Saturday, April 30, 2005

11197798 E893Efadda M

I've been terribly remiss in not talking about Jean-Michele's performance at The Moth on Wednesday, a lack that I would attribute to fatigue and the intensity of the experience overwhelming both of us after the fact. The sad things is that I'm not actually going to talk about it more now--I just wanted to put a placeholder in, so that I'll remember to write more about it soon. Such is the nature of the web. Sad, isn't it?
For those that don't know, AOL has a horrible policy of being like this when you try to cancel. I even know multiple instances of people I know firsthand who have cancelled, only to find the charges start reoccurring a month or two later.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Rushing maniacally into the future, has, at long last, an RSS feed. Now you can do all your geekery by yourself, and never ever have to actually visit the site and waste valuable seconds clicking when you could be bathing in information delivered via a rich neural shunt. Many thanks to Tynes for setting it up.

Today is also Mac geek day, as Tiger, Apple's latest operating system, has been officially released. I've had Tiger for two weeks now thanks to a nice young man at the DVD duplicating facility in China, who made a copy of the DVD as it was being pressed and then gave it to me. It's a good upgrade, especially since the APIs are stable, so all your apps don't burst into flames when you do the upgrade--a first in the Mac OS X era. It syncs my bluetooth phone, Dashboard is kitchy fun and Spotlight is genuinely useful, which is more than I usually say about any search technology--I'm more of a folder-and-Finder kind of fellow, most of the time.

Okay, geek break over.

Crazy bitch Ann Coulter at the grave of Joseph McCarthy. Is there
anything she isn't an apologist for?

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Kris said, You asked me two questions, why?
Why don't you ask me a Star Trek question next?
You asked me a Raymond Burr question & a
Pete Seeger question, why don't you ask me
a Robert Preston question? Like, what was
Robert Preston's real name? Robert Mescervey.
Or a James Stewart question? Like what did
James Stewart study in college? Architecture.
Or a Ricardo Montalban question? Like, where
was he born? Mexico City. That reminds me,
you can ask me an Abraham Lincoln question.
Like, what foods did he eat? He ate an apple
for breakfast, a biscuit & coffee for lunch
& sometimes he ate meat & potatoes for dinner.

Susan Cataldo

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Tonight Jean-Michele is performing at THE MOTH at the New York Public Library. In her own words, here's what she'll be talking about:

"I'll be telling a story at the New York Public Library about a trip I took to rural Ukraine to find my grandmother's village. Expect midnight border crossings, boiled chicken hearts, ethnic cleansing, and tiny cars filled to the brim with potatoes and sugar beets."

It's thrilling to be going as a noncombatant tonight, and to get to soak in my wife's performance--if anyone is free and in the city, please come. I hear there's already over 500 people on the books--it should be fantastic.


"You think your pains and heartbreaks are unprecedented in the history of
the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things
that tormented me were the very things that connected me with all the people
who were alive, or who have ever been alive." --James Baldwin

The Moth, together with “LIVE from the NYPL”, presents

Between the Covers: Stories about Life and Letters

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

In the beginning, there was the Word. . .

For all those who worship at the altar of language; for those whose daily
divinities are measured in chapters, not chants; we invite you to the High
Holy Temple of Text, The New York Public Library, to celebrate the
nourishment of the written word. Join us as five storytellers explore
whether it is we who shape the words, or the words that mystically shape us.

Stories told by:
Jean-Michele Gregory
Joe Lockhart
Calvin Miles
David Rakoff

And other special guests!

Hosted by:
Jonathan Ames

Katy Cox

Curated by:
Terri Galvin
Jenifer Hixson
Paul Holdengräber

6:30pm Doors Open
7:30pm Stories Start on Stage

FREE LIQUOR provided by Hendrick's Gin, Glenfiddich & Armadale Vodka!

at the New York Public Library
Celeste Bartos Forum
42nd Street and Fifth Avenue (entrance on 42nd Street)

$10 Tickets (Library prices – come out in droves!) available now at <>
or by calling 212-868-4444.

Artistic Director: Catherine Burns
Associate Producer: Sarah Austin Jenness
Executive and Creative Director: Lea Thau

About the Storytellers:

Jonathan Ames (host), a writer and performer, is the author of I Pass Like
Night, The Extra Man, What’s Not to Love?, My Less Than Secret Life, and
Wake Up, Sir! He is the editor of the recently published Sexual
Metamorphosis: Anthology of Transsexual Memoirs and he is the winner of a
Guggenheim Fellowship. He is a recurring guest on the Late Show with David
Letterman, and his comedic memoir What’s Not to Love? was filmed as a TV
pilot for the Showtime network. Mr. Ames wrote the script and played
himself, which was a stretch but he pulled it off. His novels The Extra Man
and Wake Up Sir! are in development as films with screenplays by Mr. Ames.
Visit his website at

Jean-Michele Gregory has directed productions Off-Broadway and around the
world, including the Cherry Lane Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the
Spoleto Festival, Intiman Theatre, the Edinburgh Festival and many more. She
specializes in working with solo performers to create theatrical works based
on biographical material, and has been engaged in a longtime collaboration
with Mike Daisey, with whom she's created 21 Dog Years, Wasting Your Breath,
Monopoly!, and the series All Stories Are Fiction. This winter she'll be
teaching a course on storytelling and solo performance at Colby College.
She's a contributor to the New York Sun, and is currently writing a memoir
about her grandmother's life in pre-war Poland and the fantastic series of
events that led her family to Texas.

Joe Lockhart served as White House Press Secretary and Senior Advisor to
President Clinton from 1998-2000, where he conducted daily press conferences
for White House journalists, and briefed the President and senior members of
his Administration on all press matters. From 1991 to 1995 he was Executive
Vice-President at Bozell Sawyer Miller advising clients, including Microsoft
and Coca-Cola. Before joining the White House in 1997, he was National Press
Secretary for the Clinton/Gore '96 re-election campaign. He was the Deputy
Press Secretary for the Dukakis/Bentsen '88 presidential campaign, traveling
with the nominee. In 1984, he was Assistant Press Secretary for the
Mondale/Ferraro campaign and during the 1980 Carter/Mondale campaign he was
a Regional Press Coordinator. Lockhart has also held key positions at SKY
Television News of London, Cable News Network (CNN), and ABC Network News.
He is currently a Partner with The Glover Park Group who specializes in
media relations and political strategy.

Calvin Miles was born in 1942 in Gadsten, North Carolina, where he spent two
decades working as a farmer before moving to New York City. He is on the
Board of Directors of The Grassroots Literacy Coalition (
where he serves as Co-Chairman and is president of Voice for Literacy United
for Education. Miles has two sons and three grandchildren. He is the author
of the book Calvin's Christmas Wish (Puffin Books).

David Rakoff is the author of the books Fraud and the forthcoming Don’t Get
Too Comfortable (Doubleday, September 2005). A regular contributor to
Public Radio International’s This American Life, GQ, and The New York Times
Magazine, he can be seen this fall in the films Strangers With Candy,
starring Amy Sedaris and Capote, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Ah, a lovely spring day at Astor Place in the city. A lovely time for...A SELF-CRUCIFIXTION!
No idea if it is real or not, but this blog purporting to be from Baghdad is wonderful, as it primarily is filled with pictures of kittens.

Getting the Machine

It was good to hear
my own voice again
when I called, after
being gone for weeks.
I sounded the same.
I hadn't changed my name;
didn't have a foreign accent.
I just said I couldn't
come to the phone right then,
exactly the way I'd been
saying it for years,
and so I left myself
a little message
saying how sorry
I was I wasn't there,
and that I'd be
home soon. I tried to
think of what I'd want
to hear myself saying
and say it right.

Joyce Sutphen

(Sign from my neighborhood park, in Italian, explaining to the old Italian gentlemen not to leave food out for the rats.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Unwritten Poem

You will never write the poem about Italy.
What Socrates said about love
is true of poetry--where is it?
Not in beautiful faces and distant scenery
but the one who writes and loves.

In your life here, on this street
where the houses from the outside
are all alike, and so are the people.
Inside, the furniture is dreadful--
flock on the walls, and huge color television.

To love and write unrequited
is the poet's fate. Here you'll need
all your ardor and ingenuity.
This is the front and these are the heroes--
a life beginning with "Hi!" and ending with "So long!"

You must rise to the sound of the alarm
and march to catch the 6:20--
watch as they ascend the station platform
and, grasping briefcases, pass beyond your gaze
and hurl themselves into the flames.

Louis Simpson

Monday, April 25, 2005 article: A "volunteer" police state.

Absolutely disgusting, and sadly it's also more and more expected. I really never thought my country would walk down this road in my lifetime, much less while I was still young.
Tonight, for one night only:

Monday, April 25, 2005

All Stories Are Fiction #25:

Simple questions on the afterlife, answered plainly.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Robin D. Laws writes:

English scholar Christopher Frayling, author of an epic biography of Sergio Leone and recent recipient of a knighthood. For his knightly crest, he chose the Latin motto:

Perge, Scelus, Mihi Diem Perficias

The official translation of the motto from the College of Heralds reads as follows:

Proceed, varlet, and let the day be rendered perfect for my benefit.

But the intended rendition would instead be:

Go ahead, punk, make my day.

Excellent, isn't it?

Friday, April 22, 2005


There was an apple tree in the yard --
this would have been
forty years ago -- behind,
only meadows. Drifts
off crocus in the damp grass.
I stood at that window:
late April. Spring
flowers in the neighbor's yard.
How many times, really, did the tree
flower on my birthday,
the exact day, not
before, not after? Substitution
of the immutable
for the shifting, the evolving.
Substitution of the image
for relentless earth. What
do I know of this place,
the role of the tree for decades
taken by a bonsai, voices
rising from tennis courts --
Fields. Smell of the tall grass, new cut.
As one expects of a lyric poet.
We look at the world once, in childhood.
The rest is memory.

Louise Glück
A wonderful audio complaint about a crop circles program. Priceless.
An interview with me was posted today at Gothamist--i was delighted to get to speak about Mike Bloomberg, the MTA, my work and the wonders of Schnack's tiny burgers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Tonight I'm performing at The Rejection Show, with rejected cartoons from The New Yorker and a cast of thousands. Come on down to PS122 at 8pm if you want to bathe in the acidic baths of rejectedness.

Monday, April 18, 2005

At PS122 this evening at 7:30:

Monday, April 18, 2005

All Stories Are Fiction #24:

In twilight, in the dark, on each and every doorstep.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

It's popular to deride The Office, the new American version of the famed British sitcom. After all, how could it not fail? It's imitating a critically lauded show, and American versions of UK programmes are always terrible, right?

Yes. Yes they are, at least so far...and this is not only no exception, but it feels like it is trying to prove the rule.

I had previously seen 10 minutes of the pilot, which made me want to change my nationallity--but catching 15 minutes of tonight's episode almost made JM and I weep. There isn't even a compelling anecdote to tell, or a way to properly express the bland, not-good-enoughedness of this lackluster American imitation.

I can't even rant about it. Don't see it, don't discuss it--just avoid, avoid, avoid.
Thom Ryng, a fellow I know from Seattle, happened to be visiting Rome a few weeks ago--and just happened to be there when the Pope died. In fact, he was visiting the Vatican that day, and purely by serendipity ended up being one of the first people ushered in to Saint Peters to see the Pope lying in state.

As I climbed the steps of the basilica, I turned around to survey the crowd. There were perhaps twenty people ahead of me, but there were a million behind me.

His story is here.
Great Bruce Schneier  article on hacking the Papal Conclave. Takeaway: much harder than hacking a Diebold machine.
Very interesting article archived from the NYT on the futile pursuit of happiness--describing, among other things, how we don't often know what will make us either happy or sad, and we always overestimate the impact these will have.

One experiment of Gilbert's had students in a photography class at Harvard choose two favorite pictures from among those they had just taken and then relinquish one to the teacher. Some students were told their choices were permanent; others were told they could exchange their prints after several days. As it turned out, those who had time to change their minds were less pleased with their decisions than those whose choices were irrevocable.

Much of Gilbert's research is in this vein. Another recent study asked whether transit riders in Boston who narrowly missed their trains experienced the self-blame that people tend to predict they'll feel in this situation. (They did not.) And a paper waiting to be published, ''The Peculiar Longevity of Things Not So Bad,'' examines why we expect that bigger problems will always dwarf minor annoyances. ''When really bad things happen to us, we defend against them,'' Gilbert explains. ''People, of course, predict the exact opposite. If you ask, 'What would you rather have, a broken leg or a trick knee?' they'd probably say, 'Trick knee.' And yet, if your goal is to accumulate maximum happiness over your lifetime, you just made the wrong choice. A trick knee is a bad thing to have.''

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Outside it is a gorgeous spring day in New York City, the likes of which happen for just a few weeks of the year--my neighborhood is blasted with trees blossoming everywhere, and the streets and parks are filled up with people sloughing off their winters and embracing one of the best season's the city has to offer.

Our backyard, taken via phone camera.

Most mercifully I am finally getting over being sick, which is always such a revelation--few things feel better than the first days of wellness after illness, when the discovery that your body can actually function again is so real you can taste it. It's like a second youth, spared all the dreadful elements of being so deeply unwise.

Monday's ALL STORIES ARE FICTION was the strongest of this run, in my opinion--thanks to everyone who came out for it. The laboratory of ASAF has been working well this spring--even when the shows don't work on every level, each episode has really come alive in ways I didn't expect--lots of new paths toward storytelling, new discoveries made in the moment of performance, and that's the real heart of the process for us.

The summer tour starts in less than a month, so I'm trying to soak in as much New York City as possible before I have to leave.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Check out these media trends--not a good time for network TV.
Shakespearean Sonnet
    With a first line taken from the tv listings

A man is haunted by his father's ghost.
Boy meets girl while feuding families fight.
A Scottish king is murdered by his host.
Two couples get lost on a summer night.
A hunchback murders all who block his way.
A ruler's rivals plot against his life.
A fat man and a prince make rebels pay.
A noble Moor has doubts about his wife.
An English king decides to conquer France.
A duke learns that his best friend is a she.
A forest sets the scene for this romance.
An old man and his daughters disagree.
A Roman leader makes a big mistake.
A sexy queen is bitten by a snake.

R. S. Gwynn

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Sickness bites.

My dog is small, black and puddled up.

I am watching pirated TV shows and waiting to feel better.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Dude in Maine wrote a blog entry for each of 100 cups of coffee he drank. It's more interesting than it sounds, and comes with fancy pictures of the coffees in question.

I'm still under the weather--blech. The whole weekend looms ahead of me, and I can't tell yet how much of it I will be able to handle. I am already mightily sick of being sick--I don't know how the terminally ill do it.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I'm afraid I'm under the weather with a severe cold, and won't be performing at WELCOME TO OUR WEEK this week--many apologies for the cancellation.

Now I return to my Nyquil.
Cattelan Pope Meteor
Pope struck by meteor, again.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The New Malls:
Lifestyle centers are privately owned space, carefully insulated from the messiness of public life. Desert Ridge, for example, has a rigorous code of conduct, posted beneath its store directory. The list of forbidden activities includes "non-commercial expressive activity"—not to mention "excessive staring" and "taking photos, video or audio recording of any store, product, employee, customer or officer." "Photos of shopping party with shopping center décor, as a backdrop," however, are permitted.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope John Paul II, the Polish pontiff who led the Roman Catholic Church for more than a quarter century and became history's most-traveled pope, has died at 84, the Vatican announced in an e-mail Saturday.

Doesn't that seem like a strange announcement to make via email?

Friday, April 01, 2005