Podcast – The Hollow Man

Virtual Memories Show:
The Hollow Man

It’s the ONE-HUNDREDTH EPISODE of The Virtual Memories Show! And they said it would never last! To celebrate hitting the century mark, I asked past guests, upcoming guests and friends of the show to interview me this time around!

The sorrow of the lonely podcaster

This special episode includes questions and recorded segments with Maria Alexander, Ashton Applewhite, John Bertagnolli, Lori Carson, Sarah Deming, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Dirda, Robert Drake, Aaron K. Finkelstein, Mary Fleener, Drew Friedman, Josh Alan Friedman, Kipp Friedman, Richard Gehr, Ben Katchor, Sara Lippmann, Brett Martin, Zach Martin, Seth, Jesse Sheidlower, Ron Slate, Tom Spurgeon, Levi Stahl, Maya Stein, Rupert Thomson, Peter Trachtenberg, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Frank Wilson, and Claudia Young.

Find out about my reading childhood, my dream list of pod-guests, my best practices for productivity (don’t have kids!), my favorite interview question, my top guest in the afterlife, the book I’d save if my house was on fire, what I’d do if I won a Macarthur Grant. and more! Give it a listen!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Gil Roth is the host of The Virtual Memories Show and the president of the Pharma & Biopharma Outsourcing Association.

Credits: This episode’s music is Stupid Now by Bob Mould. Several of the conversations were recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro and the self-interview segments on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of me by Aaron K. Finkelstein.

Podcast – Jewish Gothic and the Restless Artist

Virtual Memories Show: Sara Lippmann and Drew Friedman –
Jewish Gothic and the Restless Artist

“My father, to this day, will still call and say, ‘It’s not too late for medical school!'” –Sara Lippmann

Sara Lippmann on The Virtual Memories Show

Drew Friedman returns to the Virtual Memories Show

Come for the Friedman, stay for the Lippmann! Or vice versa! This week’s podcast features two great conversations: first I talk with Drew Friedman at Small Press Expo ’14 about his great new book of portraits, Heroes Of The Comics: Portraits Of The Pioneering Legends Of Comic Books (Fantagraphics), then Sara Lippmann and I solve the gender imbalance issue in literature, and the MFA vs. NYC issue, to boot! We talk about her debut short story collection, Doll Palace (Dock Street Press), getting over the fear of writing, how she lost the Rolex account for GQ, and more!

“I drew them older so you could see the weight of their careers on their faces.” –Drew Friedman

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Sara Lippmann is the author of the story collection, Doll Palace (Dock Street Press). Her stories have been published in The Good Men Project, Wigleaf, Slice magazine, Tupelo Quarterly, Connotation Press, Joyland and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a 2012 fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts and co-hosts the Sunday Salon, a longstanding reading series in the East Village.

Drew Friedman is an award-winning illustrator, cartoonist and painter. His work has appeared in Raw, Weirdo, SPY, National Lampoon, Snarf, The New York Times, MAD, The New Yorker, BLAB!, The New York Observer, The Wall Street Journal, HONK!, Rolling Stone, Field & Stream, TIME, The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, and more. His comics and illustrations have been collected in several volumes, the latest, Too Soon?, published by Fantagraphics in 2010. His collection of portraits, Drew Friedman’s Sideshow Freaks, was published by Blast books in 2011. He has published three collections of paintings of Old Jewish Comedians (1, 2 and 3), but none of Old Episcopal Comedians. He also raises champion beagles with his wife, K. Bidus. You can find his full bio and buy his art at his fine art prints site and you really should read his blog.

Credits: This episode’s music is Sure Shot by the Beastie Boys. The conversation with Drew Friedman was recorded at the Bethesda North Marriott and the conversation with Sara Lippmann was recorded at an undisclosed location on the Upper West Side 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. Photos of Ms. Lippmann and Mr. Friedman by me.

Podcast: The Guy Who Drew the Liver Spots

Drew Friedman & Brisket on The Virtual Memories Show

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 21 –
The Guy Who Drew the Liver Spots

“I don’t like drawing young people, attractive people. I used to get assigned drawings of the cast of ‘Friends’ for Entertainment Weekly, and it was painful. I would finish a drawing of Jennifer Aniston, and to reward myself, I’d draw Shecky Greene.”

It’s the Vermeer of the Borscht Belt! Drew Friedman, the great painter, cartoonist, chronicler of modern fame (and infamy), and Howard Stern’s favorite artist, invited me out to 2nd Ave. Deli in NYC one Saturday morning to record a conversation about art, leaving New York, show biz, R. Crumb, Joe Franklin, Tor Johnson, the Friars Club, Howard Stern, Abe Vigoda, the gallery show commemorating his books on Old Jewish Comedians, and his upcoming book of portraits on comic-book legends (as in ‘artists, writers and publishers’). We also talk about how Harry Einstein died during a roast for Lucy and Desi, trade Gilbert Gottfried stories, discuss the state of the illustration market, explore why he used stippling effects and why he stopped, and more. This one’s a lot of fun. Go listen!

“There’s a theory about why there were so many Jewish comedians: the smile behind the pain, the haunted smile. I don’t buy into it. I think they’re all just a bunch of hams. They like to be up there, telling jokes, being funny, and meeting women.”

by Jay Ruttenberg Photo of Drew Friedman and Jerry Lewis courtesy of Jay Ruttenberg

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Drew Friedman is an award-winning illustrator, cartoonist and painter. His work has appeared in Raw, Weirdo, SPY, National Lampoon, Snarf, The New York Times, MAD, The New Yorker, BLAB!, The New York Observer, The Wall Street Journal, HONK!, Rolling Stone, Field & Stream, TIME, The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, and more. His comics and illustrations have been collected in several volumes, the latest, Too Soon?, published by Fantagraphics in 2010. His collection of portraits, Drew Friedman’s Sideshow Freaks, was published by Blast books in 2011. He has published three collections of paintings of Old Jewish Comedians (1, 2 and 3), but none of Old Episcopal Comedians. He also raises champion beagles with his wife, K. Bidus. You can find his full bio and buy his art at his fine art prints site and you really should read his blog.

Credits: This episode’s music is Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals by Raymond Scott. The conversation was recorded at the 2nd Ave. Deli in Manhattan on a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro 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 by a waiter at 2nd Ave. Deli.

Podcast: Readercon 2013 – Fairies and Zombies

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 15 –
Readercon – Fairies and Zombies

It’s time for a two-part mega-podcast! I visited the 24th annual Readercon, conference on literary fantasy & science fiction (or “imaginative literature,” as it’s known) in Burlington, MA in July, and came back with a ton of interviews! Readercon is a fantastic (ha-ha) event, with great programming, a good booksellers’ hall, and lots of fun conversation; you should make a point of attending it if your tastes run toward the authors who come up in this and the following episode.

I (not-so-wisely) conducted five interviews in one day so, rather than make a 3-hour episode, I decided to split them up between boys and girls. This time around you get interviews with authors John Crowley and Scott Edelman!

“The big books I’ve written have never had a genre at all. They were certain kinds of fictional possibilities that interested and intrigued me and that I wanted to try to achieve. I wouldn’t say there’s an awful lot in Little, Big that’s realistic, but there’s plenty that was based on my daily experiences of life in New York City.”

–John Crowley

John Crowley is the author of Little, Big (or, The Fairies’ Parliament), which I consider one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I’d known about it for a long time, but only read it a few years ago, after learning that my wife has been re-reading it every year or two since it came out in paperback in 1983 or thereabouts. You should go read it now or wait for the deluxe edition from Incunabula Press! (He’s also written other amazing books, like the Aegypt cycle, Engine Summer, and more.)

I talked with Mr. Crowley about readers’ devotion Little, Big, the problems he faced in writing it and how surmounting them opened the doors to his subsequent books, how the fantasy genre developed during the course of his career, what his favorite imaginary books are, why I felt unprepared for our conversation despite having read six of his novels, and what it was like to write copy for Maidenform bras when he was starting out.

“One of the most amazing things about writing to me is that, even though you’ve read, and heard, and seen thousands of stories, when you sit down to write one, you have no idea how to begin!”

–John Crowley

Even if you haven’t read Little, Big, you’ll find this a fascinating conversation about the writing process, literary reputation, and what it means to tell a story!

Scott Edelman on The Virtual Memories Show

“You have to write the things you love. They have to be extremely important to you, to give you that tingle when you read them. Because if you’re not moved by it, I don’t see how anyone else is going to be moved by it. . . .”

–Scott Edelman

Then I talk with Scott Edelman, a longtime writer, editor and Con-goer, about his zombie-fiction, being an editor at Marvel Comics in the 1970s, his storytelling tips and his pros and cons of workshops, whether he pays attention to literary markets, what Readercon means to him, and what it was like to move from one side of the convention table to the other.

“Why zombies? Because zombies are the closest we’ll ever see to what we’ll really become. Because there’ll be that day when we’re all walking husks without memory.”

–Scott Edelman

Enjoy the conversations! Then listen to part 2 of our Readercon conversations with Theodora Goss, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, and Nancy Hightower. Meanwhile, check out the archives for more great episodes!

Related episodes:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guests

John Crowley lives in the hills above the Connecticut River in northern Massachusetts with his wife and twin daughters. He is the author of Little, Big, the four-volume Aegypt cycle, The Translator, Novelties & Souvenirs, Lord Byron’s Novel, and Four Freedoms. You can find out more about the special anniversary edition of Little, Big here.

Scott Edelman has published more than 75 short stories in magazines such as Postscripts, The Twilight Zone, Absolute Magnitude, Science Fiction Review and Fantasy Book, and in anthologies such as The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Crossroads, MetaHorror, Once Upon a Galaxy, Moon Shots, Mars Probes, Forbidden Planets. His poetry has appeared in Asimov’s, Amazing, Dreams and Nightmares, and others. What Will Come After, a collection of his zombie fiction, and What We Still Talk About, a collection of his science fiction stories, were both published in 2010. He has been a Stoker Award finalist five times, in the categories of both Short Story and Long Fiction. He is the editor of Blastr at the Syfy Channel. You can find more about him at his site.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fairy Tales by Style Council. Both conversations were recorded in a room at the Burlington Marriott on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 mics feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti into my Mac Mini, at my Ikeahack standing desk. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photos by me.

Movie Review Tuesday: Steroids, Ivies and Comics

Time for another installment of movie reviews! All documentaries this week!

Bigger, Faster, Stronger: This is a documentary about the use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes in America (well, North America, since Ben Johnson’s 1988 Olympics disqualification gets some play). The documentarian, Chris Bell, is a young man whose brothers — one older and one younger — are both on the juice, trying to build careers in pro wrestling and professional weightlifting. The narrator brings a folksy, light touch to the film, discussing the myriad hypocrisies in our legal policies toward PEDs, their demonization. I do think he bites off more than he can chew when he tries to make the point that the beautiful people in advertisements are a big factor in people’s decisions to use steroids and the like. That segment is also the one where he models for both the “before” and “after” sections of a fake nutritional supplement ad in one day, to show how misleading those ads can be. The saddest but best part of the film may be the segment where he interviews the father of “steroid suicide” Taylor Hooton, poster corpse for President Bush’s bizarre anti-steroid announcement at the 2004 State of the Union address. Despite his child’s other risk factors, including use of an anti-depressant known to cause suicidal ideation in teens, the father declares that he “knows” steroids killed his son, and doesn’t care what science or research has to say. The filmmaker treads the difficult line of showing the man’s willing ignorance without overtly humiliating him (or getting his ass beat). Overall, it’s a pretty entertaining documentary about a culture obsessed with getting over.

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29: And then there was a documentary about a 1968 game between a couple of Ivy League schools. I knew nothing about this game when I picked up the DVD, except that Tommy Lee Jones was on the Harvard team that year. The movie rounds up a ton of players from both sides, and a weird trend emerges as they’re introduced: while the Yale players fit the stereotype of WASP-ish legacies and other wealthy scions, many of the Harvard players come from hardscrabble, public school backgrounds. (Which made me think Harvard had lower admission standards for its team, but also made that team a bit more sympathetic than the blue-bloods of the Yale squad.) The filmmakers make virtually no direct intrusion into the film, instead alternating between interviews and footage from the game itself. There’s an attempt at framing the game in terms of tumult of its 1968 milieu, but the story of the game itself, Harvard’s incredible comeback, and the personalities of a few of the players — Harvard’s backup QB Frank Champi, Yale’s QB Brian Dowling (inspiration for Doonesbury’s B.D. character), and Yale’s lineback Mike Bouscaren — sweep the film along. Bouscaren, in particular, illustrates a certain type of self-delusion that must be seen to be believed. Most of the men, 40 years later, are capable of stepping back and saying, “It was just a football game, not life and death,” but you can tell how much resonance that November afternoon had in all their lives.

In Search of Steve Ditko: This is British chat-show host Jonathan Ross’ hour-long documentary about superhero cartoonist Steve Ditko, the man who (co-)created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange for Marvel Comics, then inexplicably quit the company. Ross, a lifetime comics fan, treats Ditko’s legacy with reverence and interviews many subjects about both Ditko’s work and his life, focusing on Spider-Man, but also taking a trip into Ditko’s bizarre Mr. A stories and his Ayn Rand/objectivist fixation. The twin culminations of the documentary are Ross’ interview with Stan Lee and his attempt to meet Ditko at the latter’s Times Square studio. I was touched by how reverent Ross was, and how so many of the interview subjects geeked out over the same passage we all did: Spider-Man’s struggle to get out from under a giant machine in issue #33. The biggest drawback of the show was the inane decision to render all text in Comic Sans. If you’re a comics fan, you really oughtta watch this documentary sometime.

Well, my arm’s pretty Thor

I’m having a not-so-good reaction to a tetanus shot I had on Tuesday at my annual physical. My arm & shoulder hurt like a mo’fo’, and I’ve got chills & exhaustion that comes and goes. I’m particularly wiped out in the evening, so I spent last night and this early evening reading Essential Thor, Vol. 1, a cheap b/w reprint of the first batch of Thor comics.

I don’t think I remember how hilariously bad these comics were. Sure, things got pretty insanely cosmic a few years into its run, but the first bunch of stories are just bizarre. It all starts with the wacky premise of an American doctor wandering through the Norwegian countryside. Oh, it’s not bizarre that a doctor goes traveling, but Dr. Blake is lame and walks with a cane, so it’s a bit weird that he’d go meandering through a foreign countryside on his own. Lucky for him, he finds a cane that turns out to be the hammer of Thor, just in time for him to fight off an invasion of aliens from Saturn. It was 1962; that stuff happened.

The collection is all kinds of awesome, even though Thor hasn’t quite started speaking in the mock-Shakespearean mode that Stan Lee would decide makes perfect sense for a Norse god’s speech. Oh, and it’s never quite clear as to whether Dr. Blake and Thor are two different people. If they’re not, then Blake doesn’t seem to have any recollection of, um, being Thor. The thunder god is treated just like any other super-hero with a secret identity. But that’s neither here nor there.

One issue’s plot — mobster wounded during getaway, henchmen kidnap Dr. Blake to fix him up — gets recycled three issues later. In another, mega-powerful shape-changing aliens invade earth and do puzzling things, like paint polka-dots on streets, to confuse mankind and leave us susceptible to invasion. But beyond the awful stories, there are some tremendous passages. At one point, Dr. Blake’s nurse Jane fantasizes about domestic life with Thor. This includes giving him a haircut for summer, ironing his cape, and — I’m not making this up — polishing his hammer.

My favorite moment so far, however, is from the subtly titled, “PRISONER OF THE REDS!” See, American scientists are suddenly defecting to the Soviets, and Dr. Blake suspects something is up. So he pretends to be developing a new biological warfare thing, and gets kidnapped. He goes into his lab to not really do anything and then we see . . .

A photographer reading a newspaper article about Blake’s supposed breakthrough! His thought balloon reads, “HMMMM… THIS DOCTOR BLAKE COULD BE ANOTHER USEFUL SCIENTIST FOR OUR CAUSE!”

The caption above it?

thor1.jpg

That’s right: FINALLY, AFTER DAYS OF FAKE SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTATION…

I’m starting to think Roy Lichtenstein was on to something.