by: Michael Shields
An “interview” with one of America’s most distinguished authors, which doubles as a “review” of a recent compilation of the author’s letters…..
MCS: Mr. Vonnegut. First off, thank you for joining me today, not an easy task I know, considering the circumstances. I am not really sure how to start here, as it is a bit overwhelming to have the opportunity to chew the fat with the author of two books that I not only hold in the highest of esteem, but that I also read annually (Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five). In fact, it is not a stretch to say that I wouldn’t have ventured into writing if I hadn’t chanced upon your work.
KV: The excellent writer Wolcott Gibbs when a young man was interviewed by Harold Ross, founder of the New Yorker. The interview went very well. Gibbs got a job. But as he was leaving, and Ross believed him to be out of earshot, Ross cried out, “God damn it, I’d hire anybody!” Until very recently, jobs at the New Yorker were also for life, but the pay was low. The pay is very high now, but goes to jittery, hand-to-mouth independent contractors, in effect. Like actors, they are in for lifetimes of seeking work, hat in hand.
by: Michael Shields
Our second character obituary in as many posts remembers Mad Men’s fussy British accountant, a man will we regretfully venture into Season 6 without…..
I tend to gravitate to the oddballs. Those that just don’t quite fit in, regardless of how hard they try. If I were, by some chance, a puzzle piece – I believe I would be one of those doomed to life in the miscellaneous box, the box that houses all the lost misplaced pieces just in case (you never throw a puzzle piece away – that will come back and haunt you), and I would be close acquaintances with all the other miscellaneous pieces – not just because of shared circumstance mind you, but because that is who I tend to relate to the most – those lost in limbo, far from their puzzle.
Lane Pryce, the fussy British Financial Officer who has been a mainstay on Mad Men the past three seasons, could easily be described as one of these odd birds we are talking about. Lane was implanted into Sterling Cooper by the British Agency who acquired the successful firm, and although as pleasant a man as you will find, he struggled to gain acceptance until the day he took his own life.
by: Paul Gutkowski
One year ago the world lost a legend, today we pay respect to a true “sick fuck”….
Ben Gazzara was a sick fuck. He went toe to toe with Jimmy Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder at the age of 29. He smuggled a Czech waitress out of Prague after the Soviet invasion in 1968. He fucked Audrey Hepburn.
Biagio Anthony Gazzara was born in the Lower East Side of New York to Sicilian immigrant parents attempting to grind out a life in America. As a child, his family moved to 29th Street and 1st Avenue. Gazzara was a corner boy, involved in petty crime and standard poor kid neighborhood bullshit. At the age of 12 he went to see a friend perform in a play put on by the Madison Square Boys Club across the street from his tenement building. Gazzara was jealous as fuck at the applause his friend received, and he coveted the same attention. He auditioned for the theater troupe and blew the mind of Howard Sinclair, the troupe’s director and a man Gazzara later referred to as a second father. For his first role, Sinclair cast Gazzara as a 72 year old Arab man. After studying engineering at City College for 2 years he stopped lying to himself and everybody else about what he wanted from life. and went back to acting.
by: Genevieve Palmieri
Remembering Nora Ephron…
I knew Nora Ephron briefly. That is to say, I worked for her for a short time. During those brief days she afforded me the opportunity to share the experience of knowing her. Cooking classes, lunches I still salivate over, my first (so far only) trip to Paris, and a once in a lifetime on-screen appearance opposite a Hollywood legend (Thanks, Nora). When I heard of her illness and sudden passing I instantly flashed back to what have become major pins in my journey to date. I had just begun working on her final film, Julie & Julia, as a production assistant and I was going through a bit of a spell / quarter life crisis, maybe? I felt miserable and jaded and I could not seem to shake it. I started to document my day-to-day thoughts in the hopes that something would occur to me during transcription; somehow I would become self-realized. While trying to weave some sort of clever, anecdotal memorial last night, I came across an essay I wrote shortly after meeting Nora…
The perks of my line of work are limited. And by limited I mean there aren’t really any. None; In fact. I work stockbroker hours for happy meal wages. I eat too much, sleep too little, drink too much coffee, don’t exercise enough, occasionally smoke and constantly stew, all of it ruminating into a festering ball of woe-is-me type frustration. The kind that can paralyze if left unchecked with the healthy “snap out of it” slap that comes along with self-scrutiny. There are things though…things worth mentioning- things that if you didn’t say out loud you would have trouble believing yourself. These are the things worth mentioning as they have happened to me.
by: Chris Thompson
An ardent fan digs deep…..
Ray Bradbury passed away last week. He was 91 years young and for a great many his absence from this world will be strongly felt. A joyous man to the end, Ray Bradbury grew old without ever growing up. He was one of the last living links to the early 20th Century, a time when kids read pulp magazines and dreamed of going to the stars. For those of you who are not familiar with Mr. Bradbury and his delightful contributions to our collective joy I kindly direct you here, where Mr. Bradbury himself eloquently shares some insight into his life and the inspiration for his stories.
My connection to Ray Bradbury is of a personal nature. Not personal as in we enjoyed the occasional Sunday dinner together as friends, but personal as in he figured prominently in the more impressionable years of my life. Mr. Bradbury’s books and stories enriched my childhood, kept me company, shaped my imagination, and taught me countless lessons. Lessons about life and self, loss and love. I’d like to share a few of them here with you today.
Lesson One: Hone your instrument
In Memoriam – Adam Yauch
A few words on the painful loss of Adam Yauch and what he and the Beastie Boys meant to us here.
You can’t measure the impact the Beastie Boys have had on both music itself and also the kids of my generation. It is just too large and unquantifiable. It’s like trying to measure the impact Babe Ruth had on baseball. The Beastie Boys were, quite simply, the Led Zeppelin of my youth. I’m a white dude who loves to rap and play bass, do I even need to go on as to the influence M.C.A. had on me personally? I’ll just say this, the attitude that they showed us all as kids has been one of the largest and most defining blueprints of my life. I can think of only two other times when celebrity news has affected me on a deep personal level; when Magic Johnson came out with HIV and when Kurt Cobain killed himself. This one trumps the others though because I think kids of my generation, we feel in a way like we are Beastie Boys. Somehow they made that possible. Their “fuck you” to the man seemed all inclusive. Like we could all join in for the chorus. And they never beat a message down on our throat, even though the message was always clear, do what you have to do and do it loudly, and if people think you are crazy they can go fuck a sandwich. People thought they were a novelty act. So with typical Beastie Boy aplomb and indignation they turned around and made one of the best records, Paul’s Boutique, of all time. And when they were done helping hip hop become America’s next great art form they did something truly great and taught generations of young people about the plight of Tibetian freedom.
The passing of Adam Yauch is sad on so many levels. Not only because his death represents the passing of one of the most influential and unique musical outfits in history, but also because he touched so many musical giants on such deep personal levels. From Chuck D and ?uestlove to Madonna and Coldplay; if you haven’t go read what these people had to say. It will make you cry. I can’t think of many times in my life where I have seen such outpourings of unconditional love from so many people. Maybe not since the death of Princess Diana. It was extremely sad and extremely beautiful just to get to read how much love people had for Adam Yauch. And It’s not that they are just sad about the passing of a friend, it’s that he changed their lives, gave them an opportunity, taught them about life, or business, or music. And because somehow in the middle of helping change the landscape of music forever, he also found a way to hold onto the reckless feelings of youth, teach us all something about helping other people, and remain eternally cool. If one great thing is to come from his death it’s that right now there are a ton of little kids learning the ultimate Beastie Boy lesson, “you can’t, you won’t and you don’t stop”, even when you finally do.