December 28, 2012

December 26, 2012

It's A Solar Panel For A Sex Machine

I wish I was mature enough not to laugh at The Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy, but when I was casually procrastinating on the web tonight and read about the center's renowned Baldy Fellows I really couldn't help myself.

(a) 75% of current Baldy fellows are, in fact, lusciously hirsute ladies.

(b) Baldy Center namesake Christopher Baldy looks like THIS.

Like, seriously. People probably saw him on the way to court and yelled, "Hey, Baldy, how's it going?"

Anyway, go support the Baldy Fellows because they do lots of good, socially conscious research blah blah blah. And they're way better than their counterparts at UC Santa Barbara, the Glabrous Chaps.

December 21, 2012

December 16, 2012

In Which Andrew's Head Explodes

From HuffPo: David Gregory: No Pro-Gun Rights Senators Would Go On 'Meet The Press'
'Meet The Press' host David Gregory said that no pro-gun rights senators would agree to go on the show on Sunday.

"We reached out to all 31 pro-gun rights senators in the new Congress to invite them on the program to share their views on the subject this morning," he said. "We had no takers."

...CBS's Face The Nation ran into the same problem on Sunday:

"Face the Nation" invited on politicians who oppose gun control, including representatives from the NRA, but they declined the program's requests.
This is seriously the most fucked-up, infuriating, irresponsible, cowardly, bullshit piece of bullshit that has ever happened. What's that, gun lobby? You think it might be difficult to look rational while also arguing against gun control this week? Hey: too goddamn bad.

If you truly believe that gun control is a bad idea, then this week, of all weeks, is precisely the time when you should grow a pair and defend the shit out of your position. Notwithstanding my own belief that arguing against gun control is FUCKING IRRATIONAL ALL OF THE TIME, I respect your right to say otherwise in a public forum — but ONLY if you will do so even when it will make you look tone-deaf and insensitive and idiotic.

Because, if you can do that — if you can sit there with a straight face this week and earnestly, sincerely tell the world that gun control is a bad idea — then fuck it. Fine. Think that.

But if you can't, because you realise that, shit, maybe arming civilians to the teeth with limited oversight is a bad idea, then you have no goddamn right to tell me otherwise any other day of the year.

Meanwhile, statistical-guru-who-is-depressingly-never-wrong-about-anything Nate Silver tells me that the pro-gun lobby are, long-term, doing pretty well at pitching the issue their way: "gun control" as a term is way down in public debate, while "gun rights" and "Second Amendment rights" are way up.

Well fuck.

So I say we up the ante. Instead of trying to shift the debate back to gun control, we do what this guy says and start talking about massacre prevention.

Do you hear that, massacre lobby? I am going to take your goddamn guns from you. And if you want them back, you can pry them from MY cold, dead hands. Because, holy crap, a tragedy like this should never happen again.

December 14, 2012

Conversations With Greatness CDIX



Heh. C DIX.

December 13, 2012

Customer Serveless

Okay, look. I get that it is the holidays, and probably the one thing that sucks more than going Christmas shopping is being part-time Christmas retail staff. ESPECIALLY in New York City, where you are cast into a bewildering nightmare land of endless, baffling consumer choices, and imperious Manhattan douchebags who treat you like an inconvenient obstacle between them and their orgy of capitalist worship, and hordes of tired, hungry tourists who are possibly the only people in the store more weary and clueless than you are. But this should not have happened in the KITCHEN department at Macy's:

ME* (*ACTUALLY, WIFE PUNDIGRION): Hi. Where would we find sieves?

HER: Is that a brand?

WIFE PUNDIGRION: No. Like... a sieve, you know?

HER: [blank stare]

WP: Like... a really fine, mesh colander?

HER: Okay, I have no idea what y'all are talking about, but let me find out for you.

[WE ARE ESCORTED TO THE CHECK-OUT, WHERE ANOTHER SALESPERSON IS TOLD WE HAVE A QUESTION]

HIM: What can I do for you?

WP: We're looking for a sieve.

HIM: You want to buy a stove?

WP [EYES BUGGING ADORABLY FROM FACE]: No. A sieve. You know, like a fine mesh colander.

HIM [SHRUGGING]: Check the Martha Stewart section.

[WE CHECK THE MARTHA STEWART SECTION, LOCATE SIEVES, WONDER IF WE ARE REALLY THAT WHITE]

[FIN.]

December 07, 2012

December 04, 2012

1,000TH POST EXTRAVAGANZA

That's right, folks: my 1,000th blog post.

Actually, if you count the posts over at ex-Bostonian, it's my 1,608th blog post. And if you count the angry rants about specific people  that I wrote to let off steam and then saved as drafts instead of publishing, it's like my 1,614th blog post. But still! Arbitrary milestones!

Now you're wondering if you were one of the 6 people I was annoyed enough at to write a rant so vitriolic I wouldn't even publish it on my angry blog, aren't you?

ANYWAY, to celebrate, here are my favourite jokes from the last seven years, one from each month plethoric pundigrions has been a thing. Get comfy, after the jump.

November 30, 2012

November 23, 2012

November 22, 2012

It All Makes Sense Now

One of the wedding presents I got from my family was a giant scrapbook of pictures and sundry related Andrew-alia. It included this, my first ever piece of fiction, reproduced here in full:
Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived with her mother who was a widow. They were so poor that one day they found they had nothing left to eat.

The end.
Just to remind everyone, my first novel will be published in January 2014. It is heavily self-plagiarised.

November 16, 2012

November 09, 2012

November 02, 2012

Conversations With Greatness CDIII



N.B. I wrote this a week ahead of time, because I'm getting married tomorrow. So if Sandy actually petered out and did no major damage anywhere, I apologise for the anachronism but THANK FUCK.

October 26, 2012

October 19, 2012

October 14, 2012

For Queen and Country

I submit that this is the most English paragraph ever written in any novel:
The family lived in an old rectory at the edge of the fells, where the pastures begin to be dotted by tussocks of sedge. They were acive in the parish; they kept two cars rushing to and fro along the web of thin crooked roads in and out of Preston, Clitheroe, and Longridge. 
The Heart Broke In, by James Meek
Possibly the only more English line in the book (which is quite good, by the way) is when he describes two characters enjoying a sixty-nine as "naked and contrariwise." Close your eyes and think of synonyms?

October 12, 2012

Conversations With Greatness CD



I've wasted my life.

October 10, 2012

Subpar

I was going to write a pithy takedown today of this stupid ad that's been on the New York subways recently:


See, it's a Venn diagram! Never mind that it displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the entire fucking point of Venn diagrams, and that, "clever" idea aside, it consists of pretty flat and uninspiring copy. Venn diagrams! Cleverness! Wit!

But then I saw another ad on the subway that was even more vacuous and asinine and offensive, so much so that I couldn't even bring myself to take a picture of it — and I decided to write a pithy takedown of that, instead.

It was for Seamless.com, the already pretty vacuous and asinine and offensive food ordering website. Its general pitch to customers goes something like this: are you too lazy and/or stupid and/or self-important to look up an actual delivery place yourself? Well then, just come to our website and we'll do all that "hard" work for you! Better yet, we'll insidiously drive out smaller businesses by charging an exorbitant commission on orders for those who do join our network, and making effectively invisible to the biggest takeout orderers those who don't!

Not surprisingly, Seamless's biggest market is in New York, where approximately 95% of people are too lazy and/or stupid and/or self-important to look up delivery places for themselves — or, you know, to cook. Instead they get poorly paid restaurant and delivery workers to run around Midtown like hamsters on wheels, while they kick back and start three dozen websites about how much (or if) it's appropriate to tip said poorly paid workers, and send the Seamless guys laughing all the way to the bank. In the meantime, they generate such obscene amounts of plastic packaging and waste that half the time you can't even find a goddamned empty wastebasket anywhere in the city.

And then — THEN! — Seamless takes out ads on the subway that read (not a direct quote but neither a paraphrase): "Seamless: If your idea of doing dishes is recycling takeout containers."

OH! HA-HA! Aren't we adorable? Isn't our selfish disregard for the environment in favour of our own convenience endearing? Isn't it funny that this ecological sinkhole of a city has found yet another way to shit all over the planet? High fives, guys! NYC 4 EVA!

I will now attempt to climb over to the right side of my bed.

October 05, 2012

October 03, 2012

Is That A Fibrous Stalk of Peritoneal Tissue Attached To Your Cecum, Or Are You Just Pleased To See Me?

So today I discovered that I have a congenital intestinal defect as a namesake: Ladd's bands. They form at birth but can apparently go catastrophically unnoticed until middle-age, when all of a sudden they just start getting in the way of your duodenum and you get pretty sick.

Which is terrible.

What is awesome, however, in my trademark insensitive postmodern kind of way, is that they are also known as THE BANDS OF LADD. i.e. The item being quested after in a really pulpy fantasy novel, and/or a really entertaining televised talent show similar to America's Best Dance Crew (only really entertaining, natch), and/or a nomadic, paganistic people who travel the countryside looking for copies of my novel.

The Bands of Ladd.

I also found out that there's a section of the intestine called the jejunum, and was going to make an insufferable high-brow pun about how that was kind of unsophisticated and dull — but then I looked it up and realised that jejunum and the adjective jejune really do come from the same root. Which is almost bizarre as a piece of anatomy called Ladd's bands.

I don't really have a larger point I'm trying to make today, I just thought I'd loosely pull together a few pieces of vaguely interesting trivial shit. KIND OF LIKE YOUR INTESTINES.

[Fin.]

N.B. Best not to ask why I was reading so much about the intestinal system today.

September 28, 2012

September 27, 2012

The British Name For AXE Bodyspray

It's been an incredibly long time since I did a round-up of my recent publications (or posted anything here at all, really), for which I apologise. Please accept some variety of excuses from the following:
  • Wedding planning
  • Fringe going
  • Story writing
  • Publication celebrating
Also, please accept this actual round-up of my recent publications:
  • Short story published in print in the Sep/Oct 2012 issue of CICADA, plus accompanying author interview online.
  • ANOTHER short story published online at fwriction:review.
  • Book review (of Fraser Nixon's The Man Who Killed) in the July/Aug 2012 issue of This Magazine. (Review not available online, but it's a cool magazine so you should visit anyway.)
  • TWO whole snarky Blurbese posts.
And that's all for now. Stay tuned.

September 21, 2012

September 20, 2012

Now She Uses Her Eyes Like Everyone Else

Seen on Netscape:


DAOFDA?

September 14, 2012

September 12, 2012

Tomato Tomato

For some reason none of the major news outlets seem to want to print the entire statement that Mitt Romney alleges "apologizes for American values", so here it is in full (thanks, Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, and sorry about the whole "not a major news outlet" thing):
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims - as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
So, to summarize what is apparently Mitt Romney's view of all this:
"[we condemn] the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims" = "we apologize for American values"
Ergo:
"We recognize intolerant asshattery when we see it, notwithstanding our more general respect for free speech" = un-American
Ergo:
"We are reasonable people" = un-American
QED. I guess this explains the Republican platform. Incidentally, hats off to the retiring Republican senator who dove, secret-service-like, to take the bullet of negative media coverage that was flying towards Romney in the wake of his latest mouth-opening. (Well, one of the bullets, anyway.) NO, in fact, Romney's reaction to the embassy statement was NOT the most batshit insane soundbite to come out of the Republican party today. That distinction goes to Jon Kyl:
When asked by reporters, Kyl said that the Cairo embassy’s statement “was like the judge telling the woman, ‘You got raped, you asked for it because of the way you dressed.’ That’s the same thing. ‘Well America, you should be the ones to apologize, you should have known this would happen, you should have done’ — done what, I don’t know — but it’s all your fault that it happened."
So... wait. Making deliberately inflammatory statements about Islam is like wearing a short skirt? In that case, I would prefer to see Terry Jones wearing a short skirt from now on, with his mouth taped shut.

I will now NOT get into how appalling I think it is that the guy who made this particular inflammatory YouTube video is attempting to remain anonymous while other Americans get killed for it, because if I did that I would suffer an aneurysm and miss my wedding. But Jesus. If you're going to be a dick, at least grow some balls.

September 07, 2012

August 31, 2012

August 24, 2012

August 20, 2012

Wiki Wiki Slim Shady



Of course, we now have conclusive proof that Assange should be extradited to face rape charges in Sweden: his accuser didn't get pregnant.

August 10, 2012

It All Makes Sense Now

Conversations With Greatness is on its annual two-week hiatus. As a consolation prize, please accept this original, hand-drawn Ladd creation, which I found while cleaning out my desk the other day. I have almost no memory of actually drawing it, but I'm guessing it was around the time The Blank Slate came out — so at least a year or two before the first CWG.



Yup, I was always this much of a nerd.

August 07, 2012

Companies That Contribute To Health Problems Forced To Contribute Money to Healthcare

If you'll allow me to grossly oversimplify some complex issues to for a moment, I'd like to talk about this story from HuffPo: Papa John's Pizza To Raise Prices Because Of Obamacare, CEO John Schnatter Says
Papa John's CEO John Schnatter says that Obamacare will result in a $0.11 to $0.14 price increase per pizza, or $0.15 to $0.20 cents per order, Pizza Marketplace, a trade publication, reports.... 
The company, which is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States, will have to offer health care coverage to more of its 16,500 total employees or pay a penalty to the government.... 
McDonald’s also expects Obamacare to cost each of its 14,000 franchises between $10,000 and $30,000 annually, according to Businessweek.
Okay, I get it. That's a lot per franchise. But that's kind of a misleading way to look at it, because it's only, like, $200 or $300 per employee per year—and, Jesus, if McDonald's can't afford an extra few hundred dollars per employee to ensure that, when they get burned by the deep-fat fryer, they can actually go to the hospital, the economy's in a lot more trouble than we thought. Besides $10,000 to $30,000 is probably the cost of one employee per franchise, and frankly I bet a lot of the existing employees would be happy to let go Chuck and pick up the slack if it meant affordable health insurance.

Speaking of oversimplification, yeah, I know, fast food companies don't kill people, guns poor dietary choices do, and it's not really fair to blame obesity rates on Papa John's or McDonald's or whoever, even if obese individuals clearly go to town on the pizza a little too often. But I figure, if you're going to prey on my weak willpower by sending those coupons to my house each week, the least you can do is pay for my blood pressure medication. 

Oh, and one more thing: paying for health insurance for low-income workers by effectively putting a surcharge on low-cost food is kind of like robbing Peter to pay Paul, no? And don't tell me "the government should keep it's nose out, then," because (a) there are other ways to pay for that shit, and (b) portraying corporate profit-seeking and providing healthcare to as many people as possible as nothing more than a zero-sum economic problem is kind of gross and evil. I believe there also ethical reasons why providing healthcare to your employees is a good thing.

But you know what the worst part is about this whole thing? Now I just want a goddamn slice of pizza.

August 03, 2012

August 02, 2012

Where's Colin Farrell When You Need Him?

From The Sun: Man-aconda — the snake that looks like a penis

I love The Sun. Boobs on page three, penis snakes on page four. What more do you need from a newspaper?

Also, how's this for an (un?)intentional pun:
Julian Tupan, biologist for the Santo Antonio Energy company which is building the dam, told Brazil’s Estadao website that hardly anything is known about the lungless, limbless amphibians. “The Amazon is a box of surprises when it comes to reptiles and amphibians."
Yup, they found a penis in the Amazon's box.

July 27, 2012

July 20, 2012

July 19, 2012

They're Going To Start More Liberally Interpreting Jewish Law?

From The Huffington Post: Spice Girls To Reform For Olympic Closing Ceremony

Okay, before I trash the HuffPo, some exciting personal news: I won the AWP 2012 Prize in the Novel. That means, in addition to the sweet cash prize and adoration of thousands of pale, socially awkward, skinny-jeans-and-thick-framed-glasses wearing girls worldwide*, my book is getting published by New Issues Press. I know, right?

Incidentally, if you are a writer who has found this blog by Googling me after seeing my name in the AWP announcement: hi! Let's be friends.

Anyway, I figured that in my new role as soon-to-be-published author, it's about time I make another push for widespread adoption of my proprietary internet acronym: DAOAFDA?. They're REFORMING, HuffPo? Really?

Admittedly, I understand what the headline is going for, and no doubt there's a descriptivist linguist lurking somewhere among my readership who will dust their hands at this point and say PROBLEM SOLVED, but here's the thing: that's not what 'reform' means! It means "to change [something] in order to make it better." And somehow I doubt that, after this many years apart, the Spice Girls are going to be doing any such thing.

So: DAOAFDA?, HuffPo. DAOAFDA?.

--

(*Thousands more, that is, beyond the one who already kind of liked me.)

July 16, 2012

Success! (Sort Of)

I have acquired hosting and the CWG minisite is back up and running!

With a four-year-old data file because MobileMe completely disappeared the current one!

And also all of the images on this blog are still broken!

But we're getting there!

July 13, 2012

July 10, 2012

And Now, Not A Broken Image

In the run-up to my August/September CICADA publication of a longer short story (there's a new meaningless sub-genre waiting to happen), here's a shorter short story of mine that the incredibly talented people at Paper Darts published online today.

You may not have heard of Paper Darts, because they're small and pretty new, but holy moly, they do some truly beautiful design and illustration work to go along with the writing they publish — online and in print — and you should really go admire it and/or part with money for it beyond my silly little short short. Go!

In other news, I will have a piece of nonfiction appearing in print in the next issue of Memoir (and), which I believe will be coming out in January.

June 30, 2012

Technical Difficulties

I have foolishly relied on MobileMe for image hosting for the past several years, and even more foolishly forgot to work out an alternative before MobileMe shut down today... So you will probably notice several broken elements here for the next little while. I'm doing my best to fix it!

...

Incidentally, on a TOTALLY unrelated topic, if anyone knows a quick fix for changing img srcs across a whole blog, so that a hypothetical busy person wouldn't have to go through and manually change every single post containing, say, a web comic, that would be something I'd be super interested to hear.

June 29, 2012

June 26, 2012

And Of Course The Director Of Crash Should Be Involved

I haven't seen Brave, yet, but I'm told there's a scene where two of the characters — at least one of them red-haired — are given haggis to eat (icky!) and start throwing it at each other instead (hilarious!). And after more than ten years, now, of living outside Scotland, and being pretty sick of hearing the haggis jokes from everyone who finds out where I'm from, I decided to come up with a few alternative scenes that I can imagine in this one's place if I go to see Brave myself:

(1) The characters are all Mexican. Two of them — at least one of them mustachioed — are given cabeza tacos (icky!) and start throwing them at each other instead (hilarious!).

(2) The characters are all Jewish. Two of them — at least one of them hook-nosed — are given gefilte fish (icky!) and start throwing it at each other instead (hilarious!).

(3) The characters are all Irish. Two of them — at least one of them drunk — are given black pudding (icky!) and start throwing it at each other instead (hilarious!).

(4) The characters are all from the Midwest. Two of them — at least one of them morbidly obese — are given the entire menu from The Cheesecake Factory (icky!) and start throwing it at each other instead (hilarious!).

(5) The characters are all Arabic. Two of them — at least one of them with a giant bushy beard — are given a goat to eat (icky!) and start throwing it at each other instead (hilarious!).

(6) The characters are all from the Deep South. Two of them — at least one of them inbred and retarded — are given squirrel to eat (icky!) and start throwing it at each other instead (hilarious!). (N.B. This may actually have happened in Joe Dirt.)

(7) The characters are all black. Two of them...

Actually, I'm not going to go there because it would be KIND OF OFFENSIVE. Funny, that.

In related news, this.

June 22, 2012

June 15, 2012

Conversations With Greatness CCCLXXXV



There's an added layer of metahumour in this one, because the punchline came to me in a dream. I'm sure you're shocked.

(N.B. This adds to a long tradition of me dreaming bad puns.)

June 08, 2012

June 07, 2012

Components of a Chain

This month's link to my other writing: more cynicism about the language of book reviewers over at the Ploughshares blog.

Bonus link: the Paris Review linking to my cynicism about the language of book reviewers. I basically am George Plimpton.

June 06, 2012

Funny Story...

In case you guys haven't heard—and I'm shocked that I haven't seen more news of this—there was a major coup last month that struck at the very heart of the publishing industry. Indie publishing juggernaut McSweeney's was forced to capitulate to the demands of its contributors.

It all started when their website, Internet Tendency, launched a competition soliciting new material on spec, as they tend to do. For a writing contest, it was pretty standard. If they liked your submission, the contest announcement went, you'd get the chance to publish not just that but a regular, bimonthly feature on the site, for a full year. (There was no monetary prize.) If you lost, well, too bad. But wouldn't that shot at glory be worth it, for the hours you'd have to spend producing a solid piece of custom-made McSweeneyalia?

The answer, surprisingly, was a furious, resounding: NO! "Fuck you, McSweeney's," read one angry tweet. "This contest is insulting." Twoth another: "l love @mcsweeneys but you shouldn't trust anyone who doesn't pay you what you are worth/only offers you exposure." Finally, it seemed, the writers were standing up for themselves!

And things only got better. Soon, a flustered McSweeney's had added the promise of a $500 cash prize, to go along with their offer of a year-long publishing contract. Still no dice: "$500 for 24 columns? Pls do not enter this 'contest'," continued the Twitterverse. By the end of the day, McSweeney's had cancelled the competition altogether and issued a sheepish apology.

What a victory! What a call to arms! No longer will writers allow publishing giants to exploit our creativity. No more will we accept "getting your name out there" or "putting McSweeney's on your resume" as valid reasons to produce work that, assuming it gets past the slush-reading intern, will line the pockets of other people while giving its creators little if anything. The revolution is at hand!

Except, actually, writers had nothing to do with this. The contest was for comic strips, not columns, and the iconoclasts were graphic artists. ("Iconoclasts" pun not intended, but pretty good in retrospect.)

My first reaction to this whole story was actually along the lines of this graphic artist: quit your whining. If you want to make bank for your creative work, you have to pay your dues first. Even Susan Orlean wrote for the Boston Phoenix before she got the New Yorker and the book deals and the screenplay options.

But my second reaction, as you might have gathered, was increasing sympathy and outrage. The angry graphic artists are right, of course. Contests like this really are kind of bullshit, and honestly McSweeney's is a tame offender considering most literary contests with similar stakes require an entry fee on top of the work on spec. And yet, what's sad is that—and you may well have had this reaction while reading the first paragraphs of this post—it's hard to imagine writers rallying like this against any publication, least of all McSweeney's. It's even harder to imagine a publication like McSweeney's caving.

Indeed, what's striking about the site's apology is how little, among all their kow-towing to the angry cartoonists, they stop to acknowledge how shittily they treat writers. Out of 260 words, a mere seven, in a comma-delineated parenthetical clause much like this one, were devoted to the current state of freelance writing:
We launched this idea with only the purest of intentions, to find someone whose work is unknown or underappreciated. We’ve done something similar for the past three years with our columnists and had great good fortune in being introduced to writers we never would have known otherwise.

What we didn’t know, but should have found out prior to launching our contest is the tradition and practice of “no spec” work for artists, designers, cartoonists, and other visual artists, and that contests of this sort are sometimes used for the purposes of exploitation, which couldn’t be further from our intent.

In prose writing, particularly in today’s day and age, while we all wish things were different, much of the work is done on “spec” and we made a very bad assumption that it would be the same in this case.
Well gee, guys, it's awfully swell of you to say that things stink—but if you're not going to start paying writers fairly, who is? Holtzbrinck?

I don't mean to suggest that McSweeney's hasn't done great things for the publishing industry, and for writers, and for schools, and for the community. But it seems like a dangerous precedent to admit that contests of the sort they run—hell, business models of the sort they run—can be "used for the purposes of exploitation." If it's exploitative to ask graphic artists to produce work on spec, why is it not exploitative to ask the same of writers? Are we not also creative individuals trying to make an honest living doing what we love?

Like I said, McSweeney's is hardly the worst offender. Publications that expect work on spec and then give writers nothing in return beyond a (sometimes anonymous) publication credit are increasingly the rule and not the exception. Clips and "exposure" can of course be helpful in moving onto bigger and better things—witness Susan Orlean—but that, sadly, is not yet the rule, nor, I expect, will it ever be. I'd be interested to see what percentage of McSweeney's column contest winners, for instance, have since had much professional success elsewhere. Judging from how few of their columnists' names I recognize, I'd venture not many.

So why do writers keep bending over while the graphic artists stand up for themselves? (I apologize for the kind of mixed metaphor.) The obvious argument, I guess, is that there's a lower bar to entry for writers. Not that it's any easier to write a great column than to draw a great cartoon, but an editor can (a) more quickly spot a mediocre cartoon, and (b) more easily fix a mediocre column. So there are more people producing a lot more viable work, in the writing world, and supply and demand takes care of the rest. Why pay one guy $250 for a column when this other guy will do it for free? (Sorry, not for free; for exposure.)

I don't know if I buy that view of things, though, because while there might be more supply in prose, there's also a much bigger market. The real problem is, the market is now so big it's more concerned with generating new written content than with generating high-quality written content—and that devalues the product. Why pay anyone $250 for a column when everyone agrees that most original web content is shitty anyway, and any headline is only going to be on the front page for approximately 37 minutes?

And yes, okay, there are some websites—McSweeney's among them—that publish great columns at a leisurely pace, and some that pay their contributors fairly, and some that do both. And yes, okay, writers were doing work on spec long before the internet was around. But if the cartoonists can hold out for a better deal, why can't we? We forget, at the end of the day, that all these parasites who take our work and offer no compensation still rely on us, in the end, or they have no content. So why not withhold that content, and boycott the places who don't pay, and insist on our fair dues?

It's a scary proposition, of course, precisely because there are so many other writers out there—or people who think they're writers—trying to get exposure and willing to work for free. Surely, you're thinking, if I boycott non-paying outlets, they'll just get some other drudge to pick up the slack.

Well, maybe. But writers, let's be candid for a minute: if we started losing our unpaid work to other people, how much worse off would we really be? And how much paying work has all your free exposure actually bagged you so far? It seems to me that we have very little to lose, and no good reason to be so doggedly hanging onto it. If we put our collective feet down and demand what we deserve, maybe more people will start listening.

In fact, if McSweeney's sheepish apology is anything to go by, I'm hopeful that they're already beginning to realise that a significant change in attitude and practice is necessary, if we're going to start treating writers in a way that's ethical, no matter how "it's always been done":
We’ve come to understand and believe that the entire enterprise is a bad idea, poorly executed.

We have, therefore, decided to withdraw the contest. We apologize again for our carelessness and will endeavor to do better in the future.
I hope you will, McSweeney's—for everyone, and not just the cartoonists.

--

Postscript: I thought about submitting this column on spec to somewhere with a larger readership than my blog, but the irony was too overwhelming. I hope, instead, that if you've read this far and found it interesting—even if you don't agree—you'll share, tweet, re-post with attribution, etc. etc. etc. Let's spread the word, folks. We're all in this together.

June 01, 2012

May 31, 2012

Milestones in Blogging, #5,122

At some point this week, my Actual Recycling Jokes post passed 3,000 all-time pageviews. That is approximately three times more hits than the next highest post, five times more than the next (a picture of myself dressed like the Fonz), and ten times more than the next (the nerdiest post I've ever written, about Star Trek actors also appearing in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest).

I'm glad this is what the internet thinks of me.

May 29, 2012

Is That Spam In Your Pocket, Or...?

Now here is some spam/phishing/other miscellaneous internet weirdness I can get behind: within two hours of each other last Wednesday, I got the following three emails to my blog account.
Hello Andrew,

I am following up to find out if you are still interested in a guest post on your blog.Would you like me to come up with an idea?

Best Regards,

Julianna
Then:
Hi ,

Just wondering if you had a chance to read my last email about a guest post on your blog.Are you still interested?

Thank you for your consideration,

Linda
And finally:
Hi Andrew,

Just wondering if you had a chance to read my last email about a guest post on your blog. Have you had a chance to read my email? Can you let me know your thoughts?

Have a great day,

Jeanna
Discounting the possibility that there is actually a poor woman out there with multiple personality disorder and a lot of spare Gmail invitations (does Gmail even still have invitations? No? Remember this guy?), I have to admire the pure genius of this scam.

I mean, who is more likely to reply to a request for collaboration from a mysterious woman with a mildly exotic name (not you, Linda, sorry), than a lonely male blogger? Even the savviest of internet nerds can't help but let their guard drop a little bit, as they bathe shirtless and pantless in the blue light of their computer screen, when Jeanna writes and practically begs for *sultry pause* "your thoughts". It's dastardly in its simplicity. And before long, who knows what else Jeanna will be asking for?

Anyway, the bottom line is, a Russian cyber-criminal now has total control of my identity and bank accounts. Sorry Mallory.

May 25, 2012

May 23, 2012

People White Devices Like

If you don't own an iGadget, you probably aren't aware that Apple recently added a new security measure for everyone with an iTunes account: the whitest, most bourgeois security questions in the world.

Yes, now if you forget your iTunes password, you can retrieve it by answering such universally applicable questions as:
Which of the cars you've owned has been your least favorite?
Or
In which city were you first kissed?
Okay, I will grant that if you do own an iGadget you are probably more likely than the general population to (a) have owned multiple cars, and view them as enough of an identity statement so as to have clear opinions about the best and worst of them; and (b) to have moved away from wherever you were living when you were first kissed (which is the only way that this particularly security question would be of any use to anyone).

But I still find it breathtakingly short-sighted and oblivious of Apple not to have realized how stupidly culturally specific these questions are. Just because hipsters are your key market, that doesn't mean you should go out of your way to alienate anyone who is not a hipster. (Also, N.B., hipsters ride bikes, they don't drive cars.)

And even if you don't buy my oversensitive, politically correct BS—and hey, I don't necessarily blame you—let's at least take a minute to acknowledge how awful these are as OBLIGATORY security questions. What if you've never owned a car at all? What if you don't remember
What was the first album you owned?
Or
Where were you on January 1, 2000?
I mean, Jesus, I was in bed hungover on January 1, 2000. Is that an option? And what if I type "in bed hungover" when I set the question but am feeling less flippant when I need to answer it and just write "Edinburgh"?

Oh shit, I just gave you the answers to my security question.*

Also, I appreciate the irony in complaining about oblivious white hipsterdom in a blog post about how terrible my iTunes security questions are. I also appreciate the irony in appreciating the irony in my complaint about oblivious white hipsterdom. If I am missing any other ironies, please let me know.

*Not really. It's "hugging the toilet."

May 19, 2012

May 11, 2012

May 09, 2012

ATM Networks

First things first: no, I still haven't heard whether I moved forward to the finals in the Amazon competition. Yes, I am still crapping my pants.

(N.B. If you are a Penguin editor who has just picked up my manuscript and decided to Google me: hi! My parents have a holiday house in Sardinia that's available this August.)

HOWEVER, last week I did get a short story accepted by CICADA magazine, which will be appearing in print later this year. You should probably go get yourself a subscription now to make sure you don't miss it.

I also had my first non-book-review published over at Good Men Project, a silly little memoir essay about nostalgia and my old friend Benjie — which will be of particular interest if you knew me or him back then. (Ahem: parents.)

And that's all for now.

May 04, 2012

May 03, 2012

U.S. P.S.

I was kind of cantankerous in my last post, especially about New York. But yesterday I discovered that, without being asked, out of simple kindness towards strangers, somebody at the Grand Central post office took the time to hand cancel all of the save-the-date cards Mallory and I sent out last month. So instead of the ugly teletype cancelling marks that you see on most mail these days, our awesome brown paper, type-written envelopes all got the old style stamp and wavy lines.

What I'm trying to say is... Sometimes I don't hate the world. Thank you, Grand Central post office employee!

May 01, 2012

From Concentrate

Whenever I see a blogger (other than myself) whose output has dropped off precipitously, I think: gosh, poor guy/girl. He/she must have run out of things to say.

TODAY, however, I would like to reassure you that I don't have that problem. In fact, I've still got just as many shot-from-the-hip, ill-conceived rants floating around my head as ever — I just don't have as much time to develop them into shot-from-slightly-above(?)-the-hip, mediocrely-conceived blog posts that I would feel okay putting my name to in a public forum. (Deuelgate really burned me.)

As proof, here are some select rants I would have liked to have gone on, recently:
  • Dear Occupy,

    I agree so completely and painfully with your central political premise that I take no pleasure saying this, but: your stupid angry drum circle is not going to change a goddamn thing. Go get a real job.

    Sincerely,
    A. Ladd
  • My blog continues to get 70 million thousand hits a second from Google referrals for "recycling jokes." It's been a particularly popular search term since I moved to New York City, probably because this place is the biggest recycling joke in the world. (There is one public recycling bin for every 17,000 residents. ONE! Good thing nobody uses more than one plastic container every three years.)
  • Vegans who make fun of anti-abortion activists for their efforts to protect the rights of foetuses. Discuss.
  • Dear New Yorkers,

    How can you live in the most densely populated city in the United States and STILL BE SO FUCKING OBLIVIOUS TO EVERYTHING GOING ON AROUND YOU? I'm looking at you, guy on narrow sidewalk with a golf umbrella (except not really, because you just gouged out my eyeball with your stupid golf umbrella).

    Sincerely,
    A. Ladd
  • Can somebody please tell Apple that not everything is a goddamn iPad and they should stop trying to turn everything into a goddamn iPad?
  • When is the Huffington Post going to give up the charade and just become a fully-fledged porn site already?
  • Dear Occupy,

    I know, I know: you can't get a real job, that's the whole point, banks are ruining the economy, etc., etc. They will still be ruining the economy after your drums get impounded and you spend a night in jail. Discuss.

    Sincerely,
    A. Ladd
Look, if I could afford a therapist, I'd save this stuff for session.

April 27, 2012

April 24, 2012

Thank God For Tall Ladies

After my unexpected advance to the quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award last month, I am tickled a baby-faced shade of pink to announce that I have now advanced AGAIN to the semifinals. That means I'm in the top fifty of all five thousand entries in the general fiction category, which I feel pretty good about even if I go no further.

I also feel pretty good about this review that I got from Publishers Weekly:
A poignant and touching melancholy suffuses the small moments in this lyrical tale of a family grappling with changes that are altering the dynamics of its household and the way of life on a small island. In October, 1980, the last child is born on Eilean Fior, an island off the northwest coast of Scotland. The island's aging population has, over the decades, been slowly moving back to the mainland until there are now fewer than two dozen permanent residents. Chief among them are the McClouds, who own the local pub and who are the last of the island families with young children. Spanning 22 years, the narrative follows the three McCloud kids as they grow from childhood to maturity: Barry, the moody oldest son, who never recovers from his boarding school separation from his family; Flora, an aspiring artist who longs for a fulfilling life off the island; and Trevor, who is left to attend to his aging mother and father when his siblings move away. As they respond with varying degrees of resistance to the pull of family and home, each of the children develops a distinct, credibly drawn personality evident in their every interaction with their world. There are no great dramatic scenes in this story, but rather quiet, well-conceived episodes of hope and happiness that alternate with the inevitable disappointments and disillusionment of life. The result is a bittersweet coming-of-age tale that is emotionally engaging and rings true.
I am contractually bound to mention at this point that Publishers Weekly is an independent organization and the review was written based on a manuscript version of the book and not a published version. I am not contractually bound to mention that I have re-read the review about seventy times for the sheer pleasure of it — but I will anyway. OH MAN.

The three finalists will be announced on May 22nd, and I will be peeing my pants until then. Check back then for news...

April 20, 2012

April 19, 2012

You Are The Weakest

I'm embarrassed to say that, despite my relative silence here the last few weeks, I don't have much to show for it elsewhere. Partly it's because I was in Vermont last weekend, planning my wedding. Partly it's because one of the few other things I have been working on lately is for a print magazine with a long lead time. But mostly it's because, after another brush-off from an agent, of the my-god-but-aren't-you-a-gifted-writer-we-would-love-to-work-with-you-unfortunately-this-book-is-too-hard-to-sell-as-a-first-book-do-you-have-any-others variety, I have been working on a new book. Sigh.

(N.B.1. It was very nice to hear so much praise from an agent, mind you, and even nicer of him to take the time to brush me off in person. I'm just frustrated with the realities of the literary fiction marketplace.)

(N.B.2. Satirists, when I eventually do become a famous writer and you want to publish a witty take-off of my written style, you should make sure to include at least seven "Partly it's because...And partly it's because...But mostly it's because..." constructions. It's becoming a really bad habit.)

Anyway, I do have one lowly link to my own work to share with you today: my latest Blurbese post over at Ploughshares. It's about the word "funny," which I guess was bound to happen eventually.

You should also go read my beautiful, wonderful, fabulously talented pundigrion fiancée's brand new blog, From Y to A, because she has been working very hard on it and it's getting a lot of positive response, and you want to be able to tell people you were reading it before it was famous.

More next week.

April 13, 2012

April 06, 2012

April 03, 2012

Things You Might Play Golf On

Folks, sorry for the long silence — it has been a busy few weeks here at pundigrions HQ. I filed my taxes. I received three form rejections. I took the Jeopardy! contestant test. [Now ends your tantalizing glimpse into the rock and roll lifestyle of a twenty-something writer living in Brooklyn.]

I also wrote my LAST EVER book review for the Good Men Project. I will be staying on with them as an "Editor-at-large," which I assume is some kind of fat joke, but we decided that the book reviews had run their useful course. Anyway, for one last dose of science-related philosobabble — and, of course, another classic Steven Pinker zing — go check out my review of Sebastian Seung's Connectome.

At the suggestion of the editorial staff over at Ploughshares, I also wrote a round-up of funny books in honor of April Fools' Day — and, as a commenter quickly pointed out, missed about seven gazillion really obvious ones.

More news, soon.

March 31, 2012

In Which the Author Asks for Your Support

So it turns out, after a kind of nothing-to-lose shot in the dark back in January, my novel, What Ends, is a quarterfinalist in the Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award.

I know, right?

Here is what the preliminary readers have had to say so far, about the first chapter:
This excerpt has beautiful writing with a fascinating setting, and lovely use of language that immediately compels the reader to want to learn more about this tiny island. It captures the sense of a soon-to-be-lost world and elicits a preemptive nostalgia for what once was, even though it hasn’t yet been lost. I would definitely want to read more of this story.
And:
I enjoyed this story. I was actually a little disappointed when I found myself at the end of the excerpt, I would have definitely liked to have kept reading. I think the plot has great potential, the characters are engaging and well rounded and the writing is top notch. It's a great story.
Oh, and here's what a totally unsolicited reader had to say about the first chapter, which is now available for Kindle:
A traditional story of families and generational upkeep takes on a new slant with this book's unique setting, the remote Hebrides Islands off Scotland. From the outset, the location is beautifully drawn, and the story set in motion, told in descriptive passages and symbolically through the characters. The author has a great knack for "showing" the story, at a steady pace, and letting the reader develop their own thoughts... An elegantly written excerpt that flows nicely from scene to scene. I'd like to read more.
Guys. The semifinalists are announced on April 24th, and they're chosen based on the reviews that Publisher's Weekly is now writing about the remaining entries — but YOU and ALL YOUR FRIENDS should still go read the first chapter and tell the internet how awesome you think it is. In exchange, once I start hobnobbing with Franzen at swanky NYC literary events, I will totally ask him if he'll go out with you.

March 30, 2012

March 23, 2012

March 16, 2012

March 14, 2012

Wicked Burn

From Boston.com: Transformer fire sends black smoke into streets near Back Bay Hilton; wide swath of the city is plunged into darkness after power is cut

Questions:

1. Can we please send a Peabody award immediately to the Globe reporter who found the Berklee freshman named "Jose PARODY" who says the giant fire "just kind of feels like a movie"? My god, if only it had been an Emerson student, we could have ceased printing news completely for the rest of time.

2. Why, when ABC News, CBS News, the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Reuters, among others, are all covering this HUGE ACCIDENT that affected TWENTY THOUSAND PEOPLE in one of the country's MAJOR CITIES, is there not a single freakin' story about it on the New York Times website as of 8:28 this morning? I searched the site, I read through all the headlines in the U.S. section, I Googled... nothing. In fact, the only story they have about Boston today is this one about the freakin' Red Sox–Yankees rivalry.

REALLY, New York? Really? You're still going to carry on this petty "Boston is provincial" thing even when a three-alarm fire kills power to half the city? Or are you just bitter because the Red Sox BEAT YOU last night?

Honestly, this city.

March 13, 2012

Fan Male

I was in Chicago a few weeks ago for a conference, and while there was graciously hosted for a night by an old friend, J. I know J. from my days as an Emerson undergrad, but she dropped out even before I did, instead pursuing a degree first in neuroscience, and then, at grad school, in (*ptooey*) linguistics.

Anyway, as a result of the weirdly small world of linguistics, J. often ends up at conferences with people who know my dad—and at the last one she went to, she had the following conversation:
J.: Oh, yeah, I know Bob Ladd. I stayed at his house once.

PERSON: OMIGOSH. You know Bob Ladd?

J.: Yes.

PERSON: His son has a hilarious blog.
So there you have it, folks. Plethoric pundigrions: entertaining a small handful of linguists since 2006.

March 11, 2012

A Decent Inproposal

From HuffPo Weddings: Bree Maresca-Kramer: 7 Signs He's Never Going To Propose

I want to clarify right off the bat that I didn't get engaged last year and suddenly start reading wedding websites. This link just popped up on my homepage like any other piece of AOL dreck—and since it's been forever since I trashed one of those, and since this one is particularly drecky, I thought: why not?

So, here are some of the seven signs to "help you clarify if he thinks your relationship is for keeps or just fun for right now."
1. He only makes plans for the immediate or short term. He is always ready to make a date for tonight or this weekend but rarely makes plans for the distant future. For instance, you ask him to plan a romantic vacation for next year and he acts hesitantly telling you, "That sounds great, but let's wait until it gets closer before booking the flight and hotel."
Oh my GOD! He doesn't treat a several-hundred dollar trip in the same way as a forty-dollar dinner and a movie? What an immature/emotionally distant/irresponsible asshole etc.
6. He avoids serious talks about the future by diverting your attention. Often a man will do this by trying to make you laugh or engage you in a fun activity.
What a dick! How dare he try and make you laugh or engage you in a fun activity? The only engaging he should be doing is of himself to you, as soon as possible!

Thankfully the article isn't entirely sensationalist and reductive; it also offers some sober advice about what to do if, having followed these incisive diagnostic guidelines, you realize your man is clearly never going to propose.
Before making any final decisions, talk with your man about his long-term intentions. You could broach the subject by saying, "Bob, we have been dating for a year now, I want to check in with you and see where you see our relationship going in the future."
Naturally, this will be most effective if you are actually dating someone called Bob. Also, "we have been dating for a year now"?! Look, I get it, some couples feel close and confident enough to get married after a year (or less). But just because poor Bob isn't ready to propose after a year doesn't mean he's just banging you for fun until his real soulmate comes along. And can we take a minute to appreciate the cognitive dissonance in a worldview where men both (a) bang women for fun with no regard for emotion, and (b) believe there is such a thing as a soulmate and are willing to wait for years to find that true emotional connection? Are men schizophrenic?

Incidentally, lay off poor Bob:
2. He rarely sings your praises to his friends and family. This can be spotted when you are around those closest to him and they say something to the effect of, "Wow, Bob never told us how smart and talented you are!"
Probably because you read the Huffington Post. Earnestly. For relationship advice.

Yeesh.

March 09, 2012

March 06, 2012

You Could Have Just Checked It On Goggle

It's always slightly dispiriting to crack open an acclaimed history book—"heroically researched," quoth the Globe—and have the narrator tune into that well-known radio broadcaster the "Canadian Broadcasting Service" in the first chapter.

March 03, 2012

March 01, 2012

The Form Some Sausages Come In

This month's round-up of my writing elsewhere:

The editors at GMP are always telling us that, for better or for worse, it's the articles about sex that drive traffic. And they're totally right—of all my book reviews for them, the one that's had by far the most comments was my review of the awful, awful "scientific" survey of sexual-attitudes-as-revealed-by-the-internet, A Billion Wicked Thoughts. But then I wrote this about epistemology, and it got just as many. Go figure.

...and then go read my latest snotty column about book review cliches at Ploughshares.

February 28, 2012

Mathematical Concepts That Would Also Make Great Spy Thrillers

The Hecke Correspondence

The Kudla Conjecture

The Long Division

The Arakelov Geometry

The Sum of All Squares

Differential Calculus

The Lefschetz Trace

The Artin Reciprocity

The X Axis

February 24, 2012

February 17, 2012

February 13, 2012

Gosh, Darling, I'm So Sorry

From the New York Times: A Prayer, a Celebration and a Coronation

The music industry gathered in L.A. last night for the Grammys, their annual evening of spectacularly expensive performances by pop artists combined with irritating pretense that the integrity of their art is more important than commercial success by everyone else.

Item:
Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters received five awards for the album “Wasting Light”... The album, which was the first No. 1 album for Foo Fighters, was recorded on analog equipment in a garage and was in the running for album of the year.

“We made this one in my garage with some microphones and a tape machine,” Mr. Grohl said as the group accepted the Grammy for best rock performance. “It shows the human element of making music is what’s most important.”
No, Dave Grohl, it shows that you're Dave freaking Grohl and that, along with an interesting gimmick, you have a potent formula for commercial success.

Item:
The awards for best alternative album and for best new artist went to Bon Iver... the brainchild of the songwriter Justin Vernon. Mr. Vernon, who declined to perform, said, “When I started to make songs I did it for the inherent reward of making songs, so I’m a little bit uncomfortable up here.”
Oh, fuck off, Justin Vernon. It's okay: we will still respect you as a musician if you perform at the Grammys. The only difference you will notice is that not all the girls trying to sleep with you afterwards will be wearing hipster glasses.

Honestly. They're almost as bad as poets.

February 10, 2012

February 07, 2012

Sign Placement Fail

Last weekend the New York Times sagely warned that:
the Nook and, by extension, Barnes & Noble, at times seem the only things standing between traditional book publishers and oblivion.
Tonight, I observed the following:



Brave new world.