Star Star Narayan

A short story by John Biggs, taken from his new anthology, School Police. (Reading time: <5m)

The Cold Dark

John Biggs presents a vignette from the world of Mytro, his new young-adult novel about a secret train system that can take you anywhere in the world. [5m read time]

Kingmaker, by Christian Cantrell [review]

John Biggs reviews the tale of a literally heartless assassin and finds it a "solid, fun cyberpunk tale."

A review of Prof. Jim Gaffigan's philosophical treatise "Dad Is Fat"

Dad is fat. Is Dad fat? How fat is Dad? Why is Dad fat? When did fat Dad move from skinny Dad? Can Dad get skinny doing the 7-minute workout? How, in the end, is the female gaze responsible for the fat Dad as expressed in media and literature? Was Joyce the epitomized skinny Dad and, in reflection, Bukowski the fat one? Was Bukowski a Dad?

These are the questions philosopher Jim Gaffigan explores in his treatise entitled Dad Is Fat. Read the rest

The Skies Belong To Us: Love And Terror In The Golden Age Of Hijacking

The next time you're patted down and pornoscanned, remember that there was a time in American history that skyjacking was so common it was almost comical. Between 1968 and 1973, there was a hijacking per week. Teenagers hopped on board with fake dynamite and asked to go to Canada. Disillusioned working stiffs jumped out of airplanes at altitude after gathering thousands in ransom money. Hijacking insurance could be had for $75 and ensured that fliers could sit back, drink free booze, and enjoy the windfall of having a wild-eyed miscreant yell “Take this plane to Havana.”

After all, the insured got $500 per day of captivity – enough for a nice vacation.

To be clear, this was mostly the airlines' fault. They didn't want to reduce the efficiency of their operations. In that era there was no airport security and you could, without issue, alight from your Ford Fairlane and waltz right to the gate in any airport around the world. You could rush onto a flight an buy a ticket from the attendants on board, all the while fiddling with your revolver, baseball bat, or bottle of Jack Daniels. You could even traipse around the baggage handling area with little interference. In short, flying used to be crazytown. Read the rest

In The Boy Kings, Zuck's personal ghostwriter reveals little

Katherine Losse was present at the creation. Employee 51 at Facebook, the English major became first a major player in the company's customer service team and then rose to prominence in i18n, Facebook's internationalization initiative. She ended her seven year career there as Mark Zuckerberg's blogger. She mimicked his voice in posts and emails, starting with "Hey Everybody" and ending in world domination.

Now, Losse offers a book about her experience there. Covering the period between 2005 and 2012, she sunk into the soft comfort of corporate life just as early Facebook's miasmic jelly hardened into serious business. Losse, because she's not a wonk, is the kind of person that you want writing about this kind of rise: she writes like she's working out a Lorrie Moore story set at Xerox/PARC and, as a result, she leaves out the nerdiness and attempts to replace it with humanity. Read the rest

Sober Is My New Drunk, by Paul Carr

Sometimes enough is enough, and memoirist Paul Carr exemplifies this maxim. His previous books - Bringing Nothing To The Party and The Upgrade - were tales told from the bottom of a champagne glass. The first book, a rollicking story about how Carr started and destroyed an Internet business, was punctuated by drunken antics that seemed to define the Carr character: part imp, part jerk, and part Lost Boy. The second book, a treatise on how to live in hotels rather than renting an apartment, is really more about drinking too much at all the wrong places.

In short, over time, Carr became his own character and his only job as a writer was to try to remember what went down the morning after the bottles of beer, whiskey, and champagne finally dwindled down to a raft of empties floating in the slush of ice at the bottom of a VIP bucket. Well, goodbye to all that. Read the rest

Rocker Mike Doughty recounts travails in memoir

We needle our cultural heroes and then are delighted when they dissolve in front of us. It happens again and again, in Whitney Houston and in Michael Jackson and in Don Cornelius. They show us the way and when the way becomes treacherous we wish nothing more than to see them fall.

That is why so many "star" memoirs are so fraught. The star has a swift rise, a period of wandering, massive drug addiction, and reflection/renewal. Then the rest of their output sucks or they stop producing altogether.

Mike Doughty is, arguably, a rare exception. His recent memoir, The Book Of Drugs, tells the story of a young man - he was 22 when he founded Soul Coughing with a bassist, drummer, and keyboard player at New York's The Knitting Factory - who entered the music industry at its near-nadir. His band was arguably successful, especially in a decade of one-hit-wonders (remember "Sex and Candy?") and addled grunge rock, and he had a close relationship with the arguably more well-known Jeff Buckley. Doughty tells his story in the context of a decade that gave and took away the aforementioned Buckley, Nirvana front-man Kurt Cobain, and Blind Melon's Shannon Hoon. The music industry was always cruel to the ones it blighted with success. In the 1990s, with the rapid destruction of the industry as a whole and the rise of file sharing, it was particularly rancid. Read the rest

The Big V

The beach at Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Photo: BBM Explorer

I had my vasectomy on January 19, 2012, the date memorialized with the iCal notation "Vascect [sic] no lunch 34th st." At this writing the objects in question are still apparently live, pumping out spermatozoa like a dying pulsar that will soon dwindle into white noise. It takes a certain number of ejaculations to completely clear the pipes, as it were, and by try number twelve I'll be as barren as the surface of binary moons rising over an alien landscape. Read the rest

The 1,000 Words Rule of Blogging (Book Excerpt)

Want to be a successful blogger? Every new endeavor requires a period of ascetic dedication. You must write a minimum of 1,000 words a day.

Some bloggers make this their ceiling, but many make it their floor. Either way, you must produce on a daily basis. How do you do this? You can crank out, perhaps, three posts of a few hundred words each in the morning and three in the evening. Or you can write one big post. Either way, do the word count. Why is this important? Because if you have a goal, you can meet it. After his heart attack, blogging great Om Malik set this number for himself to ensure he produced quality content in a timely manner and did not kill himself in the process. Sadly, Om’s heart attack was brought on by the blogging lifestyle, as well as too much booze, cigars, family history and bad luck. It took a massive change in his everyday life to reorient him toward a saner blogging schedule, and he found this 1,000-word limit invaluable. Read the rest