Thursday, September 30, 2010

Now honeys play me close like butter played toast

I'm going to be writing a weekly column for The Smoking Jacket, Playboy's newish SFW site. I'll post a link when the first one's online. Good times.

I've been working tangentially for Playboy Inc. enterprises in various capacities since 1998, so this is nice.

I have been to the mansion, but I never rode on the now long gone jet.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Where to take your date if you're a cheap ass

I wrote something for "17 Cheap Dates That She'll Actually Like." Or you could read this, by Tom Chiarella: "I understood then that this was an essential question of love — what do you want?"


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My first video

This is the first video I've made since I was a kid, I think. I shot it at Hey, Cupcake. This is my "Citizen Kane." My "Apocalypse Now." My "Goodfellas."

It made it with an iPhone.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How to interview people

1. Sit Somewhere Important. Where you sit matters. If you're interviewing someone who you really need to get stuff out of, sit close. Maybe stick your foot within three feet of them. Maybe let your mouth hang open a little while you stare into their eyes. But if you have time and they're weird in some way, you might want to sit further away. Like, if you want them to forget that you're there, even though you're right there. The latter technique works well for narcissists. The former technique works well for people you are trying to disarm. I guess if the person is in prison, your choices are more limited.

2. Record Two Times. I don't do this enough, but you really need to record the person on two devices, because if you only use one, and that gets fucked up, you will be fucked. You might feel stupid walking around and putting in front of someone two devices, but who cares? Your ass is covered. Get one of those little digital ones because people forget they're there, because they are small and also quiet and don't really look like much other than a pack of silver cigarettes or something.

3. Do All the Work Ahead of Time. Mostly you should know everything about your subject -- the person and the topic -- before you walk in the room. That's what the internet is for: finding stuff out. If you make a mistake in an interview and let someone know that you don't know something, you will feel stupid. This happens no matter what, but try and limit the amount of times it happens. People who think you're a moron will tell you less. This isn't the goal. You want them to tell you more.

4. Shut the Fuck Up. As I have stated previously here, this was taught to me by Mark Ebner who gets people blabbing shit at him all the time, so he should know. Recently, I was in a room watching a round table of journalists interview a famous person. It was amazing how it was the stupid middle-aged journalists who when asking their questions acted like the same assholes who go to book readings and "ask questions" just to hear themselves talk. Jesus. No one wants to interview you. If they did, you wouldn't be interviewing someone else. Ask short questions that make a semblance of sense and then shut your world hole, and let the other person talk.

5. No Scripts Allowed. At that same round table, there were two or three young female journalists. Maybe they were in college or something. They were comely. They were shy and not aggressive, which I guess was understandable, but they read their questions off the sheet of paper they brought with them. This made me want to crawl under the table with sympathetic embarrassment. If you have to read the question, you don't know your subject well enough. Do your research, write your questions beforehand if you feel like it, but in the room you can only use those questions as a cheat sheet and if you must, or you look like an idiot auditioning for a role or something.

6. Be a Mirror. This is more stuff in the behavioral department. You don't want to be all calculated with it -- ideally, you should do this stuff intuitively, after a while if not immediately -- but you should modify how you sit, and what you do, and the way you speak according to the person. Mostly, with chicks, I mean, it depends on the chick, but mostly with chicks I am more prone to nodding, saying stuff that sounds like I'm agreeing, and smiling. Probably, this is emotional babysitting, but whatever. With dudes, it kind of depends. The last time I found myself twirling my hair, which may have looked dumb, but apparently that's what my subconscious thought was warranted. Don't listen to your thinking brain. Listen to the reptile part. That part knows more than you.

7. Be Smart. Don't ask stupid questions that the person has been asked a million times, or shit that shows you don't know what you're talking about, or questions that reveal you're too much of a pansy to ask the hard stuff. I think from straight out the gate, I kind of try and "top" people. That's like passive aggressively clarifying you hold the reins in some vague, inscrutable way. In an interview, you want the other person to do what you want, not what they want, so it's a lot like if you go to babysit, and the parents walk out the door, and the kids go nuts: you have to lay down the law from the start or there will be trouble later on.

8. Don't Be Shy About Being Weird. If you're listening -- and it's amazing how many people don't -- you'll probably get to a point about 2/3rds of the way through the interview when you'll either get bored or realize you're not getting what you want. You can do random weird stuff at this point, and that will usually quietly freak out your interviewee and make them more prone to distractedly saying uncalculated shit. Like steal a pen. Or pick up the audio recording device, look at it, and then sigh. Or stare down at your notepad and bang your pen on it a bunch of times. People who agree to interviews a lot of times either want to please you or they want you to leave, and at a certain point they will give you shit they don't mean to if you make it seem like either you are not pleasing them or you will never leave.

9. Entrapment. Mostly, I prefer to interview people sitting in a chair trapped in a room. I think that ends distractions and makes them feel more trapped. Trapped people are more prone to confessing. And that's what this is. A confession.

10. Never Let Them See You Think. Generally, I think I'm too reactive in interviews, but that's probably my imagination. I don't know. If you're too, like, "YES!" then they try and pander to you. If you're too, like, remote, I think they feel sad and lonely and there's no connection. Not long ago, I interviewed a bunch of people who had disabilities. The narcoleptic's energy was totally different from the schizoid affect's energy was totally different from the psychotic episode's energy. I'm still tired.

11. The Right Questions. I was going to stop at 10, but I guess I should say something about questions. Honestly, I feel like if you don't know what kind of questions to ask, you should be in another profession. Don't ask stupid shit.

12. Hear the Story. I still need to get better at this, but basically you're doing three things in an interview. You're you, a human being, in a room or whatever, talking to a person. That's YOU. The real you. The you that's sometimes thinking, god, does this suck? Am I getting what I need? Why am I sweating? Then there's you the reporter or whatever stupid name you have attached to yourself. That person is engaged in the call and response of questions and answers. You do your thing, and they do their thing. This is the thinking mind, connecting with its subject, wondering if it wants to get engaged to its subject and maybe marry it or just get it drunk and take it home and bang it. Then there's your inner-editor. That's the monkey bicycling really fast inside your brain that's thinking globally. That's listening for those perfect quotes. That's hearing the story's narrative manifest in the air above the words. That's falling in love with its subject a little bit more every time the clock clicks forward. If you can do those three things at the same time, you're either really good or getting old or something else.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mr. Curb Stomp

I interviewed Ed Norton today. He's a man of few tells. I'll post a link to my Q&A on when it's up.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The red bag

A few weeks ago, my bag broke. I liked the bag, even though it was cheap. I think I got it at H&M. It was black leather, and sort of like a small sack, and the shoulder strap was composed of four chains of varying widths. When you plopped it down, it made a dramatic sound, that was the chains unfurling, like a metal snake. But, one day, the strap popped. For a while, I had it tied back together, but I worried it would break again, and then all my things would explode all over the floor of the supermarket or some other unfortunate place. So, I went to the places near where I lived. They were $150. $250. $600. That seemed stupid. Eventually, I went to the St. Vincent de Paul near where I live. Now through this journey I would occasionally think of this other cheap purse I used to have. I got it at Target, and it was lavender on the outside and lime green on the inside, but what was great about it was that it was enormous. Like, you could hide a puppy in it, literally and easily. It's great for the lady journalist, if she is running about and needs something into which she can stuff a camera and a digital recorder and pens and notepads and a cellphone and lipstick. So, lo and behold, there in the used purses section was the red version of the Target purse for which I had pined. (The lining is orange.) Someone had written $16 inside one of the pockets, but for some reason it was half off, so $8. I decided it was good because the Chinese think red is a sign of good luck and good fortune and maybe money. Here it is on the dresser with some other inexpensive assorted jewelry and a painting that a woman who is a narcoleptic gave me. It reads: "Do not disconnect from your own love socket."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'm on This Recording

I wrote a story called "The Shine" for This Recording. It's about my HBO TV show that wasn't, a dead porn star I can't forget, and angels in unlikely places.
Maybe a year or so ago, or maybe it was closer to two, I got a phone call from Ari Emanuel. In case you’ve never heard of him, he’s a famous agent in Hollywood and the inspiration for Ari Gold, who is played by Jeremy Piven on Entourage. When I picked up the phone, a woman who sounded like she was Asian and maybe in an elevator said, “Will you hold for Ari Emanuel, please?” I said, “Yes,” because that’s what you do when Ari Emanuel calls, or so I assumed. I don’t remember what I was doing at the time. Probably nothing. I was probably wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt with food stains on it. I am sure it was not glamorous.
[The Shine]

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What is journalism worth today?

"We pay $100 for a set of ten interviews the first two times a writer does the column, and $125 after that." -- editor

Monday, September 20, 2010

I'm that one, son of a gun

Recently, I've been getting back into doing more freelance journalism. That means you pitch stuff to editors, and they either a) say yes, b) say no, c) ignore you.

Here are the three most common responses I get from editors.

1. Who Are You? Send me links for what you have written recently that pertains to the subject of my site. I will pay you $25.

2. I Know Who You Are. You're a great writer. I can only pay you $50. I am embarrassed. Forgive me.

3. The Form Letter. We are a big publication, and we do not have time to acknowledge/comprehend/ascertain what your deal is. The answer is: No. Go away.

Actually, the most common answer is radio silence.

What I Do. To decrease the chances of dying by my own hand, I am doing some of all of the above. (In the case of #3, I repeat as many times as I can stand slamming my head into a brick wall multiplied by 641.)

Hold the Cheddar. There are a few stories I'm doing for "non-monetary reasons." These are more "do what I want to do." Experiences have been mixed. Over-editing may have occurred in one instance. In another instance, the guy was like, not this but like this, "Yeah, fine, whatever," when I filed. That was the response I preferred.

Don't Forget, I'm Doing You a Favor. It's hard for me to pick on editors, because I am an editor, and we all know how that can be. (Secret: it ain't easy.)

A long time ago, I had a '72 Cutlass Supreme. It had a massive engine, was made of real American steel, and by the time I was done with it, it had bullet holes in it. (That is not a lie.) That car was a bad ass motherfucker. One time, some rotten kids threw some rocks at the Cutty, so I flipped a bitch and made like I was going to run them over, and they all scattered like geese. Sometimes, I wonder what happened to that person. Some days, I miss her.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The future is that way

I bought this old road sign at a store the other day. Story of my life, man.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My new iPhone

I got an iPhone. This is very exciting. I have been taking photos with it. I also made a mini-movie with it, but I haven't uploaded it yet. I like my iPhone. If it ever leaves me, I don't know what I'll do. You can see more photos here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I get email

Hey Susannah,

I'm not really an avid follower of your blog. I actually only spent a few minutes browsing while looking for your e-mail link.

I am, however, in search of that article you wrote to that writer in like 2008/09 or something. I believe it was called "The Reverse Cowgirl". You see, my brother falls under the category of "Young Writer" and - without boring you with all the intricacies - I feel that it would do him even the littlest bit of good to read it. I found the article to be inspiring and I despise writing (in the verb sense, not the noun).

Anyway, thanks for your time. I hope it's possible to get a hold of it. I was really bummed to find it missing.

[Video via Boing Boing]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Take a picture

Hey, Cupcake, South Congress, Austin, Texas.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The girl in the fur shrug

Siege's Die Antwoord cover. So very awesome! Here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

To rebehold the stars

Know that the biggest motherfucking natural disaster in American history wiped your shit out and you're still here kicking ass and taking names, and that's a badge of honor, and everything else is just some rain.
-- Siege

Thursday, September 9, 2010

When I speak of these people, I speak of myself

Next week, I'll be working on a feature story for Boing Boing. I'm doing it for a few reasons, but the main reason is because of a feature story Lisa Katayama wrote for Boing Boing, "The Last Hospice." In it, she wrote about why she volunteers at an AIDS hospice: "I do it because I like to face my fears, and death is the one thing that I fear the most." I thought, That is a good way to live, so I looked for something that interested me and that I feared, and there it was. Mostly, I've found it's people I over-identify with that I fear. Like drag queens. (This story is not about drag queens.) Or transsexuals. Or transvestites. This is not to say I scream and run the other way when I see drag queens, transsexuals, or transvestites -- in fact, I have spent some fine times with all of those types of peoples -- but it is to say that I find them mildly frightening. And also midgets. And that I think this is because I identify with the transgendered, because I feel like being a woman is a lot like drag, being so tall and all. And I feel tiny on the inside sometimes, like a midget. (This story is not about midgets.) There was a TV show on a while ago about people with OCD that made me so nervous I couldn't watch it, but the idea of what they did was right. As long as you keep indulging the anxiety, it's real. But if you can befriend it, you can be its midget drag queen.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The truth about editors

I get an email from an editor. A book editor. She's seen The War Project. Her email says, congratulations on this amazing project. The "C" isn't capitalized, I note. Do you have a book deal? she inquires. She signs her name, so I google her name. Most of the stuff written about her is on Gawker. A series of posts describe her as shouty, or troubled, or troublesome, and there's one from someone who used to work for her that says the only time the editor was nice to her was when she was maybe drinking or something. She is best known for editing a best selling book by a former vice president. I email her back because it's an average day, and what else is there to do? I don't really like editors, or agents, but I do it anyway, knowing I will eventually regret doing so, but a) who knows when and b) I can blog it. I don't have a book deal, I write back. She wants to know where I live, so I tell her. I would love to discuss this with you, she writes. Because this is how agents and editors are. They would love to do things, and they think things are absolute amazing, and they all write with this sort of breathless anticipation like all their internal clocks are ringing the alarm on This Should've Been Done Yesterday. I send her my phone number and tell her when to call, but she never calls. Several weeks later, I get bored, and I send her an email. Are you still interested in this? I say. Her email says, absolutely. The "A" isn't capitalized, I note. She asks me if I can talk on the phone the next day. I don't respond right away, because I'm tired -- of editors, of agents, of phones. The next day, she writes, did you get my response? She sounds breathless with anticipation. would love to talk sometime tomorrow. I send her my phone number. She never calls. I wonder what she's doing. If she's out partying, or super busy, or if she ever gets sad. I wonder if she's lonely, if the ex-vice president calls her in the middle of the night and tells her that he misses her, that if she would let him, he would be her crazed sex poodle forever.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Love junkies

I wrote a story about male porn stars for The Good Men Project.
If you thought these men wanted to be studs, you were wrong. If you thought they were in it for the sex, you were soon corrected. If you thought they were in it for the glory, you were to find otherwise. They weren’t in it for any of that. They were in it for love. Only for love would a man dedicate his life to the sausage-making enterprise that is the porn industry.
[Love Junkies]

Friday, September 3, 2010

Love is a drug

There’s only one sun & there’s only one you
& me & the us that I see is maybe something
only I see. I drove myself one hour into the future
& left you behind. But it’s cold here & even if
the stars shine they don’t shine the right way anymore.
All I can tell you is that there are so many brightnesses
& I want to look at them all with you. All I can say
is that I can’t chart this dark sky alone.
We’re both too old to have bodies that shine anymore;
but there’s this persistent glow & it’s light enough
to see our way by if we let it work like that.
There’s a whole big cynical world that doesn’t need us
to need each other. But there’s a song on the radio
that raises the hair on my arms, that pumps
my heart full of love & the name of that amazingness.
I’m watching the winds tear through
dark grass blades & I know there are no words
to get you to feel that wind. I closed my eyes for a second
& saw a girl say she only wanted to know if she were
kissing someone for the last time & I’m scared
she already made up her mind right then to let me go. -- [Via & Via]

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Get involved with The War Project

Do you know someone who may be interested in participating in The War Project? The site is seeking veterans who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11. New rules enable contributors to contribute in new ways. Find out how here or email here for more information.