Adam Reger | Pittsburgh Writer, Editor, and Teacher

Pittsburgh writer, editor, ghostwriter, and teacher.

Month: June, 2010

Reason #1 to Love Pittsburgh: Anthrocon

[Author’s note: I’ve often been in the habit of titling Facebook status updates along the lines of “Reason #6,387 to Love Pittsburgh: Pierogies,” or whatever. It’s occurred to me that with this blog, it would be fun/interesting actually to quantify the reasons that I love Pittsburgh. So here’s installment #1, in no order.]

This weekend wrapped up another successful Anthrocon, also known as the Furry Convention. If you’re not familiar with furries, see here or, for a definition in their own words, here. As a statement of fact, let me note that I’m not a furry. I’ve never had a desire to dress like an animal, or consort with those who do. And while I find the whole phenomenon hilarious and strange, I’m not completely down on it.

This is the third year in a row that I’ve checked out Anthrocon. (I believe it’s been in Pittsburgh since 2006.) The first year I went, a friend and I ponied up the money to attend the conference legitimately, earning the right to go to panels (on do-it-yourself taxidermy) and things like variety shows and a(n execrable) stand-up comedy concert. Last year and this year, I confined myself to checking out the “fursuit parade.” A fursuit is the image most people have of a furry: a complete animal costume, no skin or other authentic human parts showing through. The fursuit parade is thus a fascinating look at the variety and depth of furries’ commitment to this pastime/avocation/fetish: these are all people who shlepped these massive, physically stifling costumes great distances to see and be seen. There’s always great, weird stuff at these things, too: this year there was a pair of furries (I want to say they were both dogs) wearing hockey jerseys from the movie Slap Shot. What a reference!

I could go on about the furry convention, but I have some photos that’ll probably tell more than I could. And with reference to Pittsburgh, I suppose what must be said is that it’s a special city that can make furries feel right at home. But Pittsburgh decidedly has. The bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity of the convention center (where the convention is mostly held) have always seemed game, and more than amenable to the decidedly weird, often downright-creepy crowd the convention draws in.

Anyway, the photos:

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The Best Show on WFMU

Nine or ten months ago, a friend turned me on to a radio program broadcast each week out of New Jersey, on the independent station WFMU. The friend told me I seemed “like someone who could really use the Best Show in his life.” While I took slight umbrage at that assessment, time has proved him right. The Best Show, a mongrel of a show featuring open call-ins, in-studio guests, and glorious semi-improvised call-in bits, is true to its name in being about the best thing going. The web archives have been invaluable to me as I’ve slogged through some slow days at the office. (I’ve also gotten deeply into the recordings of Scharpling and Wurster, which are the best bits from the Best Show compiled onto a series of hallucinatory and hilarious discs. Jon Wurster, an accomplished rock drummer, does a wide range of voices, from Hippy Johnny, the less-than-benevolent benefactor of a hippie commune, to Philly Boy Roy, an overly proud Philadelphian (complete with fantastic stuffed-up-nose accent), to Timmy von Trimble, the two-inch racist.)

As is only right, as I have fallen deeper into love with the Best Show I have sought to pay off my debt by spreading the word of this terrific show. So far as I can tell, others have not fallen for the show as I have, but that won’t stop me from trying. Today I put together a brief introduction for a friend who, fingers crossed, I think is a prime candidate to fall hard for the show. And I thought to myself, “I’ve got a blog now. Eventually, someone may read it. Why not post this primer there, too?” And in reply I thought, “Yes. That is actually a pretty good idea.”

And so here is a quick, somewhat arbitrary introduction to the Best Show on WFMU:

There are two archives: of complete (3- and sometimes 6-hour) shows, and of “gems,” which are (mostly) the parts described above, wherein Jon Wurster calls in doing various voices.

The gems are where I started. If you like those, and have the patience and luxury to listen to a 3-hour radio show, I’d move on to the full shows. They’re funny, Tom has good guests, and there’s usually one Wurster call-in per show.

The Gems archive here.

Within the Gems, a few good starting places:

-Bill Cheetah, a caller who’s surprisingly well-prepared to back up his trash talk.

-The manager of Club Pizzazz, presenting his ill-advised slate of upcoming events.

-Tom takes a call from Mike Sajak. Enough said.

For the advanced Best Show listener, the full-program archives are here.

Places to get started:

-Tom Scharpling and Paul F. Tompkins talk about the Gathering of the Juggalos. This one made me cry laughing.

-The following week, Jon Wurster calls in as a disgruntled Juggalo.

-Guest Patton Oswalt talks about Gallagher.

The full shows usually start with like 20 minutes of music, which made me almost not listen to them—the music’s often pretty good, but as I initially got sold on the comedy stuff I was impatient, plus I don’t like much of the psychedelic / British invasion-type stuff that Tom often plays—but if you hang in there or skip over it turns to more of a comedy show.

Enjoy! (And if you do enjoy, pass it on to someone else.)

Weirdly Appropriate Extract from Under the Dome

I said I probably wouldn’t write more about Stephen King’s Under the Dome, but I just came across this snippet, which seems bizarrely germane to the literary-vs.-“genre” fiction stuff I was going on about earlier. The background is that this elderly English professor and his grad student love interest have been trapped in Chester’s Mill when the Dome falls, and subsequently roughed up by the local cops:

“. . . At the double doors, Thurston Marshall looked back. A shaft of hazy sun from one of the high windows struck across his face, making him look older than he was. . . . ‘I edited the current issue of Ploughshares,’ he said. His voice quivered with indignation and sorrow. ‘That is a very good literary magazine, one of the best in the country. They had no right to punch me in the stomach, or laugh at me.'”

On Under the Dome; or, 1000+ words on literary versus genre fiction

I’m using that previous post to segue to a brief snapshot of where I am right now as a writer, by way of a long rumination on different modes of fiction.

About a week ago, I was at a party thrown by a Pitt creative writing professor. Invitations went out far and wide, and a lot of old students turned out. I ended up in a completely fascinating conversation with a guy who went through the program in the early nineties. For a few years during grad school and afterwards, he wrote under the pen name Franklin W. Dixon. If the name means anything to you, you may be freaking out now, as I was: Franklin W. Dixon is the author of the Hardy Boys series of novels.

Read the rest of this entry »

And yet . . .

. . . I feel I should introduce myself. So, briefly: I’m a writer living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I came out here to go to graduate school in creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh. After earning my MFA, I decided to stick around. Pittsburgh, to me, is fascinating, something I’m sure I’ll touch on in the weeks and months to come. It’s also gloriously cheap, which is a boon to creative types.

When I say I’m a writer I am, of course, describing my avocation. A significant goal of mine—and a big reason for my starting this site—is to make writing my vocation. Or at least a larger chunk of how I earn my living. To that end, I’ve been writing occasional non-fiction pieces for the University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt Magazine, the alumni publication. That’s been great fun, and a nice re-introduction to journalistic writing, which I thought I’d put aside some time in college. For the last year I’ve also been ghostwriting a novel. There’s a lot I can’t and shouldn’t say about that job, but it’s been a great experience and has, no kidding, taught me lots about writing fiction, the marketplace, and the fuzzy line between supposed “high art” and “commercial” fiction.

In medias res

I’ve blogged before and have always found overpowering the instinct to begin each new blog with a trumpet fanfare announcing the blog’s purpose and reason for being. I feel the same instinct now, but am going to resist for the reason that by the time anyone begins reading this blog, this inaugural post will be buried beneath a long column of posts.

Also, because that “Hello, World!” entry was starting to mock my slowness to put up a legit first post.

Hello world!

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