“Marbles was in many respects was the senior thesis in psychology that I never did as an undergrad.”
The great Seattle cartoonist Ellen Forney joins the show to talk about comics, civic art, being bipolar, and the challenges of maintaining! We get into her 2012 graphic memoir, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me, finding a graphic representation of her depressive states, the evolution in her drawing style, the letter she stole from Michael Dougan, the process of going from comics panels to enormous murals for a light-rail station in Seattle, the influence of the Moosewood Cookbook, the importance of a psychology stats class she took in college, how she learned to teach comics, the moment when she felt she was using all her artistic tools, and why she needed Kaz to design her back-tattoo! Give it a listen! And go buy Marbles!
“Knowing statistics doesn’t prepare you for the experience of the person in front of you.”
About our Guest
Cartoonist Ellen Forney is the author of NYT bestseller Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir, and the 2012 “Genius Award” winner in Literature from Seattle’s The Stranger. She collaborated with Sherman Alexie on the National Book Award-winning novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, created the Eisner-nominated comic books I Love Led Zeppelin and Monkey Food: The Complete “I Was Seven in ’75” Collection, and has taught comics at Cornish College of the Arts since 2002. She grew up in Philadelphia and has lived in Seattle, Washington since 1989. Ellen swims and does yoga, and fixes things with rubber bands and paper clips.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Forney’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Promo photo of Ms. Forney by Jacob Peter Fennell. Back-at-her-desk photo of Ms. Forney by me. It’s on my instagram.
“The most important thing I thought students needed was the one thing you’re never allowed to teach.”
Legendary author (and longtime pal) Samuel R. Delany (a.k.a. Chip) joins the show to talk about the sex lives of older gay men, how he’s taken to Facebook, how losing his library was akin to lobotomization, the writers he misses, Star Wars, his attraction to homeless men, retiring from teaching, the one thing he wanted to teach students but was never allowed to, the split between good writing and award-winning writing, and his passive-aggressive technique for getting me to organize a breakfast brunch for him. (It worked; there are pictures on my Instagram feed.) Give it a listen! And go buy lots of Chip’s books!
“When you lose several thousand books and you’re a writer, that’s kind of like having a lobotomy. . . . I have the desire for exactitude but no method to achieve it unless I have texts in front of me.”
“Too many appalling writers have won the Nobel Prize for literature.”
About our Guest
Samuel R. Delany is the author of dozens of books, including Dhalgren and The Mad Man, and the best-selling nonfiction study Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. He lives in Philadelphia and recently retired from teaching at Temple University. The Lambda Book Report chose Delany as one of the fifty most significant people of the past hundred years to change our concept of gayness, and he is a recipient of the William Whitehead Memorial Award for a lifetime’s contribution to lesbian and gay literature. Wesleyan University Press recently published In Search of Silence: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany, Volume I, 1957-1969.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Chip’s apartment in Philadelphia on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Chip at his breakfast brunch by me. It’s on my instagram.
“One of my favorite things is to take a character, figure out what’s most important to them, and then take it away and see what they do.”
Stona Fitch joins the show to talk about balancing his careers as a novelist, a publisher, and a freelance writer with family life. We discuss his new novel, the crime thriller Third Rail, why he he wrote it under the nom de plume Rory Flynn, his influences and favorite crime writers, the challenges of writing a sequel, the futility of debating genre categories, and more! Give it a listen!
“My mentor Russell Banks told me, ‘Go to Miami, you’ll see everything.’ He also said I’d be a great plumber.”
We also talk about what possessed him to write Senseless, which is one of the most disturbing novels ever written. But don’t worry; it’s not all crime and horror! There’s also Stona’s role as the founder of the Concord Free Press, an innovative, generosity-based publishing house! Plus, we explore the benefits of doing corporate work by day and learning about fields you’d otherwise never have any experience in.
“My wife said, ‘Stona, I think you’ve found a brand-new way for writers not to make money.'”
We talk about a bunch of books in this episode. Here’s a list of ’em (Note: if I ever go to a Patreon crowdfunding model for the show, this is the first thing that goes subscriber-only):
- Third Rail: An Eddy Harkness Novel – Rory Flynn
- Dark Horse: An Eddy Harkness Novel – Rory Flynn
- Senseless – Stona Fitch
- Strategies for Success – Stona Fitch
- Give + Take – Stona Fitch
- Printer’s Devil – Stona Fitch
- The Friends of Eddie Coyle: A Novel – George V. Higgins
- The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
- Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
- The Next Queen of Heaven: A Novel – Gregory Maguire
- Beautiful Ruins: A Novel – Jess Walter
- Citizen Vince – Jess Walter
- I Served the King of England – Bohumil Hrabal
- The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories – Bruno Schulz
- Book of Numbers: A Novel – Joshua Cohen
- The Goldfinch: A Novel – Donna Tartt
- Against the Day – Thomas Pynchon
About our Guest
Via Stona’s site:
Praised by critics and readers, Stona Fitch’s novels are published widely throughout the world and have inspired other works, from graphic novels to films. His latest novel, Third Rail (2014, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), marks the debut of the Eddy Harness series of Boston-based crime novels – published under the pen name Rory Flynn.
Give + Take (2011) crosses genres with a noir-inflected, hilarious road tale. Printer’s Devil (2009) updates A Clockwork Orange to create a post-apocalyptic parable. Critics cite Senseless (2001) as a prescient novel that anticipated violent anti-globalization protests, online hostages, and use of fear as a political tool. It is often described as one of the most disturbing novels ever written. Senseless is now an independent feature film, a graphic novel, and a cult classic.
In 2008, Stona founded the Concord Free Press, a revolutionary publishing house that publishes and distributes original novels throughout the world, asking only that readers make a voluntary donation to a charity or person in need. The first nine CFP books have inspired nearly $500,000 in generosity.
Stona lives with his family in Concord, MA, where he is also a committed community activist. He and his family work with Gaining Ground, a non-profit farm.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1961, Stona Fitch grew up in the midwest and south. While an undergraduate at Princeton, he received the Creative Writing Program’s Lannan Award for Fiction. He also served as chairman of The Daily Princetonian, and wrote for The Anchorage Daily News.
After graduation, Stona reported briefly for The Miami Herald before moving to Boston and joining its burgeoning underground music scene. In 1984, he joined the seminal Boston-based pop group Scruffy The Cat, playing electric banjo, mandolin, accordion, and organ–as well as writing songs. He recorded two albums–High-Octane Revival (a New York Times top release of 1986) and the highly regarded (and rare) Tiny Days–before leaving the band in 1987. During this time, he worked as a dishwasher and cook at the Hoodoo Barbeque, a notorious punk-rock hangout/crime scene in Kenmore Square.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, which seems to have become our unofficial theme song. The conversation was recorded in the Boston Marriott Burlington on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Fitch by me.
I don’t talk too much about my day job, in the podcast or on this site. I’m the president of the PBOA, a pharmaceutical industry trade association, but that doesn’t provide much of a clue as to what I actually do. If you’re interested, you can watch me get interviewed (by Russ Somma of Sommatech Consulting) at INTERPHEX in April of 2015.
I don’t think I’d have this much ease on mic/camera (or in front of an FDA panel or talking to Congressional staffers) without the experience of 100+ podcast interviews.
I went to my former company’s Christmas party this past Friday. It’s sort of a tradition, if you don’t leave on bad terms, to come back your first year out. I was glad to see my old coworkers, and I was reminded of all the dread I had about making the jump. Looking back, I was more nervous about breaking the news to my bosses than I was about undertaking my new gig.
Today’s the one-year anniversary of when I got serious about quitting my job and launching a new business. I’d been considering the move for a few weeks, and when I was at the office Christmas party a day earlier, I found myself looking around the banquet hall and thinking, “Is this the last time I’m going to be at this?”
The next day, I called one of the advertisers in my trade magazine to ask him three questions:
- Do you really believe your industry needs a trade association?
- Do you believe I can build it and run it?
- Do you think you can convince your company to join and provide start-up funding?
He said, “Yes,” to all three, but he’s also a good pal of mine, so I wasn’t 100% convinced that I should do it. I mean, I wondered if our friendship affected his judgement about my abilities to do this. But, because he’s a good friend, I knew I could trust him not to spill the beans while I started reaching out to more companies.
I called another advertiser-pal a few days later — I’ve made a bunch of good friends from the nearly 15 years I spent on the magazine, which has helped me launch this new biz — and asked him the same three questions. I got the same answers.
In the next few weeks, I called on three more companies, getting farther from my friend zone with each call. The fifth company was a major player in the industry, but I had no close relationship with anyone there. My contact enthusiastically told me they’d be on board and would forward me funds if I needed them to get things off the ground. That meant I was five-for-five, and that’s when I knew It Was On. Fewer than four weeks after I made that first call, I gave notice at my job and started this crazy ride.
I think I’ve gotten used to having a job that doesn’t yield a tangible product like a magazine (quite a transition, since I’d been doing this for 19 years), and I’m still working out the kinks of being my own boss, but I can’t forget that first call a year ago, that first time I said to someone besides my wife, “I’m thinking of quitting the magazine.” Did I need to say it to believe that I was really going to do it?
My pal wasn’t in when I called that Saturday, but he rang back that evening while I was at our neighbors’ place. I took the call out on their enclosed deck, watching the headlights on Skyline Drive through the trees while we discussed my future. We talked about our businesses, and our midlife crises, and how long he’d been waiting for me to make some sort of change. (The second pal I called said, “FINALLY!” when I told him I was thinking of leaving.)
I don’t have much to add; I just want to mark the anniversary.
“I managed to go 43 issues before I hit the paralyzing grip of self-doubt and self-consciousness [from realizing that I had an audience]. I feel lucky that I had all those years to write comics in essentially a vacuum. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be 20 years old and trying to write comics in this world with the internet’s immediate response.”
John Porcellino has been publishing his King-Cat Comics & Stories mini-comics for 25 years, but I managed not to check them out until last month. BIG mistake on my part! Turns out the critics were right; John P.’s one of the best autobio cartoonists out there, as well as “a master at miniature poignance” (Entertainment Weekly). We sat down at SPX 2014 to talk about publishing his new work, The Hospital Suite, as a standalone book and developing the skill and courage to tackle longer stories, his disdain for “the culture of like”, overcoming the shame and stigma of his OCD, the process of discovering an audience for his work, the pitfalls of autobiographical comics, discovering the power of negative space, turning his life into a narrative, how comics enabled him to communicate with people, and, most importantly, being an NFL bigamist. Give it a listen!
“If things didn’t get better, I was going to be the guy wandering down an alley in my underwear with tinfoil wrapped around my arms.”
Bonus: Roger Langridge gives us a few minutes at SPX to talk about his new book, Jim Henson’s The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow!
“To me, the best cartooning is the kind that has in place what needs to be there: nothing more and nothing less.”
About our Guest
John Porcellino was born in Chicago in 1968, and began drawing and writing at an early age, compiling his work into handmade booklets. His acclaimed self-published zine, King-Cat Comics and Stories, begun in 1989, has found a devoted worldwide audience and is one of the most influential comics of the past 25 years. His newest book is The Hospital Suite, and he is the subject of a new documentary, Root Hog or Die. His work has been collected in several editions, including King-Cat Classix, Map of My Heart, Perfect Example, and Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man. He is also the author of Thoreau at Walden and The Next Day: A Graphic Novella.
Credits: This episode’s music is Theater is the Life of You by The Minutement (John’s a fan). The conversation was recorded at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Porcellino by me.
“There’s a sort of romance in riding a bicycle across the country. It’s something that some people would fantasize about, and when they saw me ride into their town, it brought them back to their own dreams, their own wishes about what they wanted to fill their life with.”
Maya Stein is a poet, a teacher, a photographer, and more. We sat down in her restored trailer, M.A.U.D.E. (Mobile Art Unit Designed for Everyone), to talk about her life as an artist, how she built an audience for her work over the years with her 10-Line Tuesdays, how she got the idea to ride a bicycle (towing a typewriter, folding table and folding chair) from Massachusetts to Wisconsin, and how she got that Type Rider journey funded on Kickstarter.
“I think about ‘making a living’ as ‘making a life’. I don’t think about money being the driving force behind the decisions I make as a writer or artist.”
We also talk about writing prompts, her new initiative to build Little Free Libraries via Type Rider II, and her epiphany in Elkhart, Indiana. And you get to hear my theory on how the internet makes us all normal (except for the crazy people)! Give it a listen!
About our Guest
Maya Stein is a Ninja poet, writing guide, and creative adventuress. Among her latest escapades are a 1,200-mile bicycle journey with a typewriter, a cross-country poetry trip, a French crepe stand at a Massachusetts farmers market, a relocation from San Francisco to suburban New Jersey and most recently, a collaboration — Food for the Soul Train — turning a vintage trailer into a mobile creative workshop space. (She also ran a catering business for six years and specialized in hors d’oeuvres and the finer points of napkin folding.) Her favorite body part is her left hand, as it has gifted her with the ability to sink a nearly invincible hook shot, peel a whole apple without a break, and transcribe the poems living in her heart. You can learn more about Maya’s adventures at www.mayastein.com.
Credits: This episode’s music is Typewriter (Tip Tip Tip) by Kisore Kumar & Asha Bhosle. The conversation was recorded at M.A.U.D.E on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. There was a space heater going, so I used a noise removal filter in Audacity. Photo of Ms. Stein (solo) by me, and photo of Ms. Stein and me by Amy Roth.
“Everyone is susceptible to some kind of glamour; it’s just a matter of understanding what kind of glamour you’re susceptible to. Is it technological glamour, or glamour of the intellectual life, or something else?”
Virginia Postrel joins us this week to talk about her new book, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion. It’s a great conversation about the uses and abuses of glamour, the nerd fixation on space travel, the first known symbol of glamour, how people get seduced by IT glamour, how Barack Obama’s first election campaign was heaven-sent for Ms. Postrel’s book, and more!
“All my work is a continuation of the classical liberal tradition that goes back to the 18th century. Writers like Hume and Adam Smith were interested in the economy, in the role of the state, but they were interested in much more than that. Fundamentally, they were interested in the human imagination, in how human beings create a meaningful world around them, and relate to each other, and live in a civilized world order.”
About our Guest
Virginia Postrel is an author, columnist, and speaker whose work spans a broad range of topics, from social science to fashion, concentrating on the intersection of culture and commerce. In addition to The Power of Glamour, she also wrote The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness and The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity. She’s a regular columnist for Bloomberg View and was the editor of Reason magazine for more than a decade. You can follow her on twitter at vpostrel.
Credits: This episode’s music is Glamour Profession by Steely Dan. The conversation was recorded in a rather echo-y room at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in a room at the Omni La Mansion Del Rio in San Antonio on aSamson Meteor USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Virginia Postrel by me.
Today’s episode of The Virtual Memories Show is a little offbeat, but I have faith in you, dear listener!
I take something that seems obscure, and it leads you to somewhere that is not where you expect.
First, philosopher, musicologist, clarinetist and author David Rothenberg joins us to talk about his new book, Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise, and its accompanying CD. It’s a fun conversation about rhythms and meta-rhythms, 17-year cicadas, David’s lifetime of music, the joy of bringing different people’s worlds together, how aesthetic preference sorta trumps survival of the fittest. the development of bugstep, and the secret to finding a rewarding job teaching the humanities. (And, really, you should listen just to find out that secret.)
These points in your life, you often wonder what would have happened if you’d taken the other course. I could’ve gone into theology or some bloody thing. Instead I wound up in science and I’m atheist now.
Then (around the 43:00 mark), we have a conversation with Clive Bennett, the CEO of Halo Pharma, a pharmaceutical contract manufacturing organization. I met Clive through my day job, and found him so delightfully literate, discursive and thoughtful that I asked him to record a segment on the podcast. Once I had him cornered, I asked him why he’d gone into the sciences, given his artistic, historical, musical and literary interests. (Really, I think it was just a condemnation of myself for not doing more with my time.) He decided to bring his Kindle along to reveal what he’s reading and why (and reveal himself in the process). It’s two men talking about the choices we make and those that are made for us.
About our Guests
Philosopher and jazz musician David Rothenberg is professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the author of Bug Music, Survival of the Beautiful, Why Birds Sing, and Thousand-Mile Song. He is also a composer and jazz clarinetist, and he has nine CDs out under his own name, including On the Cliffs of the Heart, named one of the top ten CDs by Jazziz Magazine in 1995. He lives in the Hudson Valley, New York.
Clive Bennett has been CEO and president of Halo Pharma since 2008. He’s spent 40 years in the pharma industry, including 23 years at Hoechst Marion Roussel (now sanofi), as well as Fisons Limited, Evolutec, and Patheon. He’s also a voracious reader, history buff, opera-goer, and a lot of other things that don’t go on a CV.
Credits: This episode’s music is Katydid Prehistory by David Rothenberg. The conversation with David Rothenberg was recorded at his childhood home in Westport, CT on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 mics feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The conversation with Clive Bennett was recorded at his office in Whippany, NJ on the same equipment. The intro and outdo were recorded in my home office on a Blue Yeti USB microphone. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo of David playing with cicadas by Charles Lindsay. Photo of Clive & me by Sally Langa.