You guys, I know I've been lax with the blog. Live shows have been taking up most of my time. Including the above clip, which is me telling a story and then singing my heart out at The Jukebox series at Union Hall. Hopefully it makes up for the recent dearth of nonsense essays.
I’ve been thinking that I need a place to organize my CBS Sunday Morning fan fiction. I mean, besides the overflowing file cabinets in my basement. Someplace that can provide a searchable catalogue of these stories for future generations of CBS Sunday Morning fans.
Well, thanks to a generous grant from the Paley Center for Media, this website can now become the central hub for CBS Sunday Morning-based fan lore. In the future months, readers can expect scanned PDFs of my handwritten fan stories along with drawings, paintings and genealogy charts. But, to begin, let’s start with a sampling of story abstracts.
Bill Geist Goes Dog Roller Skating
Lovable grumpuss Bill Geist takes his grandson’s Labradoodle to a Chattanooga roller rink for dogs. Incredulous at first, Bill quickly warms to the idea of plain-spoken folks just enjoying a day out roll-bouncing with their pups. It’s adorable when Bill struggles to strap rollerblades to the energetic pooch and even more so when he gives up and the two of them sit on the bench sharing an ice cream cone.
Rita Braver Interviews Kris Kristofferson For Some Reason
It’s never really explained why Rita Braver is profiling Kris Kristofferson. His mansion looks beautiful, but they don’t seem to have much to talk about in his baroque rose garden. So, Rita mostly just references their past two interviews together and asks him again about Barbara Streisand.
Serena Altschul Remembers Slap Bracelets
Remember slap bracelets from the 80s? Serena Altschul sure does. She travels the entirety of the Lower East Side of Manhattan to pull together a comprehensive history of the slap bracelet, including Laurie Anderson’s surprisingly large, rare slap bracelet collection and a found object sculptor using slap bracelets to comment on corporate greed.
Steve Hartman Goes to Typewriter Town
Steve Hartman visits a small Nebraska town where all of the children are given old-timey typewriters at birth. Teens there compete after school to see who can change an ink ribbon the fastest. The town hall is even shaped like a classic Underwood Touch-Master 5. As adults, all the citizens are moderately fast typists. It’s the American way.
David Edelstein Reviews Happy Feet Two
He likes it well enough. But, the real wonder is Elijah Wood’s voice. It’s bold. It’s effervescent. It brings back the joy and wonder of Old Hollywood with its crackling timbre and wispy sibilants. If you’re a fan of Clark Gable’s turn in It Happened One Night, you’ll love Wood’s resplendent voice work in Happy Feet Two.
Mo Rocca Prunes His Sweater Vest Collection
We go inside Mo Rocca’s cluttered apartment where he feigns embarrassment about his overabundance of sweater vests. He goes through each one, explaining which were gifts and which were bought on vacation. He can’t bear to get rid of any, so he asks Simon Doonan to come in and help. They laugh together. It’s wonderful.
So, that’s just a random sampling of my hundreds of CBS Sunday Morning fan-written short stories. Email me if you like to see more. Plus, I’d really like to get your email address. We should meet in person and get coffee sometime. I mean, whatever. No pressure or anything. Hello? Are you still reading?
If you’re receiving this note, it means that you are my new barber and/or hairdresser. First off, congratulations. You may not realize this, but you have passed a rigorous screening and background check. That’s something to feel very proud about.
Second, I hope you’re looking forward to this process as much as I am. I’m very excited to work together with you on creating the best haircut possible for me. I think, together, we can really do something special here.
Instead, of rushing through a discussion of what I’d like done with my hair just before the haircut, itself, I figured I’d write down some thoughts for you to fully digest before our appointment later this week.
Here are some feelings I’d like this haircut to convey:
- Bold self-awareness
- Attention to the past paired an enlightened optimism re: the future
I understand that these are simply words at this point. None of this will take final shape until we see the fully-realized haircut in action. I mean, neither of us can guess exactly what people will think when they look at this haircut. If we could control that, we’d rule the world. But, we can encourage. We can prod. We can guide.
I guess what I want this haircut to ultimately do is inspire others to be the best selves they can be. That’ll require both an eye on detail and attentiveness to the greater overall vision. Some would say your focus should be the minutiae and implementation, while I should handle big picture goals. Well, that might be okay for standard, everyday trims. But, I’m not looking for an employee; I want a partner. Let’s roll up our sleeves. Let’s spitball ideas. Really dig into the greater issues surrounding this haircut.
For instance, we both know that a haircut is not a static artifact. From the moment any single hair is snipped, it becomes an ever-changing dynamic aesthetic element, both in its kinetic movement and in its literal growth. A breeze, a jaunty step, the ticking of the clock---a haircut is literally different from one second to the next. And, planning can only account for so much of the ultimate form and function of a hairstyle. That’s why we need to be light on our feet.
Included in this envelope, you’ll find some additional materials to look over. It’s a few rough charcoal sketches and some magazine clippings. Don’t worry; none of these reference other, existing haircuts. I wouldn’t insult you as like that.
It’s more a style guide or a mood chart---photos of the Acropolis, gouaches of limestone sea caves, an interesting essay on fractals and their relationship to contemporary origami. Don’t worry about memorizing any of it; just be familiar with some of the concepts before our pre-haircut phone call.
Speaking of, can you send me your availability for a quick Skype conference about this? I want to bring in a couple of other creative types I know for a brainstorming session. There’s a Google document where you can sign up for any of the three-hour blocks. I mean, ideally, I’d like you involved with all of the sessions, but I understand that you’ll need time to sharpen you scissors and test your combs and such.
Again, I’m really excited about this, and I hope you are as well. If you need to reach me for any reason, there’s a list of my various phone and fax numbers in Section C of the attached documents. Don’t hesitate to call or email any time, day or night.
All the best,
Andrew "Andy" Ross
I’m sorry to say this, but it’s too late in life for me to learn what charcuterie means.
Please don’t try to define the word. There’s no room left in my brain for it. Believe me, people have tried to explain what charcuterie means before. It doesn’t stick.
All I know is that it has something to do with yuppie dinner parties and grocery stores that used to be banks. Or something like that. General fanciness maybe? If I had to guess, I would say charcuterie meant a place that serves high end hot chocolate. But, then again, something about the vowel sounds suggests pickles for some reason. That’s about as far as I can get before my memory starts throwing up defenses.
For example, last time I sat down to look up charcuterie on wikipedia, my brain was like, “Hey, before you do that, maybe you should double-check if you remember your online banking password.” So, I went to log in to my bank, and I could just barely remember my password. I think the implied threat from my subconscious was that if I learn one more unnecessary word definition, I’m going to lose an important memory. My bank password, for instance. Just for instance.
Listen, it’s a noble effort, you trying to teach me what charcuterie means. It is, and I love you for it. But, I just can’t. I’m sorry. “No room in the inn.” “I am stuffed.” “The straw that broke the camel’s back.” All that stuff.
I’m sure it would be great to go through life learning more and more words---having the world open up before you like the inside of a geode. Tiny nuances of meaning and thought coalescing to form an intricate, crystalline cultural landscape full of beauty and unmitigated understanding. But, did you see how many fancy words I just used? That’s all I’ve got in me. Believe me, if I tried to throw “charcuterie” in there somewhere, it would have fucked everything up.
Guys, we’re just going to have to come to terms with the idea that I can only handle a finite number of terms and ideas.
So, whatever new word you’re excited to tell me---inchoate, recondite, alacrity, onanisme---it would literally go in one ear and out the other. By the way, I’m a little hazy on what the word “literally” means. It’s the same as metaphorically, right?
You know, it doesn’t really matter at this point.
Hello, Kristie, is it? Welcome to Playboy. I’ll be your photographer, Donald.
Oh, it says in your file that this is your first time posing nude. Well, don’t be nervous. Nothing to worry about. Actually, full disclosure, this is my first time photographing a nude model. I just got hired on Friday. So, let’s agree to not be nervous together, shall we? Alright.
You can go ahead and take off your robe while I check the lighting over... Oh my golly. What is--- Are those your underpants? Goodness, those are very... something. Did wardrobe give you those? No, they’re yours? Even with all lace bits and the strappy thingies? Well, gosh, that’s... holy moly.
Uhhhh, okay. Why don't you get on the bed there. Careful not to--- no, you got it.
I’m just going to take a few test shots with your underclothes on, so that the both of us can get more comfortable with this whole business. So, that is what I'm doing now.
I am taking pictures.
Taking photographs, because I am a photographer.
Hey, Kristie? Hi. Try to make your face kinda, um, sexual. Sensual? I don’t know. Like, maybe you want to--- Nope you got it. That’s good what you're doing there with your mouth and stuff. Good job, buddy.
Sorry, buddy is the wrong word. Sorry. I'm just gonna pick up this light I knocked over.
Alright, whenever you're ready, you can unhook your top thingy. That’s right---your bra. That’s what it’s called. Take your time; I don't want to rush--- Oh boy, you just took that right off. You just... Um, alright. Okay. Umm... I should probably take more pictures if that's okay with you.
Please, if you could tilt your chin up, please. Thank you very thank you. And, could you please turn your top parts towards the camera. That's right; those parts.
Um, yeah, so it would be good for the pictures if you put your hands near your booooo... your breaa... your bosoms. For the photographs, could you kinda touch your bosomy parts? Again, this is for the pictures. This isn’t like a personal request or anything.
Phew, okay, we got that. I think these pictures are gonna be real nice so far. And, I guess it's time to take off the rest of what you’re wearing. Your bottoms.
Gosh, there they go. That has happened.
I'm just going to change film here. Oh, that’s right; this is a digital camera. Look at that. I knew that. Why did I think this was a film camera? Ha ha, that weird.
Whoa! That's your tushy. Your backside, I mean. Your buuuu... your bum. It's just right there. Out in the open. I should probably take a picture of that, I guess. That's my job, after all. This is my job. Taking pictures of naked ladies is my job. Okay.
It’s very hot in here. Are you sweating? No? I’m sweating.
Wow, y’know what? I need to go get a glass of water. Would you like a glass of water? Maybe some ice tea? I’m going to bring you some ice tea. Just wait here.
I’m actually feeling a little bit feint, so I’m gonna be over here in the corner breathing into this paper bag. No no no. Keep doing what you’re doing though. You’re doing great. Everything is just great. Phew, okay.
Thanks for your understanding. I hope you’re enjoying your first shoot.
Some people are naturally gifted public speakers. Me, for instance. Put me in front of a room full of strangers, and I'll just talk and talk and talk. About anything, really---the weather, Masonic conspiracies, which animals people look like, how sweaty I'm getting. I will literally never stop to take a breath or vomit into my mouth. That’s my level of comfort around crowds.
But, I understand that not everybody is as gifted at public speaking. Some people---if you can imagine---get nervous in front of large groups whom they rightly assume are judging their every word.
For those pathetic dumps, here are a few helpful tips for speaking in front of an audience:
- When looking out at the crowd, picture everyone in their underwear. This will deflate the tension. Unless the underwear is really sexy.
- Control your breathing. Try to breathe once for every four heartbeats, which you’ll probably feel pulsating inside in your head.
- Pick out one person in the audience, and imagine you are speaking to only him or her. Just don't say her name at the end of every sentence, especially if she’s your ex-wife.
- Carefully go over your list of talking points beforehand. You did remember to make annotated flashcards, right? RIGHT?!
- Plant your feet. Feel grounded. Don’t lock your knees, or you’ll pass out. But, don’t think too much about not locking your knees, or you will also pass out.
- Mark your speech with predetermined pauses. For swallowing and burps and whatnot.
- Remember: You’re the one holding the gun. That gives you all the power.
- Have a bottle of water handy in case of cottonmouth. Cheap gin works too.
- If one the hostages acts up, make an example of him right away. One heckler (or hysterical crier) can throw off the entire pace of a robbery.
- Lighten the mood up top with a joke or a silly walk.
- A bullhorn is a good idea, especially because the rubber Simpsons mask will muffle your voice.
- Know your audience. A little crowd work goes a long way. Is anyone there from out of town?
- Remember: Commands and demands. You’re never asking a police negotiator for anything; you’re telling him what he’s going to give you. Like a helicopter.
- You can always fall back on your note cards if you lose your place.
- If it goes past two hours, booby trap the air vents.
- Stay away from the windows.
- Did Johnny just use your real name? DID HE JUST SAY YOUR FUCKING NAME IN FRONT OF THE HOSTAGES?!!
- That’s it---Johnny’s become a liability. You shouldn’t have let your girlfriend talk you into bringing along her loser brother.
- Tape Johnny’s mouth underneath his mask and shove him outside with one of the Uzis and some C-4 strapped to him. While the cops are distracted with that, there’s a service tunnel leading down to an abandoned subway line. I’d say you have a four-minute head start.
- Don’t get tempted by the helicopter. That was just a stalling tactic.
- The Cossack has a passport waiting for you over by that one place near the piers. The one where we did that thing with the Armenians.
- There’s a van to take you to a private airfield upstate. The Cossack’s guy, Viktor, will do the count and the split on the way. You can trust him, but don’t stare at his missing thumb. He’s got a mean streak.
- After that, it’s a jump flight to Atlanta and then smooth sailing down to Bogota.
- I gotta stay behind to take care of a few things with that iPad shipment that went bad. But, I’ll meet you down there in a couple weeks. A girl I know works the bar at The Conejo Loco. She’ll set you up with a place.
- Don’t flash around any money. That place is crawling with cartel guys.
So, those are my helpful tips for public speaking. I know you get anxious talking in front of strangers, but you pull this job off and we’re set for life. Man, you won’t believe the pussy and blow down in Colombia. It's like fuckin' Heaven.
Now, go out there are break a leg.
First off, a warning that this post is a little sincere. Please skip ahead to the videos if you don't go for that sort of thing.
You may have noticed that I suddenly stopped blogging for the past two months. It's odd, because I had written every day for the year and a half prior. It's not that I was sick or needed a break; I'm always slightly sick, and my Midwestern guilt doesn't allow me to take breaks. Either of those things, and I would have stopped writing the blog after week two.
Instead, I've been swamped with live shows, specifically my show REAL CHARACTERS at McNally Jackson Books. When I moved it to the new space, I ask my friend Ann Marie to serve as producer, and together we've been booking and promoting the hell out of it.
That meant reaching out to publications and booking the best writers and performers I could find. Which, in turn, meant emailing strangers, which is horrifying to me. The last two months have been me in a constant state of panic over the following:
Should I re-edit this outgoing email?
Do I seem properly casual and off-the-cuff?
Was it rude that I got this person's email address from a mutual friend?
Why hasn't this person emailed me back?
How long do I wait before I offer the slot to someone else?
Did I sound too grateful that they said yes?
Do I sound too disappointed they said no?
Did I use the wrong homophone?
OH NO! I used the wrong homophone!
That said, it's all worked out great, and we've had three amazing shows, and I couldn't be prouder of them. If you haven't come to the live show, please do. You'll love it. I'm going to get back to writing new blog posts every day starting sometime this week. But, until then, enjoy this small sampling of some of the many terrific performances at REAL CHARACTERS:
Hey, you guys, I just realized I've been running this celebrity gossip blog for well over a year without posting any actual celebrity gossip. Sorry about that. I must have gotten distracted. To make it up to you---my gossip-obsessed readers---I've got some really juicy scoops.
Really juicy. Like, super juicy. Juicier than you can imagine. Okay, so imagine the juiciest scoop you can imagine. Even juicier than that. That’s how juicy these scoops are gonna be. Are you sitting down? Are you seated? Because things are about to get juicy.
Blind item: Okay, now this one is really salacious. Super juicy. Ready? It turns out that a big time movie star, whom everybody thought was nice, it turns out he’s…
Wait, before I get to that, I feel like maybe I should explain why I haven’t been better about loading you up on celebrity gossip.
It’s hard being a professional celebrity gossipist. The pressure to get juicy scoops; the scarcity of the scoops, themselves; the public relations people constantly feeding you scoops that might seem juicy at first but aren’t actually juicy at all---it wears a person down.
I mean, just sifting and winnowing through all the would-be scoops day in and day out, deciding which ones are juicy… Is this scoop juicy enough? Is it too juicy? How juicy is too juicy? That’s a lot of responsibility.
Add to that the overhead costs of being a working gossip hound. There’s laptop upkeep and wifi access. There are bribery payments to loose-lipped doormen. There are constant cab rides, chasing celebrities around the city hoping to catch them doing something juicy. It adds up.
Plus, I don’t know if you guys realize this, but there’s an almost infinite amount of competition out there for the juicy scoops and only a finite number of celebrities to produce juiciness. I mean, it’s not like any old random person can become a celebrity. It’s not like you can get on television without any discernible talent or skill, make a fool of yourself, and suddenly be a celebrity.
I mean, if that were the case, folks would be chasing fame all the time. There would be an entire metropolis filled with soulless, beautiful automatons doing whatever it takes to become famous. They’d fabricate opportunities to be out in front of photographers. They’d make scenes at nightclubs. They’d shoplift or flash their undergarments or, worst of all, become DJs.
Can you imagine a world like that? It’d be terrible. We’d be flooded with all sorts of false juicy scoops every day until we forgot which were the real scoops were and which were just juiceless static.
Soon, with the fall of celebrity journalism, other kinds of journalism---political, business, scientific---would collapse. The rich and powerful would realize that the social narrative could be manipulated and manufactured. Juiciness would be replaced by faux juiciness, and we’d be too distracted to know the difference.
As Edward R. Murrow said: If every scoop is the juiciest, then no scoop is the juiciest.
It’s a horrific idea, I know. Let’s just be grateful that it’s not the case.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I just saw a cable television persona/teenage mother buy Starbucks while wearing a see-through tank top and carrying an iguana. Time for a little investigative journalism…
Hey, you guys, if aliens land on Earth, can I call dibs on being their first contact? Sure, I bet scientists and politicians would scramble to be first in line, but I think I could do a better job, and I'll tell you why.
One, I wouldn't make it such a big deal. My guess is that aliens would be weirded out by a lot of pomp and circumstance. Instead of flags and fancy handshakes and junk, I'd be all like, "Hey, dudes, pop a squat on that ottoman. I'll go grab us some cold ones." And, I bet the aliens would be like, "Awesome, yeah. This guy's got a cool apartment. Look at that dope Pearl Jam poster."
Two, I wouldn't be all up their asses about advanced technology. You send a scientist in as first contact, and he'd be like, "Spaceship spaceship spaceship!" Yeah, I mean, we'd get to that stuff eventually, but you gotta ease into it. I'd be like, "So, what are you guys into? Music? Or just chilling out? Cool. Cool. So, like, does your spaceship run on crazy powerful crystals or something? Do you have any extra of those?"
And, then we’d get to live on a world where everything’s run on crystals and everybody has Segways and stuff. Y’know why? Because I wouldn’t be pushy about it.
Where are we at? Three?
Three, if shit goes down, I know how to handle myself. Like, say these alien dudes are interested in world domination and kidnapping folks for butt probing.
See, if the military were there, they be all like, "LAUNCH THE NUKES!" at even the first sign of lasers or anal probers. Whoa whoa whoa, there's no need for nukes. My buddy, Herc, tries this kinda shit all the time, so I have experience in these areas. (Totally true. Whenever Herc gets wasted, he always grabs dudes and tries sticking his finger up the backs of their shorts. He’s laughing when he does it, but I think there’s something else there, too.)
But, instead of needing the military, I could just be like, "I got this," and whip out some kung fu shit. Just go total Roadhouse on those aliens. I'd be like, "POW CHOP PA-POW, WHAMMO!" And, they be all, "Oww, oooh, ugh! My big, gray head!"
Ask Tommy. He's seen me do it to a guy once who was messing with a girl at the Quik Trip.
Then, when the aliens are sitting on the curb, rubbing their sore heads or whatever, I'd hand them a cold brew, and I'd be like, " Sorry I had to put you guys in your place. But, you get that you pulled a dick move, right? Are we cool?"
And, they’d be like, “Yeah. Sorry we tried to invade you guys. We learned our lesson.”
Part four... Uh, okay, so everything so far has assumed these aliens were the little gray dudes who may or may not be into planetary conquering and/or butt science. Instead, if these aliens are the sexy green lady kind of aliens, I also call dibs on first contact.
For that I’m gonna need some supplies---candles, chocolate-covered cherries, maybe some scented oils from Spencer’s Gifts. I’m kinda low on cash right now, so do you think the U.N. Nations would chip in to buy those things? They’re in charge of UFO landing stuff, right?
Can you do me a solid and call and ask them? I don’t really know anybody at the U.N. Nations, and I think it’d be weird if I just called them up asking for money for sex stuff. Anyway, let me know if you hear back from them.
I’m really excited about this first contact stuff. I think it’s gonna turn out really great.
I wouldn't say I'm drunk with power. No, I'm not drunk with power. A little tipsy with power, yes. But not drunk.
I don't have enough power to be drunk with power. Believe me, I know my limit. It takes at least two or three times this amount of responsibility and say-so for me to go on a full-on power bender. But, sure, I've got a power buzz going. I'm feeling pretty good right now. Feeling good.
Like, for instance, I would not make you hand me your stapler and then throw it away just to prove that I could. I wouldn't do that. I might borrow your stapler and “forget” to return it. I can easily see myself doing that at my current level of power intoxication. That sounds like me. Yes, siree.
Yes, maybe I'm a bit smilier. Maybe I've got a skosh more jaunt to my step. A moderate amount of power will do that to a man. But, I swear I know my limit.
Here, look---I'm touching my nose and walking a straight line. I'm not forcing an underling touch my nose for me. If I were doing that, I'd be that first person to admit that I might need to cut back on power.
Am I being mean to the mailroom guy? No. Am I demanding people avert their eyes in the elevator? No. Am I making the interns go get me coffee? Yes. Yes, I am doing that. Like I said, I’m slightly buzzed on power.
Excuse me one sec. I gotta answer my phone. Don't go anywhere.
Hello? Frank! Franky Frank, how you livin', you ol’ ziplock bag of crap? I'm just kidding. How’s Marie? What? No, you’re not interrupting anything important. Are we still on for racquetball Thursday? Sure sure. Ha! You’re goddamn right I am. Alright, I’ll see you then. Slap Marie on the ass for me. Ha ha, no, you’re gay.
Now, what was I saying? Oh yeah, maybe I might be a tiny bit drunk with power. Maybe a tiny lil’ bit. But, if I can admit that I'm drunk on power, can you please admit that your face looks like a rabbit? Can we admit that?
Admit it, or you're fired.