packed with intrigue and drama. This article really shook up the organization and caused many followers to leave. It's actually very hard to find actual physical copies of the issue anymore because when this issue was printed the ashram bought as many copies of it as they could find and had them burned, and many public libraries around the US have had their copies of this issue destroyed as well.

You can read the entire article here.

Pardon me while I have a crypto geek moment with this article at The Register on quantum cryptography. Using Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle to make untamperable cipers is cool.

This great nugget is gleaned from Slate's Today's Papers, an early morning must read for me:

Incidentally, we know that the otherwise-invisible U.S. Special Forces and/or Delta Force soldiers are engaged in the battle in the mountains because of the "tell-tail trail of piles of plastic Poland Spring mineral water bottles" they leave behind, according to the NYT lead.

Friday, December 14, 2001

My editor warned me, the week previously: "Don't see it, it's a bloated egotistical train wreck," she solemnly intoned as I waited in line for Ocean's Eleven. "You'll regret it."

She wasn't speaking of Mr. Soderbergh's fine film, which is frothy, glittery low-impact fun of the highest order just as Mr. Ebert's review indicates. She was warning me of a movie her husband, a movie reviewer, had taken her to a screening of early with disastrous consequences.

Did i listen? Most assuredly. Why then, did I find myself this afternoon walking into a theater to see the film I had heard such a warning about? A film with an appalling jump-cut trailer and featuring star wattage so intense there could be no question of talent or life shining through the blinding egohood...with so many warnings, why was I a week later walking into the same room to be slaughtered?

I don't know. I have an ornery, twisted nature and maybe with the day being as gray and wet as it was, I wanted to be punished. Maybe because I have a lot of book to revise by January 1st, and I should be spending every free minute slaving myself to this book's final, delicate moments before birth--maybe that knowledge wormed its way into my heart and told me to neglect myself.

Maybe a theater sounded like a safe, dark place to rest when I was terribly hungover from the McSweeney's event the night previous, followed by drinking and heavy talking at the improbably named Sherwood Forest, a delightfully weird place with wooden boards, hunks of meat, great atmosphere and little tiny glass barrels filled with apple liquor that they bring to the table for no reason except that they are French.

Let this serve as a warning to all: just because you think the theater is the safest place, a place to escape from the world and your troubles does not necessarily make it so. It can be a horrible place, filled with horror, death and mind-destroying mindshit that makes your heart ache and stretch up from your chest in a vain attempt to choke the life out of your eyes and ears.

This will only happen at theaters today if you should see Vanilla Sky.

This is an endless, sickening circlejerk to Tom Cruise's ego, this year's Cast Away but without Hank's kindness or even a shread of self-respect. Cruise is rich in the film, Cruise is powerful, Cruise is a child, Cruise is hot and fucks Cameron Diaz, and he's the editor of MAXIM and he's a human dildo and he has a great car and he's so into vacant smiling and being Jerry Maguire and the guy from Top Gun and every other character he's done, even the dude from Born on the 4th of July after his face gets ripped off and did I mention that he also gets to fuck Pen�lope Cruz? He also has every gadget from Sharper Image plastered all over his lifestyle, so much so that they should have paid for placement.

That's the start of the movie. There's some dialogue, a lot of QUIRKY camera shots and craaaaaazy stuff from Mr. Crowe, who should know better but has been swallowed in the forcefield of Cruise's ego. Then we get to the car crash, facial injuries and things really start going south. We're supposed to care so much that this Plastic Ken Doll has been injured for reasons I can not descern, believe he had a future with Cruz because they date in real life (they certainly have no chemistry on the screen) and then watch the other Cruise ACT REALLY HARD over and over again: he looks pensive, he looks pensive and sad, he looks pensive and angry, he smiles. After the accident he loses the smiling, so the options are pretty fucking limited.

My wife said it best: "It's Jerry McGuire meets MASK" which I think is actually kind--it implies that this has a human heart, which it does not. I have no doubt that media flacks forced the Tom and Penelope together after seeing where this assfest was headed, knowing that many would walk in to see them as lovers...and would walk out when they saw he has no face and the movie has no point. I was made furious by this endless purile crap: angry and bored, angry and tired, angry and despairing--I was going through a larger emotional range than the phantoms on the screen!

And phantoms they turn out to be! At the last minute we discover that all the craaaaaazy stuff that is happening with the shitty retakes and endless pillow smotherings of Diaz and Cruz and bad prosthetic mask games (look, I'm wearing it on the back of my head! look, it's my alter ego! look! look!) because Cruise has been frozen in a goddamn cryogenic tank and the movie is his psychotic dream ravings wherein he controls the entirety of reality. Nothing is real, it's all illusion--ta da. Glad you came by. Tip the waiter on the way out.

Now that I'm done raving, I'm struck by how similar this solipsistic point of view is to the views of Scientology , Mr. Cruise's favorite cult. They believe in personal empowerment to the nth degree, and certainly if you were Tom Cruise you would believe that one day you might discover that no one other than you existed--it would just be confirmation of fact. Xenu the Friendly Space Alien race and other horseshit elements of Scientology also match up with the weird "lucid dreaming while we freeze your body" hookum that fuels most of VANILLA SKY. While I doubt the producers were in bed with the cult, I can see exactly why Mr. Cruise would take the role in a New York minute.

Post-divorce, I think it is interesting that Kidman is making exuberant choices like Moulin Rouge wherein she is a whore who wants to be an actress (no comment) and Cruise is making movies like Vanilla Sky wherein he is a god on earth who is tortured, lonely, perfect and desperately craving comment other than what you'll find above.

In closing, I'll recognize that yes, I just spoiled the movie. You're lucky--take the two hours you've just saved and spend it laying in bed squeezing your genitals in a vise grip and you'll have spent your time more wisely than by walking into the theater. I wish I could be beaten with fir branches like Irish monks.

Monday, December 10, 2001


Granted, this is for a one-night performance, but there is no time I love more than the day of an opening night. After having the show dark for three months we've run it back up to speed over the weekend, and there is a special frisson of nervousness and expectation that makes me feel very young.

It was crisp and chilly in Brooklyn this morning, which was good for a change--it had been so warm the last few weeks that it felt like the weather had lost track of what season it was supposed to be on. As I walked through my neighborhood with its eight funeral homes, pork rendering store and loud Italian mothers whose nails can cut through leather I was, for a moment, very very happy.

In the rest of the world, in normal places, it's Monday and I understand that it sucks. When you don't know where the money is going to come from and you don't have a plan to your life it's small rituals that become I spent the morning drinking coffee and catching up on email with people I haven't spoken with in a long time. Outside the sky looks colder, and the clouds are tracking across very low and fast, while on the ground the wind is steady. Expectant. I'm a victim of my own magical thinking, my wife tells me, but there are moments when the portents line up and you see the distance laid out in front of you, when it is suddenly unmistakably clear where you fit. I guess you need to take that when it comes, because there is no guarantee implicit in its granting. Chase it or don't, but do not expect that you will continue to know which way the wind is blowing.

Coffee's done. I have to get to work.


Pregnant stunner Elizabeth Hurley never planned on getting knocked up. Pals of the Brit beauty told PAGE SIX Hurley was on the Pill while dating Steve Bing. But last July, when she was feeling ill, a doctor prescribed antibiotics. "The antibiotics nullified the Pill and she became pregnant - much to her [and Bing's] surprise," the snitch says. "She never thought she'd have a child, but she doesn't believe in abortion." Hurley and Bing are embroiled in a messy public spat over the unborn baby. Bing recently complained to the London Sun, "That bitch is ruining my life." Reps for Hurley didn't return calls.

Courtesy of the New York Post

Sunday, December 09, 2001 an online provider of tools and hardware, now redirects to Amazon. I like this part of the statement:

" has sold some of its assets, including our Web address, to'd like to recommend as the online retailer where you can continue to find great values..."

Not trying to be snarky, but you'd think they had a CHOICE about whether they'd like to recommend Amazon or not. I can't imagine there was a long line to buy the web address--who else is going to want it?

Amazon is becoming the elephant's graveyard of dot-com domains, since they buy them for pennies and reap traffic from them. It's good business for Amazon, though it won't help with that pesky problem of making enough money off of all those customers...but hey, why worry?

Friday, December 07, 2001

Jeff got interviewed by the Washington Post yesterday, and the astute Glenn Fleischman offers this analysis of Jeff's answers. Glenn's an interesting fellow, who worked at Amazon a lot earlier than I did--we don't always agree on everything, but he knows Jeff a lot better than I do, and he's a sharp cookie.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

I love companies, and their craaaaaazy wacky schemes to conquer the world. Over at KPMG, some company I never cared about, they've suddenly implemented a bizarre policy of forbidding linking to documents within their website, like this one where KPMG is asserting their dubious right to approve who links to them. They've been sending legal letters, attack dogs, the whole nine yards.

Wired's coverage is pretty good, and contains the killer detail that attracted my attention this is all happening because KPMG doesn't like people mocking their theme song.

Theme song? Yes, KPMG, an internet consulting firm, has a theme song. You are probably thinking, "Theme song? Why the hell would a consulting company have a theme song?" Well you see, that's because you are not insane, as the people at KPMG most assuredly are. They comissioned an anthem entitled VISION OF GLOBAL STRATEGY. Freakish Soviet-era lyrics include:

"KPMG/We're strong as can be
A dream of power and energy
We go for the goal
Together we hold
On to our vision of global strategy..."

As if it isn't enough of a crime against humanity to be writing and promoting this shitty music, there are actual lawyers being paid hundreds of dollards an hour to send letters and threaten action, all to keep a *theme song* under wraps.

Get on the clue train, kids--if you'd like to keep the song unlinked and private, TAKE IT OFF YOUR WEBSITE. Put it on the company intranet so that all the consultants and boogey-down to the smooth, soulful sounds of your funkalicious VISION OF GLOBAL STRATEGY. You morons. I hope the people who want you to advise them on "robust internet strategies" have noticed this brou-ha-ha and have run screaming away from your firm.

And here: I guess we can add me to the list of people who will be expecting legal action from these talentless ass clowns.

Listen to KPMG's fucked-up Soviet-style mind-destroying theme song that I can't stop humming until I want to drive a screwdriver through my head.


I was reading your dilletante entry and I noticed that you saw the taco-bell commercial with him in it. Did you also see the one that claims that there are three taco bells in Bangor, ME?? Well, let me tell you my friend. There are no taco bells in Bangor. Not one, and you know how many poor sould are forced to belive this poppycock. Especially all the idiots in Bangor, wandering aimlessly in the city limits, mouths forever watering for enchiladas, or nachos del grande.


it's like The dark Crystal mixed with the rocket-teer, or rockettier, or however you spell it. With a dash of Labyrinth, but no David Bowie in White tights.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

My friend Glenn Fleischman posts a great picture and quick insight about the Enron bankrupcy--namely that it looks like the employees are wandering away with $1000 Aeron chairs as they vacate the premises. Ah, dot com memories of sweeter, stupider days.


Yeah, I just read it in the paper and it said, "Wanted: Actors for zombie gore porn." And I said, "Wow, that's so right up my alley."

Amazon, part deux: the SEC yesterday made it clear that companies which practice pro forma accounting could be facing lawsuits and action from the agency. I don't know what took them so damn long, but this Seattle P-I article notes the obvious: is up at the top of the list of pro forma companies, and has been documented elsewhere in great detail Amazon has a tendency to use accounting that would look shady on a sunny day.

SEC issues warnings over pro forma accounting methods.

Well, the news drought certainly couldn't last--last night they announced purchasing the remnants of Egghead Software at bargain basement prices. It's strange to see Amazon acting as a New Economy undertaker, but when you build out indefinitely it takes a hell of a lot longer to run out of money.

This is my favorite part:

Smith said Amazon - also a promising dot-com that has yet to turn a profit - was not concerned that it would have the same problems with its newly acquired Egghead assets that put Egghead out of business.

"I think it's sort of an apples and oranges comparison," she said. "Amazon electronics has done very well for us."

Right. Electronics has hemmorhaged red ink from day one at Amazon. In spin language it would seem that "loses us money" translates to "has done very well". It's one thing to claim that it will do well in the future, but this is just blatant hot air. buys Web site


While perhaps not as filled with classy hetero-girl tricks as the Cosmo Sex University, nor as spiritually enlightened as the pay-as-you-predict Astrocollege, my favorite new educational site is the extremely specific PumpkinBelly's Patch, a site devoted to the adoration of plump inflated bellies.

Just yesterday I was looking down at my own belly, plump and delightful like a downy egg, and thought, "Someone needs to compose a site filled with images of models with big bellies, featuring stories of bellies being inflated and awash in belly porn. That would rock." Thanks to the power of the Internet there's now a forum for discussions (sparsely attended) as well as iconic images and links to stories so disturbing that they defy you to read them.

Oh, belly! Other than the calf, could there be no sweeter curved body part?

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

All I can think about today is how it must be for the ONE U.S. soldier who has been shot in Afghanistan. That's a lot of pressure. Whole divisions of medics are beating each other to get to his shoulder. If he's the only injury he'll have to be on Oprah, relive his combat experience with psychic regression on that terrible Crossing Over show. Maybe injured soldiers could become the new Survivor alumni, a kind of Charles Nelson Reilly for the 21st century, floating through the culture from TV channel to web chats and more. I hear there is going to be a talk show offer for Mike Moran, whose verbal taunts at bin Laden have resulted in the song of his royal Irish ass.

Remember when "they" said irony would die after 9/11, and that all the news would be content-filled? Man, I love "they". I also love gossip, cheese and pop culture--I'm really glad that "they" were wrong again, just like "they" were about traveller's checks, the gold standard and that haircut.

I read a lot of coverage today of the decision by the Maine Department of Education to buy 38,000 iBooks from Apple and use Airport, Apple's 802.11b networking to let everyone have Net access from anywhere in the schools. That's because I'm from Maine, so I have a continuing interest in where I come from, and I'm something of a Macintosh zealot, so the story gets me both coming and going.

At the same time I'm not totally convinced of the value of computers in education--they are certainly needed for basic grounding in OS etiquette, but I grew up in Maine and we had a hard enough time covering the basics. Really. I could tell you stories about my high school that would curl your hair. It was certain teachers who really pulled me through--but I certainly can't speak for the way the school districts are run, which is reminiscent of Soviet-era companies with less warmth and compassion. I worry that the computers will be traded for firewood, or eaten.

One poster at Slashdot who went to the same school district I did in Maine summed up my feelings well from both directions:

"i would have to agree that this is mostly a good thing. maine public schools (like most others in the country) are horribly underfunded and misfunded (i watched helplessly every year as my old school voted to lower teachers' salaries and cut educational program after educational program while increasing the budget of the football team. high schools in rural maine are like winos begging for change from the state saying "we just need the money for some food; we won't buy booze with it, honest". if you give them a cash handout, it will just go towards buying new football equipment. even if you specify that the money's only to be used for education, they'll just cut the same amount from other areas of the education budget and move it to sports.). i'm happy to see them getting any support at all from the state government.

my fear is that in most rural schools, the teachers know next to nothing about computers (they're certainly not being paid enough to buy their own computer and home internet access is still all but impossible to get in many areas of the state). just having access to computers is a lot more than many of the students used to have and will be a major benefit. but teaching with computers is an entirely different game than teaching with chalkboards and textbooks. if the teachers don't have the knowledge and experience to work them into their lesson in a positive way, they're missing out on a lot of the potential benefit.

without the right educational training, there's a real possibility of harm being done. computers can easily distract them from the teaching of the actual classes. or worse, it can lull the teachers and administration into a false sense of security: "look, we're high-tech. all our students have fancy new laptops, we must be educating them really well; no need to evaluate our pedagogical practices!"

One thing that did make me feel good is that the contact person at the original link went to school with me. Yellow Breen is smart as a whip, has a freaky Jeff Bezos laugh and the vision to boot--plus he's been working in government after escaping our high school for Harvard all those years ago. With him behind any part of the wheel on this initiative, I have to admit I feel better. He's a good egg.

Monday, December 03, 2001

My thanks to Chris for sending this over to me--it's an important question that in times of war and strife we should all be asking ourselves: Do you know what ultimate power is?

Well, now we know what IT is: a super-advanced scoter with internal AI sharp enough to keep you from falling over. The main website for IT, or GINGER, calls itself Segway, and I found it a weird place--too much high-falutin' lingo about "assisted-human-powered futures". This article at Time does a better job, though it too is a bit starry-eyed. Don't get me wrong--I love dreaming of technology that saves the world. But after Amazon I'm a little more wary of the idea that great tech, winning concepts and a good smile are the panacea to all the evils of the world.

My thoughts: I want one so badly that my teeth ache. I live in an urban area, and I have the convienence of the subway, but this would make places I rarely go suddenly very accessible. I have a driver's license, but I don't want the ongoing hell that is owning a car--Ginger might be the right way to go for me. Like so many others I'll be waiting and seeing, but I'd love to be an early adopter on this one.

Thursday, November 29, 2001

I haven't updated the site due to my lovely experience of Finishing My First Book, which feels rather like the passing of a gallstone, except the passing takes three months and the gallstone is actually a 250 page manuscript.

Amazingly it has entirely quenched all of the romantic notions I had of the writing process--I really believed that it was going to be a romantic chance for my deep, poetic soul to blossom, which I never would have admitted to anyone. Now that it is finally over I can say with surety that it was *not* that, and in fact it was better than was taxing, trying and demanding to be confronted with the scale of a book, to rise to a higher level of expectation than I've ever been given before. Much like liquor and unprotected sex I predict that it is a dangerous addiction that I will be drawn to for the rest of my life, and

I've been looking over the site as I finally return to it, blowing off the cobwebs and making sense of what we have here, and I think I'll be running things a bit differently. Look forward to more frequent updates to this page, with more askew comments, observations and deductions.

Overall there will probably be less on a day-to-day basis. I've started work on two new shows, and the time has come to let the other areas of my life back in. About time, I would say: I personally get so sick of some days that I can't even see straight. Once you've worked there, lived there, survived it, discussed it, made guerrilla films, done a show on it, run the show for six months, had 400+ interviews, national exposure, and then written a full length book it is covered. The horse's ghost has come back from the dead to beg me stop beating it. I can take a hint. It's ironic: I left Amazon to change my life, and that certainly happened, but in many ways by acting as a surrogate for thousands of others I feel sometimes like I stood still, basking and bathing in the same period of my life again and again.

At the same time know that the show and the book have been polished and refined through this process to a point I couldn't have even conceived of a year ago. They're damn good, and it's a real pleasure to know material so well that it's in your bones. And even if *I* get tired of the subjects once in a while, that doesn't mean that the stories have stopped or even grown just means that I shouldn't try writing or performing a follow-up derivative:


as my sell-out follow-up book or show or graphic novel. 21 DOG YEARS will be the endpoint of my dot-com commentaries, especially as I don't plan on working at another Internet bookseller again. Instead I want to work on new material, remount older stories I've told, like the ones I've been workshopping at Galapagos, a hip Brooklyn arts space and bar that I'll tell you about another time.

So this will act as less a PR voice and instead an open journal, with more frequent updates that I don't slave over but rather offer up hot, so that they can percolate to people I know and don't know. With the show and the book undergoing so much polishing and perfecting there needs to be more messiness and immediacy, since stories are by their nature both of these things. In honor of that this post will not be spellchecked: man, I am a goddamn daredevil, aren't I?


Thursday, October 04, 2001

Following his unbelievable Taco Bell exploits, Jeff is now playing tennis with Andre Agasse in a match against Bill Gates. How Far The Mighty Have Fallen, you might say...though he certainly deserves points for enjoying the trip on the way down.

Jeff can't play tennis; laughs maniacally.

In an Amazon story from the opposite end of the map, Amazon is pissed about Chris Zyda running away from his job to go to eBay. Two points:

1) Chris probably doesn't know anything that damaging about Amazon's Auctions as that venture has been a disaster since day one...though it is nice to pretend that Amazon and eBay are on the same level, it simply has never been true.

2) Most unexplored detail in the report: why is Zyda leaving now? Is this the beginning of large-scale defections as the stock becomes moribund and outlooks worsen?

(Look! I put on my analyst hat! Wheeeee!)

MWAHAHAHA! You will never work in this town again!

Thursday, September 27, 2001

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted, and I've been hard at work wrapping up the book and trying to find some psychological footing. Nevertheless, I feel that it is my duty to bring attention to the latest sign of the upcoming apocolypse: Jeff Bezos is selling tacos on national TV.

Jeff Bezos: Yo quiero Taco Bell

Better yet, you can purchase the Quesidilla Handheld at right now! Check it out: buying info: Taco Bell Chicken Quesadilla Handheld

Saturday, September 15, 2001

I have received over 4000 messages since Tuesday, most from strangers to whom my accounts had been forwarded via email. This is a document recording 10,000 words worth of their experiences and stories from around the world about 9.11.01. There are so many voices and such an outpouring of grief, solidarity, anger and compassion that I am endlessly honored to have received them. My thanks, condolences and hopes are with you all.

Thank you so much for your messages.

Friday, September 14, 2001

I have no words for the heroism of these Americans who saved our nation's capitol more horror at the cost of their own lives. They took a vote to attack--the most raw and primal form of democracy I have ever heard of.

On Doomed Flight, Passengers Vowed to Perish Fighting

Continuing on the hateful post below, this message from Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson has managed to renew and reinvigorate my total disgust for these men and their viewpoints. I'm embarassed that they profess to be Christian and I regret that they are Americans.

God Gave U.S. 'What We Deserve,' Falwell Says

Not to celebrate human stupidity, but let us not forget the name of this infantile, hateful columnist in the years ahead: this horrific tripe is written by ANN COULTER, who has a national platform to speak these words of hate:

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Another firsthand account, this one from inside the building:

WTC Terrorism Experience

This open letter expresses my own feelings so strongly, it's the first thing I've read in years that moved me to tears. I wish our President had read this letter.

An Open Letter

Salon report from two former Senators whose 30 month bipartisan investigation on what was needed to combat terrorism in the US was ignored and disregarded by the Bush administration. Instead, Bush's former gubernatorial campaign manager was placed in charge of FEMA and the millions spent on the study were ignored. No measures of any kind were implemented before 9/11/01.

When his comission was ignored, former Senator Gary Hart said just a month ago, "We're in an age where we don't want to deal with serious issues, we want to deal with little boys pitching baseballs who might be 14 instead of 12."

Years Of Unheeded Alarms

This is a good technical overview of why the building collapsed--I've been a little aggravated at listening to people bad-mouth the building's designers, and this article confirms my thoughts: it's actually quite remarkable that the towers were able to hold together as long as they did, and a testament to their stability that they collapsed straight down.

How the World Trade Center collapsed

Chris Tremlett, whom I have never met or spoken with, teaches English in Dubai, capitol of the United Arab Emirates. Her story on the student's reactions is sobering and important for the days ahead.

The View From Here

Here is an excellent resoure page of links, including breaking news, donation info, first-hand accounts and background information on the WTC, the attacks in 1993 and some historical perspective. This is solid, in-depth information that can help you feel grounded in a time of crisis.

9/11/01 Information Resources

The rescue workers need clean T-shirts and socks, fresh friends at Netslaves have posted email and fax contacts for various countries in an attempt to get a grassroots effort started to get these companies to help contribute in bulk. This is something you can help with from anywhere in the world:

Aid the Rescue Workers

Yes, I know there are millions of photos already. These are simple digital photos, unretouched, and so they may help people who need a slightly blurrier, more human perspective. I am struck by how much the pictures look like the ones people take every day; unprofessional, simple pictures of skylines.


One of the most human accounts of Tuesday's horrific events is Paul Bacon's. He's written for, McSweeney's, Might, Mother Jones and all the other places that the cool kids hang out, and you can peruse his fevered writings here. I met him at one of the McSweeney's readings I did this summer, about a thousand years ago.

Paul Bacon's Account.


Wednesday, September 12, 2001

I want to make people aware that, my oldest and dearest friends, have created a way to donate to the Red Cross that is quick, painless and Amazon has waived all their fees during this crisis. They raised the first million dollars in under 24 hours, and if you're feeling overwhelmed there are few things better than hitting "refresh" on your browser and seeing the donation totals going up over $1000 every thirty seconds.


Thank you, everyone who works at This is a very good thing you've done today.


Tuesday, September 11, 2001

I am writing this from my home in Brooklyn after leaving Manhattan. I have signed up for a time slot to give blood later this evening and have a few hours available before then.

After my last posting I made my way east through an urban moonscape--everywhere there is ash, abandoned bags in the street, people looking lost. I managed to get a cell line out to Jean-Michele, who is still in Seattle, and she helped me navigate with online maps as I plotted my exit strategy.

Bizarrely, I caught a taxi crosstown. I was standing at a corner, I�m not even certain where, and a taxi was sitting there. A very pushy woman, whom I will always be thankful for, barged her way into the cab. In a moment, without thinking, I climbed in too. The driver, a Pakistani guy who had an improbable smile, immediately took off.

The ash blocks out the sun downtown--it�s like driving in an impossible midnight, and even more impossible that I�m in a cab, with this woman who won�t stop trying her cell phone and another man, my age, who looks like he�s been crying. Maybe he just has ash in his eyes. I know I do--I feel like I will never see properly again, though that�s probably just trauma. I don�t even know where the driver is going. The crying man got someone on *his* cell phone, starts explaining what he�s seeing out the window. It�s like having a narrator traveling with us--I only notice the things that he is describing as he describes them.

God bless that taxi driver--we never paid him. He let us all off, and I think he got out as well, near the Brooklyn Bridge. There are cops everywhere, people are herding themselves quite calmly, mutely, onto the bridge. We all walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, which is unbelievably beautiful, the wires and stone of the bridge surrounding us and the bright sun ahead, passing out of darkness.

No one is talking to each other, but there is a sense of warmth. Everyone has their cell phones out, fishing for a clear signal. Those who catch them talk hurriedly to families, friends, people in other cities, children in their homes. It is comforting to hear their voices, telling how they are okay, shhh, it's okay, I�m okay. As we walk out into the sunlight, I am so happy to be in this company, the company of people who are alright, those who walked out.

I was in the city today to turn in some of my book, I had stayed up all night writing and I was so worried--is it ready, have I done my work? Those questions seem small today--not unimportant, but smaller, in a new proportion. I kept thinking of how much I have left to do in my life, so many things that are undone, people I haven�t spoken to in years. It's overwhelming to feel everyone around me thinking the same thing, the restless thoughts trickling over this bridge as we come back to Brooklyn.

From the Promenade I stand with hundreds of others, listening to radios, watching the plumes of smoke and the empty holes in the skyline. People stand there for a long time, talk to one another in hushed tones. Someone hands out a flier for a vigil this evening, which I will go to after I give blood.

What can be said? Just this: we will emphasize the horror and the evil, and that is all true. It is not the entire story. I saw an old man with breathing problems and two black kids in baggy pants and ghetto gear rubbing his back, talking to him. No one was rioting or looting. People helped each other in small and tremendous ways all day long�a family was giving away sandwiches at the Promenade. Everyone I talked to agreed to go give blood. If a draft had been held to train people to be firefighters there would have been fights to see who got to volunteer.

No matter how wide and intricate this act of evil may be it pales in comparison to the quiet dignity and strength of regular people. I have never been more proud of my country.

I am writing this from downtown New York. In a perverse reversal, I have no way to contact anyone except through my high-speed wireless internet connection--phones are out, and electricity in the area is intermittent.

The media will ultimately tell the story better than I, but I can tell you that there is massive loss of life. The sky is black with ash, the people have been panicking and fleeing in unadulterated terror. I have never seen anything like it. It is very difficult to breathe, even with your mouth covered--the ash blows down the streets and burns your eyes. It feels like the world has ended. When the screaming started and the crowds began to run after the second plane struck it was a horror film running in overdrive, jumping frames and cutting in and out. Time got lost--I don�t know how long this went on. I have a cut on my leg. I ended up in a Wendy�s where a huge number of us took refuge. I don�t know where the workers were--I helped get water for people.

I am starting to see emergency workers, and the streets are clearing somewhat--at least the first waves of panic are passing. I�ve seen bodies draped in white sheets--it took me a time to realize those were bodies, not injured people; they must be out of room or not be able to get them to the morgues or the hospitals.

I�m headed for the Brooklyn Bridge to walk out of the city. I�m going to stop at any hospital I find to give blood before leaving. If anyone reading this can, please donate blood--I heard from a medic that the hospitals are already running out.

Thursday, September 06, 2001

Act Now And I Will Write You Into My Book For $5

And the creeping march of commercialism and advertising continues--a story from Salon concerns a writer whose latest novel was originally comissioned by a corporation and featured "paid placement" for products within it. The ethical lines are murky--there have been patrons in the arts for thousands of years that demanded a kind of "brand fealty", but the fact that this sort of thing is happening NOW is no accident--corporations and corporate interests are infecting every aspect of our waking life.

It makes me wonder at my own placement with regards to I am critical of the company in many ways, does the act of bringing the lens of attention on them make me complicit? I don't think so, because they certainly haven't paid me to do this, but at the same time if the book sells very well on Amazon, I'll have to hash out those feelings in more detail.

On the other hand, every time Amazon sells a book they lose on average between 19 and 38 cents, depending on whose numbers you believe, so maybe it is a bizarre act of corporate defiance.

At any rate, here's the link to the relevant story: | Your ad here

Wednesday, September 05, 2001

This Sunday I played Bumbershoot, Seattle�s titanic arts festival.

I actually worked at Bumbershoot a year ago, as the guy who checks out radios all day long and checks them in at night. I got the job through a friend who was losing her mind as one of the main organizers of the festival. She needed someone, and as I had been unemployed for six months at this point, I leaped at the chance.

If this opportunity ever comes to you, take it. Working for an enormous arts festival has a lot of perks: free food, free coffee and all the art you can swallow. The downsides are that the food is day-old cheesecake donated from Entenmanns, the coffee is paint thinner mixed with sewer juice and the art is happening so fast and in so many places that you absorb it in fractured pieces. Fire eater/cheesecake/hand out radios/juggler/cheesecake/poet/recharge radios/cheesecake/rock band/cheesecake/dancing girls/cheesecake. Four days of cheesecake does things to a man that should not be spoken of aloud.

Nevertheless, it was a great experience to do fucked up shit for pay, like making candles for Sandra Bernhard and calling a limo for Eric Bogosian. Impressions: Sandra is something of a prissy bitch (�the candle must be ADORNED in CINNAMON sticks and the WAX must be CLEAR�) and Bogosian is a pretty laid back guy. I didn�t get to speak with him, but my wife said he sounded nice, which counts as she is a great judge of character. I somehow slipped past her radar.

This year it had all changed�I was still working for Bumbershoot, but this time as a performer at the Seattle Rep�s largest theatre, which seats an ungodly number of people. When we had our technical rehearsal in the morning it was great�like a poor boy had come down from the mountains to see how city folk live. Instead of a garage we were performing in a vast cathedral. Instead of 10 lights I had to refocus every week because rock bands shook them there were 400 units, arrayed in perfect symmetry and ready to command. The sound system was not my stereo brought from home and juryrigged into an ancient set of amps�they have their own CD player! After living on the fringe for years it was a little like being welcomed back into heaven: the heaven of subsidized theater. Like most of my ideas of heaven it was too open, empty and austere for me to ever feel like I was really at home.

The techies were delightful, and showed Jean-Michele the intricacies of calling shows with union operators; normally she does it all herself, but in this space there are rules and regulations as well as computers, so that all her delicate and refined timing had to be translated into beats and numbered counts for the machines. For the most part it worked, and the crew was sharp, but at the end of the day you can�t beat the human touch�she knows what I�m doing before I do some nights.

The show went up at 9:30pm, opposite DAVID LEE ROTH. Yes, I had to compete with the inimitable DAVID LEE ROTH, Lord Of The Ninth Hell, for my audience. Luckily the show organizers were correct in their assumption that the Rothians, his worshippers and lackeys, would not be the same folks that want to watch some guy talk about his old job for 90 minutes. We pulled in a pretty full house, which amounts to around 500 people, I think�no one seems to know how big the theatre actually is. The website is woefully ignorant, and I have heard guesses from �around a thousand� to 400. In any event, it�s very large and the techies were impressed.

The show itself went splendidly, aside from one moment when I had this intense sense of vertigo near the top of the show and was convinced I would fall into the audience. I was in a very bright light and could see nothing, so this voice in my head kept saying, �Goooo ahhheeeeeaad�jump. You miiiiiiight as weeeeelllll jump�� Damn you, Roth! The siren call of that aged rocker did make me wonder what would happen if I just stepped off, dropping me six feet into the surprised faces of yuppies out for some culture-in-a-box. I do not think they would have let me body surf.

The show ended splendidly with a standing ovation, and as I left the stage I really felt different�like this experience, having moved from being a guy who labors to a main attraction at this festival captured a piece of what these last nine months have been like for me. I was content and satisfied to have such a neatly drawn example in my life�like the lines parents draw on the kitchen walls to track how much taller their kids are the next year. I felt like I had grown, in my work, my approach and my expectations. It was a very Jedi Master, now-I-have-learned-to-deflect-bullets-with-my-mind moment.

I trotted out to meet my friends and companions after the show, excited and ready to go out, to discover that no one but us had brought a car. So we loaded nine people into a my parent-in-law�s wood-paneled station wagon along with a 70 pound hardwood fire door and all the props, stacking people like cordwood in the back atop one another. We then rode around town, soon discovering that since my brother was under 21 we couldn�t eat anywhere because fascist Seattle cards constantly and with prejudice.

As we passed our fifth restaurant, I was so oddly happy. The aimless driving and searching, the underage problem, looking for something to do, the sinking despair�it had happened to me one more time. It�s high school, right in front of me. I am 28�it may not happen again. When it came it was so welcome and so unexpectedly perfect. It was youth, all miserable driving nights and cups of coffee and the constant wish that something would happen.

I don�t think I would remember the first experience with clarity if it had not been for the second. I never want to be young again, but it was important to be reminded why.

Thursday, August 30, 2001

Before this point, DILETTANTE existed only as an email newsletter with no online archive. Here are transcripts of some of these early transmissions.


[8/15/01] Dilettante: When it rains, et cetera.

On the 4th of July I was caught in my first serious New York rainstorm--I was walking to a party at a friend's house. Rain starts. Not one taxi. In Seattle, I would just be misty and damp and that would be the end of it, so like an idiot I just kept walking in the downpour, assuming it would spare me.

I was not spared. I had to take off my pants when I arrived, and then spent the rest of the party naked, wrapped in a towel. People don't take large naked men seriously--they are always waiting for the punchline...they keep asking, "hey, why are you all naked, big guy?"

Advice on surviving downpours and good umbrella shop locations openly solicited.

* * *

21 DOG YEARS has been getting a lot of attention, with major notices in the last week in the NEW YORK TIMES, the NEW YORK POST, TIME OUT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE, FORTUNE, NEWSDAY and CNBC. The show has sold out all of its performances so far, and has in fact garnered the ultimate New York endorsement--scalpers! Real live scalpers!

For details on catching one of the remaining New York Fringe Festival performances, go to:

and order tickets quickly--they are going very fast.

* * *

Every time I buy a soda in New York, I am given a straw. At stores, at corner markets or on the subway--for some cultural imperative I can't fathom, a straw is automatic with every beverage purchase.

I have been trying to refuse the straws, by shaking my head, or smiling sheepishly and waving them away, but this just confuses people--they look at me cockeyed and I take the straw. I'm not trying to rock the boat.

Weirder still, no one I see is using their straws. Like me, I believe everyone is carrying bundles of unused straws in our pockets. If anyone knows anything about this, or what I should do with these straws, please write.

* * *

SPECIAL SEATTLE ENGAGEMENT: 21 DOG YEARS will be performing this year at BUMBERSHOOT, Seattle's amazing arts festival, for one show only at 9:30pm on Sunday, September 2nd at the Seattle Rep's Bagley Wright Theatre. Complete details are available at:

* * *

Overheard on the street: "Yeah, his mama is gonna do him like he's a Pepcid A.C." This is then followed by peals of laughter.

Other than being a textbook case of excellent branding, does anyone know what this could mean? His mother is going to eat him, and then he'll have a calming effect on her stomach? Why not TUMS, which I always assumed was more popular?

Explanations welcome.

* * *

I will be reading tomorrow at the McSweeney's store in Brooklyn--a weird, wild and woolly place. Another man will be auctioning off his smoking jacket. If you are curious, please attend and you will be just as surprised as I will be at what takes place.

Be seeing you,



[7/16/01] Dilettante: Overheard and Underreported

I have moved to Brooklyn, and I'm typing this overlooking the East River. Night is dropping and the city is looking back at me, the Brooklyn Bridge mute and solid on my right and the Statue of Liberty no bigger than a Star Wars figure across the waters.

The people next to me are talking about how their mutual friend, a midget who works at a bakery, is getting married. One woman is in the wedding party. They are speculating about the midget's sex life, and they are unashamedly curious, because they hear it is excellent.

The other woman says, "Yeah, she's small, but she's small and FIERY."

New York is a marvelous city for eavesdropping.



21 DOG YEARS will strike New York this August as part of the NYCFringe Festival for only six performances between August 10th and the 23rd. Tickets may be as scarce as hen's teeth, I hear.

Pieces of the 21 DOG YEARS and special guests will be shown at the next PINK SLIP PARTY on the 25th of July at the club HUSH.

I'll be doing some events connected with MCSWEENEYS, Messr. Eggers inscrutable and farfetched literary experience, at the their store, which only has 10 square feet and looks like the place you can buy GREMLINS from.

HORRIBLE CHILD, a grotesque play I am working on by that MCSWEENEYS author Lawrence Krauser is being performed at TONIC in the lower East Side on Mondays throughout the rest of July. It is sick, wrong and wonderful.

Complete details on all the whys and wherefores of all the above will be available at soon, if not already.


On the F train a week ago: an Indian man is sobbing between the cars. His friend has the door half-open, and is awkwardly comforting him the way grown men comfort other men. The man is incredible, giving full voice to his crying in a way that few ever do, and everyone in the train knows something terrible has happened.

No one speaks. The sobbing echoes off the car walls. Everyone is trying to read or stare at the walls as their minds imagine: what could have happened? The answers are so unacceptable to the morning commute we have to close ourselves off. This is happening over and over again until 42nd Street.


21 DOG YEARS, the book, is nearing completion. I'm exhausted but hopeful--expanding, deepening and enriching the stage show has been a really fascinating experience that I would like a year off from before attempting again. We're still on track for it to be available in May.

Oddly, it turns out that a lot of this book will have been written in a Barnes and Noble in Brooklyn. Go figure.


On 57th and Broadway: I am writing, and two very precise women are talking animatedly. They each have some kind of triple espresso, and they are both chorus members in different Broadway shows: RENT and 42nd STREET. It seems like every person who comes down the street recognizes them, shrieks, hugs them, kisses them, chats about "the biz" for 20 seconds and immediately leaves. Then, unfailingly, the two say:

"That bitch."

"She is such a total bitch. Hate her."

proving once again that clich�s exist because they have some grounding in fact. And I love and hate New York all at once, another clich�, which is a good place to be.



[6/29/01] Dilettante: When You Care Enough To Prove A Point and are giving away free books!

Amazon, in a dramatic move in their struggle toward profitability have changed their shipping policies, increasing their prices but providing free shipping if you order two or more items together.

I remember this idea being shot down while I was at Amazon, and dismissed as a desperation move that would never work. Thank goodness things changed!

Now *you* get to suckle at the teat of corporate largesse, as I will buy you two (2) copies of the fabulous "Ward's Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies : 2001 Supplement".

The publication is notable, as it costs all of $.02. Yes. Two pennies. Shipping is free, so it will cost only two pennies to ship this to you, wherever you are in America. God bless capitalism.

What's really impressive is that Amazon has managed to make this a profitable venture--I must have been wrong about the strategy when I departed, and I'm thrilled and tickled pink that against all odds Jeff has found a way to squeeze profitability out of an apparently hopeless situation. He's a very gifted man.

Here's the link if you'd like to hear more about what I am buying you:

It's a thrilling read, I'm certain, and it's so rare that a company helps someone to such heights of generosity that I'd love to get the Ward's Supplement to as many people as I can. In fact, let me know if you need more than 2--I'm happy to oblige.

You could also have a copy of "The Book Of Hope", which is a princely $.50...but's coffers are swollen with our recent IPO, so if you'd like to buy this rousing philosophical tract I will assist.

You can find this selection at:

All you need to do is send me your physical address and I will get cracking.



ps--private to jeff: word on the street is that you read these little missives. no hard feelings--I couldn't really let this pass without comment. you know damn well the viral nature of the net--this is a terrible idea. if interested, I am still available for consulting. best of luck.


[5/31/01] Dilettante: News You Never Wanted To Hear

The Speakeasy, recent home of 21 DOG YEARS: DOING TIME @ AMAZON.COM, burst into flames and burned to the ground, completely destroying the theater and caf�. The fire was intense, damaging nearby buildings with its heat, and obliterating the structure within twenty minutes.


21 DOG YEARS arrives in Portland this Sunday, Monday and Tuesday...full details are available here:


On local news I watch the faces of people who have lost everything in fires. They speak about what happened to their things & lives & loved ones.

It never made sense that they were real. I am thankful no one was hurt.


Recent media coverage on the show includes ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, WIRED MAGAZINE, OREGON PUBLIC RADIO, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES and the WALL STREET JOURNAL. I was also recognized by a skateboarding kid outside a coffee shop.

When I did the photo shoot for WIRED we took pictures in the Speakeasy's ad hoc dressing room-- a closet of a room stuffed with old props, electrical equipment, costumes, makeup and assorted remainders. There's a photo of me with a handmade prop above my head--a fresco of the Titanic going down for the first and final time.


Fire changes things, and things change on their own. I am moving to New York City, sooner than I would have ever thought, leaving Seattle behind for now. The book needs writing, the show needs performing and things need to be packed or left behind.

I'll let you know when the next thing happens,



[5/01/01] Dilettante: News From Five Minutes Too Late

� 21 DOG YEARS: DOING TIME @ AMAZON.COM is ending its 3 month run at the Speakeasy Backroom in Seattle on May 12th, and tickets are going fast and furious for the remaining nights. If you want to catch the show before it hits the road call the info line at 206.444.4336 right away.

� Writing a book is like kissing your sister's friends: more work than you'd think, but it provides a sordid and dirty kind of pleasure.

� We will be performing 21 DOG YEARS in Portland on June 4-6 at the Stark Raving Theatre, and in San Francisco on June 21-24 at a Space To Be Named Soon. We're expecting to perform in Los Angeles sometime in July, and NYC in August/September. will have all the details.

� People like to ask "How is the book going?" a lot if you are writing a book. I'm now responding by staring at a point on the wall, cocking my head to one side, sighing slightly and saying with great portent, "It's...going...well." People nod sagely at this, so I think it's the answer they wanted.

� The workshop of a new monologue, currently titled WHAT WAS LEARNED IN LONDON, will happen in mid-June for one night only in Seattle. Think of it as a beta test--if you want to see a work in progress and look behind the scenes, this is for you.

� Essay on performing for venture capitalists is almost finished, and will be rolled out on the site along with a slew of other things that I will make up at the last possible instant. Ah, the internet: learn what you know, share what you don't.

� Best internet tidbit: there have been more searches for "Mike Daisey" than "The Rock" on Lycos over the past few weeks. this causes two thoughts:
1)can I make a lateral career move into pro wrestling?
2)people are still using Lycos?

� Best internet rumor: that I was dismissed from Amazon for smoking crack. I just want to remind people that I was arrested, *not* convicted.

Don't work too hard,



[4/4/01] Dilettante: News From The Present Tense

Roman a clef: in the style of Larry King:

� 21 DOG YEARS has extended again, now until the end of April. Interest from other theatres has been strong, and we're currently figuring out where to take the show next. New York, the Bay area, L.A. and London are the strongest possibilities...we'll keep you informed.

�I have run out of the shampoo I like, but I refuse to buy more until the bottle is achingly empty. I'm not comfortable with my intimate relationship with this shampoo bottle. The bad shampoo is pleased with this development.

�Simon and Schuster will be publishing my book (currently imaginatively titled 21 DOG YEARS) in early 2002. I'm very excited about the chance to expand and deepen the material--you can say a lot more in a book than you'd ever fit in 90 minutes on stage. As things develop I'll let you know.

�Interviews are like blind dates with a lower probability of sex.

�In the media: there show makes an appearance in this week's issue of NEWSWEEK, and the NEW YORK POST and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY are running stories on the book sale. Also, check out a radio story on NPR's MARKETPLACE, airing on April 9th, featuring clips from the show and an analysis of customer service culture.

�I'm working on a new show right now, called WHAT WAS LEARNED IN LONDON. I'm hoping to put it up midweek sometime in late April as a workshop--it'll be free, so people will be able to swing by and check it out.

�Benecio Del Toro goes by "Vincent Roach" when he's trying to be sneaky and use a pseudonym.

�I performed the show down in San Matteo last week for a gathering of venture capitalists and rich, rich investors. It was probably one of the strangest performance experience of my life, and I'll be posting an essay on it to soon.

Best wishes, take care and don't work too hard,