Adam Reger | Pittsburgh Writer, Editor, and Teacher

Pittsburgh writer, editor, ghostwriter, and teacher.

Month: August, 2010

Literary slap fight & Juggalo rampage

I wanted to direct your attention to this enjoyable AV Club rumination on the alarming news that a bunch of overzealous Insane Clown Posse fans attacked inexplicably famous person Tila Tequila at the Gathering of the Juggaloes. The rampant uncouthness of these fans was eerily predicted by this Scharpling & Wurster bit (about an hour to 90 minutes in).

And I’m also using this opportunity to sneak in a few links that I couldn’t quite turn into the considered, thoughtful post I wanted to post.

I wrote about a thousand words trying to make some kind of meaningful response to this list of 15 overrated contemporary writers, written by Anis Shivani, an all-but-unknown writer, in The Huffington Post. And I also wanted to approvingly link to Anna North, at Jezebel, who responded elegantly here.

The problem I had was in taking this guy’s idiosyncratic opinions, which he’d like to elevate above the state of mere opinion by using lots of jargon and trashing these writers (mostly women, as Anna North points out (although the baffling thing, to me, was the high number of poets singled out for punishment; how many readers are these poets reaching, and thus how much damage could they be causing? Maybe lay off a bit, playboy.)), and discussing something more than the article, the specific whining, and the specific writers.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Surprising comparison of the day

According to a co-worker, this economist looks like King Buzzo of Seattle sludge/grunge band The Melvins.

Q: Are internet comments the worst?

A: Yes, internet comments are the worst.

As evidence, I’d submit a comment to this story, about cartoonist Cathy Guisewite calling it quits on the beloved, long-running strip Cathy. This incisive remark comes to us from someone called Woof:

“Good riddance. Cathy was a left leaning strip, drawn by a very left leaning woman.”

Yahoo! lets you click on a commenter’s name and see his or her oeuvre. Woof’s is pretty dumb. It zigzags across the line between deeply stupid and funny. I didn’t want to waste too much time picking through it. But I quite enjoyed his/her comment on this story, about Steven Slater, the JetBlue employee who quit in a blaze of glory on Monday.

Woof: “obama’s fault”.

John Lurie

I hadn’t noticed, but the actor, musician, artist, and TV host John Lurie apparently disappeared some time in the aughts (or whatever you want to call the decade that just ended; I’m not in love with “aughts” either). The New Yorker is on the case, with a tease that you can read in full (and that has a revealing slide show presenting Lurie then and now). The tease tease a longer story in this week’s magazine, the link to which, unless you have digital access, will bring you only as far as the abstract. The abstract makes for weirdly fascinating reading, though, and if you read many New Yorker articles the last few sentences may strike you (as they did me) as funny, in the sense of encapsulating the NYer m.o.

Lurie is, for me, a permanent topic of interest because of his roles in two of Jim Jarmusch’s best films, Stranger than Paradise and Down by Law. The first of those is often credited with birthing, or at least being in the Baby Boom of, American independent film. The second is, for me, one of those movies that, if you were to tell me you didn’t care for it, I would feel no compunction in calling you a jerk.

New MFA Week

I just updated my “Non-Fiction” page to include a cache of newly discovered blog posts over at Hot Metal Bridge, the online lit mag of the University of Pittsburgh’s MFA writing program.

In doing so, I re-discovered the fruit of one of my more inspired moments as an editor: “New MFA Week.” Being a mighty third-year at the end of the summer, I thought it would be cool to have various people contribute tips and advice to students who were at that moment finding apartments, registering for courses, and making travel arrangements to get to wherever they were starting their new lives as Masters students.

Some of the entries, like this dispatch on Pittsburgh’s vibrant food scene, are Pittsburgh-specific.

Other installments include how to go about locking down funding for your grad-school education; how to go about submitting your work to literary magazines; and some more general ruminations here and here (that one’s mine).

I feel most of the advice holds up, and should be of interest to non-Pitt soon-to-be-MFAs. (And the food stuff should certainly be of interest to non-MFA Pittsburgh people.) I wish we’d gotten to go a little more in depth, and there are people who I think could have contributed useful insights who I ended up not asking. But, you know: regrets, I’ve had a few / But then again, too few to mention, etc.

Typo Hunt

These grammar-loving travelers are my kind of people. And here is their blog, chronicling their adventures correcting typos (or, less charitably, spelling and grammatical errors).

I am minimally famous

. . . for having won last week’s “Hang up and Listen” (a sports-themed podcast done by Slate writers and editors) trivia contest. I was all aflutter over it late last week, after posting (what I and others believed to be) the correct answer on the HuaL Facebook page. I simmered down over the weekend, but felt a surge of pride and embarrassment at just now hearing my name read out on the podcast. I briefly considered writing to prompt them on the pronunciation of my name (which is Reger as in beggar; unfortunately I haven’t been able to think of a better illustrative rhyme) but didn’t and am glad, because although they got it wrong (Reger as in eager) I find I don’t mind so much.

For posterity, here’s the trivia question: “What do Sparky Anderson, Shawn Kemp, and Dick McGuire have in common?”

My winning answer: “All have nicknames that are Dustin Hoffman character names: ‘Captain Hook’ (Anderson), ‘Reign [Rain] Man’ (Kemp), and ‘Mumbles’ [from Dick Tracy–nice] (McGuire).”

Josh Levin, Slate‘s sports editor and host of the podcast, rightly complimented Mike Pesca, the trivia guru, for an inventive and difficult question. Pesca said that he thought this was his favorite question so far, and I definitely agree.

Update: Perhaps I spoke too soon in my fawning, appreciative remarks about the shout-out I received during the podcast: during the end (or “Cocktail Chatter” or, in this one, “Riggins’s Rigs”) segment, Pesca mentions being impressed by my getting the trivia answer (good), then checking out my Facebook page (worrying), and concludes that I am a furrie (bad, very bad).

He uses this to springboard into a funny, non-Adam-related bit, but still. Let me correct the record right now. Thinking I am a furrie is understandable, given that my photo has me at Anthrocon, grasping the detachable tail of a giant gecko. But readers will note that I am dressed as an ordinary citizen, and for good reason: I am one. To reiterate: I AM NOT A FURRIE.

Thank you for your time.

Later Update: It occurred to me that Mike Pesca’s explanation of how he came up with this trivia question is noteworthy for an extra reason, which is that, by apparent coincidence, he came to the topic of Dustin Hoffman character names a week before the man’s birthday. More synchronicitously, this meant that the podcast appeared the day after Hoffman’s birthday (which is August 8). I saw that while running down the answer: I came to Dustin Hoffman’s Wikipedia page to confirm the names of his characters, and noticed the birth date. “Clever, clever Mr. Pesca,” I thought at the time. Apparently, though, it was mostly dumb luck. Go figure.

Silly Facebook

Original photo, uploaded a few months ago:

Some felt work

A screenshot from the sidebar of my homepage, yesterday:

Whose face is this?

This reminded me a bit of this NYT article, on the problem of Facebook suggesting that people “reconnect” with friends who’ve passed away, unbeknownst to the site.

As good as computers get, they’re still not ready to overthrow us and run things. I, for one, find this comforting.

Second, probably final thought on “Inception”

Over the weekend I eavesdropped on a conversation where someone raved about Inception and explained why the other person had to see it immediately. I remain unmoved from my earlier position on it. None of my concerns has been overridden by the people I know who’ve loved it, and after doing a quick Rotten Tomatoes search, I see that although I’m still in the minority on this, it’s a proud minority. (I am somewhat bummed, and tempted to be persuaded, by this favorable review by Scott Tobias of the AV Club. Historically, the AV Club’s reviews have been pretty strong indicators of whether I’ll like a movie or not (the music reviews, less so). I always find it vaguely distressing when I don’t care for something they rave about, almost to the point where I begin second-guessing my own take on the film.)

The review that says it best, in my opinion, is Andrew O’Hehir’s at Salon. There are many good observations in it, but a couple really hit home with me:

-“So, yeah, if you approach ‘Inception’ with lowered expectations it’s a pretty good time. Problem is, there are no lowered expectations around Christopher Nolan . . .” I couldn’t articulate this point in discussing the movie with people who wanted to view it just as a dumb action movie, and thus to grade it on a curve, but this is it. If P.T. Anderson made a really awesome, “dumb” action movie, I would be disappointed. (And in fact, one of my enduring complaints about Inception is that it’s not even a really awesome action movie: the snowmobile fighting is so difficult to follow, and thus so boring, this may as well have been G.I. Joe.)

-“All of this involves a bunch of big-ass guys shooting at each other with automatic weapons, which has to be the most arid and depressing depiction of the dream state I’ve ever encountered. There are no surreal images or nonsense dialogue, no illogical shifts of scene from the first-grade classroom to Mom’s kitchen to a whorehouse.” I was almost embarrassed to air this criticism after seeing the movie—my feeling was that Nolan must have considered a more “dreamy” dream state, but nixed that idea in favor of having the entire film be more coherent; I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to juggle so much plot, and such a complicated (I really want to say “convoluted,” actually) plot, while also working in the kinds of random shifts and wrinkles O’Hehir suggests. But, in a word, yes. I felt Nolan went far enough in nodding to certain dream aspects—you never remember how you got to a certain place in a dream, for example—that the dream states in the movie come off as uncomfortably neither-here-nor-there.

That’s probably the last I’ll say about Inception because, though it’s one of those deals where I want to keep venting about my disappointment, as if I’d been personally aggrieved, it must be said that it was a pretty solid, entertaining movie and I don’t regret having seen it. Apparently there are other movies out there, though, on DVD as well as in theaters, so I will probably turn my attention to those now.

Nerd Alert

At some point today, a (remarkably detailed) digital wristwatch might read: 12:34:56.7 8/9/10. This might be less exciting for the purist than last year on July 8th, when the same exhaustively informative wristwatch would have read: 12:34:56 7/8/[0]9.