Monday, October 31, 2011

Yahoo, she cried

I've got a new post up on my Forbes blog about how I went through three interviews and didn't get a job at Yahoo. It was a full-time blogging job. It would've been cool to get it. I was sad I didn't.

"How Not to Get a Job at Yahoo":
I rocketed out the front door in search of better reception. I think I was wearing a T-shirt from the day before and a pair of sweat pants that were falling down, so I had to hold them up while I was speeding down the courtyard walkway, veering around the corner, and attempting to answer his questions at the same time. I took a seat on the curb. A cat approached, meowing loudly. I waved it away frantically.
This month has been one of those months. Where everything is in transition. Where things you think are going to turn out one day don't, and the things that you think aren't going to happen do but only at the last minute when you think all is lost. So, it's different.

I neglected this blog for a while, something I wrote about last week. But I like doing it again. So much of my life is spent doing what other people tell me or what other people want me to do, and this is one of the few places where I can do what I want, and say what I want, and not have to think so much but just do.

Sometimes I get emails or comments from people who are like, Wow, you have a great drive, and I'm like, Ha-ha, you missed the part where I impersonated someone in a coma for several days. The other day, someone was like, You should write something about people who aren't as driven as you, and then I was like, Oh, but I do, but then I thought maybe I didn't. Maybe I write more about people I want to be like, or people I admire for some reason or the other, or people who have a lot of tenacity, or grit, or whatever you want to call it.

I don't necessarily write about the depression, or the anxiety, or the doubt, or the failures, or the confusion. Mostly, people don't want to hear about that. They want the American Dream, and Conflict Resolution, and Overcoming Obstacles, and I Did It So You Can Too, and Happy Endings. But my depression and anxiety and various other pathologies -- maybe they are a part of the success. Can you hold these two seemingly contradictory ideas in your mind at the same time -- that one's failure can be the same as one's success?


Friday, October 28, 2011

How to do this

This week was a bear. A lot of work. A lot of stuff.

This was the highlight. My favorite panel is the biking-to-the-store one. Her tiny, thin legs. The determined face.

Today, I wrote about how to be a journalist:
I’m standing in the dressing room of a strip club in Texas interviewing a stripper herpetologist. There are two giggling girls crammed into a toilet stall that isn’t a toilet stall, really; it’s a gold curtain hanging in front of a toilet and that’s it. A girl with long brown hair wanders around, looking for something; she’s wearing glasses and jeans but she’s topless. A girl in a pink and black polka-dot bikini preens at the mirror. Nearby, a girl pulls up her black lace top to put on deodorant. A makeup artist applies makeup to a dancer’s upturned face; “Full face with lashes $30, no lashes $25,” the sign reads. It smells like perfume and strawberry lotion and a lifetime’s worth of Aqua Net hairspray. On the other side of the wall, the music is thumping for the girl on stage.
That made me realize I need to do some real journalism soon, or my head is going to explode.

In other news that is great, I'm doing another interview for The War Project next week.

I am ready.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Strip the sausage

I've got another installment of my journalism sausage series online. The series focuses on the strip club economy.

In an email, a strip club patron offered a poignant peek at why he goes.
"The primary reason that I go to strip clubs is #7 on your list: loneliness. In the dead of night, alone at home, the loneliness sometimes becomes unbearable. There aren’t many places to go in the middle of the night, and most of those choices don’t necessarily ensure any kind of reasonable human interaction."
I really love that email. Incidentally, the man who wrote that email also wrote a letter I published on Letters from Johns.

To be perfectly honest, this series has interested me more than anything I've done in a while. Sometimes, I write these in my opinion somewhat cheesy posts on my Forbes blog about, golly gee, making it through the hard times, and, oh, no, I had a really hard interview but this is what I learned, or some crap about some other tripe I don't care about.

I suppose unsurprisingly, those types of vapid posts are rather popular. To be frank, I find most of them rather stupid. They feel weak, and now that I look back on it, fake. Like some kind of person holding your hand across a busy street, when secretly they're more interested in what would happen to your body if they shoved you in front of a car.

If you want to get at the meat of something, you have to get out a cleaver, and writing tripe on how to perform better in a job interview is only going to get you a surface layer of fat, and who wants that?

This email I got from Mr. Loneliness -- that's like the first soul-baring email I've gotten in a long time.

Everything else is bullshit.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why do you go to strip clubs?

I'm working on a series on the strip club economy on my Forbes blog. Now, I'm asking my readers to tell me why they go to strip clubs.

Some men go to strip clubs because they’re lonely, and they want someone to talk to who will be judgement-free. Some men are single or not having sex or the sex they want with their partners, and strip clubs are a way for them to explore their fantasies. Some men go to strip clubs to conduct business meetings, or because it’s easier to find a woman to spend time with when you’re paying her than when you’re with your friends at a nightclub, or as an escape from the grind of work, of monogamy, of being whatever a man is supposed to be in the 21st century.
At the end of the post, I ask readers to tell me why they go to strip clubs. Email me your thoughts. I may include them in an upcoming post. They will remain anonymous. 

I also mention in the post Letters from Johns, a very popular series I did in 2008 wherein I asked men why they paid for sex.

The project generated quite a bit of buzz when, a few months after I launched it, Eliot Spitzer was caught up in a prostitution scandal. I wrote about the letters in Newsweek, it was mentioned on, and Susie Bright called it "riveting reading."

Here are some of the most interesting letters from that project:

One can try to hang a sign on us, the collective john, as perpetuating the global conspiracy of sex/slave traffic, and I'll grant that my Thailand trip may have/probably did contribute to some sort of thuggery. But in the end, I am ashamed of nothing I have done. 
I keep a coded diary, in case it's discovered. 1 dot is oral, 2 dots is vaginal sex, and 2 connected dots is anal sex. In the event that someone questions the dots, they are associated with good/bad days: no dots are normal days, 1 dot is a good day, 2 dots is a great day, and 2 connected dots is the best day for that week.
I am now a regular customer, although not as regular as I’d like to be. This is mostly because my brother has moved overseas, and it is hard to find people who will willingly accompany me. However, each time I go, I no longer feel like a cripple. I feel whole.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grace under disaster

A while back, by which I mean, like, this spring, I started doing this series on my Forbes blog about the stripper economy. Then I got bored with it. But then time went by, and I got interested in it again.

More recently, some things have happened on Forbes that have made the traffic to my blog there slump. I mean, slump. It really blows. If I don't have a huge influx of traffic before the end of this month, I'll be out a quarter of what I usually make there monthly.

I don't totally understand why this is the case, because it's not just me, but it's been frustrating. But here is the good part of the frustrating. I kept trying to make the situation better, and it wasn't happening. And then, I just, like, gave up. Like, fuck this shit.

That was freeing. Because then it was like, I'll just post whatever the fuck I want. I'm sure there are some people who think I'm tarnishing the Forbes brand by writing about strippers, but whatever. I'm interested in this series, and these days there are days when it takes a lot to interest me, so I am glad to be interested in anything, anything at all.

In January, she worked eleven days and made $3,952; in February, she worked nine days and made $4,402.

"I literally picked up dollar after dollar off of my stage, did some sort of boobies-in-the-face magic or waved my [redacted] at someone, and put those dollars on my garter. Those dollars are tangible. They aren’t numbers. They’re actual singular pieces of paper, and I think that makes a huge difference. What I was worth as a dancer was tipped to me, and I held the paper for it."

Monday, October 24, 2011

The stripper

I've got a very cool new interview up on my Forbes blog: "How Your Journalism Sausage Gets Made, Part Eight: The Stripper Herpetologist."
What’s it like working with the other girls? Is it competitive?

Everyone’s always your competition, you know? But we feel for each other, ‘cause we’re all doing the same thing. So it’s like, we’re all out there in big high heels, and we’re all working, we all have the same goal in mind, so it’s like we feel for each other. It’s like, “Oh, is it bad out there?” Girls, usually, at this club are like, “Keep your head up. One o’clock’s gonna come around. It’s gonna be good.” People try and stay in positive spirits, ‘cause with your thoughts, you create your world.
The journalism sausage series is one I started some time ago. It takes a look at the stripper economy. I visited some strip clubs and did some interviews in Austin, Texas. Next, I'll be visiting some strip clubs and doing some interviews in Chicago, Illinois.

I like doing this series because it's self-propelled. When I need to focus on other things, I focus on those things. When I'm ready to return to this, I return to it.

I got a very nice compliment today from Adam Penenberg on Twitter. He called me a "modern-age Studs Terkel." Penenberg is the journalist who exposed Stephen Glass. Terkel won the Pulitzer for collecting World War II oral histories.

Speaking of which, I've finally gotten back to The War Project. Which is what I would like to work on. All the time. 


Friday, October 21, 2011


I used to update this blog more often -- well, that's not really the issue. The issue is what I update it with these days. Which, more often than not, is links to other stuff I'm doing elsewhere.

Mostly, this is because this has been something of a challenging year. And not necessarily in the sense of challenging as a metaphor for bad. It really has challenged me.

After I got downsized in January from my full-time job I a) freaked out b) figured out how to be full-time self-employed and c) moved. All those things were good things. Except for maybe the freaking out part. I could've done without the shingles.

One reason I find it challenging to blog here more personally more often is that most of my other work I do for money is content generation of one sort or the other. That means this becomes one more place that demands I generate content. And I'm sort of overwhelmed with content generation demands. Not overwhelmed, really. But my plate is full. Although, don't get me wrong, I have room for dessert.

And then when I'm not working on all that stuff, or obeying my therapist's demands that I cultivate a life outside of work (he is so demanding), I am working on my novel.

These are white people problems.

But I miss it. What I miss most about when I started blogging in 2002 was the sensation that I could do whatever I wanted. That's what I loved about it, probably more than anything else. And then blogging became something you could do for money, and thank God for that, but then it became more challenging, too, because it meant blogging was no longer synonymous with do whatever you want.

I love my Forbes blog, but it's hard, too. Because while I have a huge (obscene, really) amount of freedom there, I don't feel like I can do whatever I want. Although, in many ways I can. I can't quite figure out if it's all in my head or what.

I don't know what the point of this post is, but my guess is that it's not everything you do has to have a point. Not every story has to have a story. Not everything has to have a proper ending.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Call girl blues

Here's the latest from my novel, which I'm revising online.
She gets up and walks to the window. She presses her palms against the glass to open it, but it doesn't open. She puts her head against it. She can see all the way down. Twenty-three floors. The window doesn't open because they don't want you to fall out, or jump, or get so caught up in doing pirouettes you crash through it and fall to the ground in a rain shower of crystals reflecting the light, the wind in your hair, twisting so your soft parts hit first like maybe that will save you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


My latest on Forbes? The fine art of FAIL.
I fail constantly. I did a reading with a group of other writers last week, and the crowd was not really — for lack of a better way of putting it — my demographic, and it was totally awkward, and relatively embarrassing, and after it was done I got out of there like my pants were on fire. After I got downsized, I failed to get another full-time job, and currently I am juggling about five part-time jobs. (For this, I know, I am blessed.) I dropped out of high school. I have never had a job for more than a couple of years. People tell me I am stupid on a regular basis, and if you asked me where I want to be in five years, I would probably stammer for a bit. I am not very good at relationships. I do not like to clean the stove top. I need to get my hair done, and I haven’t done it yet.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I get email

You give me a lot of words so I thought I would offer a few in return.

I read your Forbes blog religiously even when I was employed, because I enjoy your writing style immensely. Then I became unemployed, and it occurred to me that it was humorous how your posts had suddenly and unexpectedly gained a new dimension of personal relevance. Then, mostly due to an amazing heap of good luck, but also in no small part due to a mindset I learned from your blog, I became employed again, at a better place, that pays more and makes me much happier, within five days of being fired. Two of which were a weekend.

My life is not very hard compared to a lot of the people who are seeking employment right now. I am an Ivy-league educated computer programmer. So I was probably going to get a job anyway, and make more money than most people anyway, and be comfortable even if I was unemployed for a few months instead of a few days. But your work has touched and helped me anyway, as it has no doubt touched and helped many who have not felt moved to tell you about (or even realized that telling you about it is an option).

We're out here. We hear you. You matter. And we are hungry for words, keep them coming! Om nom nom.

Jake Eakle wants to use his brief moment in the spotlight to point out, an effective, sustainable charity that makes you your money back.


Monday, October 17, 2011


MetaMaus, Chicago, Illinois

Friday, October 14, 2011

You're an idiot

They love you, they hate you, but at least they read you. My latest on Forbes is a pondering of how to deal with getting sideswiped in words online. 
“Breslin annoys me,” the comment read. “Not sure why. The phrase ‘talentless hack’ comes to mind.”
I laughed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why occupy

I visited Occupy Chicago to find out why the protestors were there. 


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm reading tonight

If you're in the Chicago area, I'm reading tonight at the Hopleaf at 5148 N. Clark. They have exotic beers and mind-blowing French fries. I'll be reading upstairs along with three other performers. The show starts at 7:30 PM, although apparently it's SRO by 7:00 PM. The reading series is This Much Is True, and I'll be reading a true story.


Monday, October 10, 2011

I get comments (elsewhere)

I have exactly two URLs blocked from my browser:

The New York Times
Susannah Breslin’s blog

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Why do crazy people make better bloggers?
Crazy people are constantly in conflict: with themselves, with the world, with the voices in their heads. Want to know why no one reads your blog? You’re boring. You’re not in conflict, or you have no ability to articulate your conflict, or, more likely, you’re unwilling to share your conflict. That makes you boring and cowardly. A blog isn’t something you write when you feel like it. It’s the digital representation of who you really are. No one wants to read a blog by a boring coward. Because no one wants to be a boring coward. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Fall, Chicago, Illinois

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pink slipping

Moving forward, I'm posting more frequently on my Forbes blog, PINK SLIPPED. On today's menu: blaxploitation career advice, the self-made panopticon, and failure as #winning. 
Policing one’s social media presence to extraordinary lengths is a sign of a disturbing trend, and fundamentally goes against what the internet and social media were supposed to be about: self-expression. Censoring what you have to say for fear of who may be watching turns the digital frontier into a panopticon, a digital prison built on paranoia and the mind turns police state.

Monday, October 3, 2011

This is true

Next Tuesday, October 11, I'll be reading at This Much Is True. It takes place upstairs at Hopleaf, which is awesome and located at 5148 N. Clark, Chicago, Illinois. Doors open at 6:45, and apparently it is often standing room only by 7:00. The show starts at 7:30.
You’ve been warned and yeah sure, this headline could be hyperbole or it could actually happen. We suggest you secure your socks tightly to your feet just to be sure. Tuesday, October 11th This Much is True is packing the room with so much talent you will wake up furious on the 12th if you miss it.