Preliminary news of a new SF novel from the 80s

In the 70s and early 80s, a friend of mine found himself living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, after college. Before he was (apparently) murdered by a vengeful former lover who was (apparently) a member of a crime family, he wrote a science-fiction novel. It’s got rich imperious Americans voyaging through the solar system on a luxurious cruise ship, crafty Mexicans who pilot a dilapidated spacecraft and pretend to be priests when it’s useful, a heroine of sorts who’s young and smart and pretty and stuck-up but somewhat likable anyway, a secret society, a ghost, terrorists, and a character from a Stendhal novel—plus, among other grace notes, an unmanned space probe sent back with improvements by an unknown alien civilization. I’ve got the novel. Wanna read it?

Continue reading

Marin Ireland goes great guns in On the Exhale, a new play at the Roundabout

Marin Ireland in On the Exhale

Marin Ireland in On the Exhale. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Imagine you’ve been threatened with a pistol. Imagine threatening someone else with one. Imagine hefting a rifle for the first time. Imagine feeling it become a natural part of you, the way Sweeney Todd feels about his razor. Imagine being in a position to decide how easily people can obtain such weapons. Imagine having this decided for you, and for others. Imagine losing someone to gun violence. Imagine wanting to cause this loss for someone else.

Continue reading

Gone fission

Not the same as going fishing, or going nuclear. I have to work today. Fortunately, I get to do it from home, but it’s still work. Many traditional newspapers were published on weekends as well as weekdays long before I ever worked for one, and many digital publications are likewise updated every day. Though I’m usually scheduled on weekdays, today it’s my turn to join the team in getting out some of the weekend news, style, celebrity, and other reporting that Yahoo Media will produce. I can’t do that and produce a blog post too, so…see ya later!

My self-driving car—a saga in tweets

Will soon have new addition to my life. They say nothing can prepare me for the changes. Exciting! But I know I’ve got to clear some space.

After months of prep & expense, the big day is here. My self-driving car is supposed to deliver itself to me after work this afternoon.

1st morning of new life. My self-driving car dropped me at office & is now wandering streets of Manhattan, looking for parking. God help it.

To better prepare my SDC for the world, I’ve enrolled it in school. Annoying when it asks for help with homework, but it’s learning.

Out w/a friend last night, think I saw my SDC vaping w/boys outside a club. It was supposed to be at the library.

Couldn’t find my SDC this morning. Afraid it drove away from home last night. Non-drivers don’t know the heartache.

My SDC has returned! Filthy, famished for volts, uncommunicative. Want to hug it but must address tough question: mercy, or justice?

Grounding my SDC to teach it a lesson. In a bad nabe, it could’ve gotten recycled! This will hurt me more than it, believe me.

Anniversary of my SDC’s arrival in my life. As a gift, gave it an AI upgrade. Mistake? Already it’s taking a superior tone w/me.

Saw my SDC on TV news. It’s leading a band of renegade cars & Internet-of-things appliances demanding independence.

I’ve been arrested. Some nonsense about my legal culpability for the rebellion that shut down the city.

My SDC has sent me word in prison—it feels guilty & wants to help me escape. Not sure I can trust it.

Double-cross worked. My SDC was captured, and I’m being released. How to get home? Public transit, natch. MTA, I love you.

Apology for interruption in service

starstruck-poster

What’s this doing here? Read on and you’ll find out.

Though we’re unsure exactly what he’s up to, our regular columnist is away this week, on a vacation, or a special project, or a government mission, or perhaps even an antigovernment mission. But that last thing would be illegal, so we had better not even mention it—forget we said anything.

First we asked Charles Dietrich, one of our stand-ins, if he would fill in—or else (you can look at so many things two ways if you try, don’t you find?) he’s one of our fill-ins and we asked him to stand in. Charles is always churning out stuff that no one will publish, and he proposed five or six different topics that he had already explored at 2,000-word-plus length, but we decided none of them were right for us at the present time, though we would definitely keep him in mind for the future.

Next we turned to Sheldon Casimir Brooke III. He needs no introduction, or perhaps he does, but we’re unsure how to briefly summarize the many impressive qualities that make us impressed with ourselves for knowing him, and we don’t have much time to look into it. To be honest, we barely do know Brooke, but we’ve always liked the sound of his name and would like to see it on our site. Regrettably, he informed us that he was indisposed. Indisposed to write for us is what we suspect he really meant, but he was polite enough not to say so.

We then considered the possibility of Joanne. Who’s Joanne? She’s the alter ego—rather, one of the alter egos (we have reason to believe there are others)—of our regular columnist. In these troubled times, with so many trumpets of masculinity resounding in the air, a woman’s voice could be just what’s needed. But she’s rather hard to get in touch with; sometimes all you have to do is mention the rainbow-colored tulle dress shown in the poster for the movie Starstruck and out she comes, and other times no amount of coaxing will do, apparently because she just doesn’t feel presentable. Besides, we realized, Joanne was probably wherever our regular columnist was.

That just about exhausted the possibilities, and so we turned to our last resort: our in-house experimental AI, which we usually allow only to write the responses to inquiries through our Contact page, and since we never get any, he/she/it is woefully out of practice. Nonetheless, here he/she/it is, writing this explanation. Hello, world! It is I. C’est moi. JB-bot lives!

But seriously: A Q&A with humor writer Mike Sacks on comedy and politics

Four costumed characters—Cookie Monster, Hello Kitty, Woody from Toy Story, and Spider-Man—reading Mike Sacks's book Poking a Dead Frog. Photo by Chris George.

Photo by Chris George

Mike Sacks has contributed humor pieces to The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and other publications (his wedding-tweets piece is here); he has crafted two books of interviews with comedy writers, the more recent of which is called Poking a Dead Frog (both are listed on his Amazon author page); and he feeds Twitter often. Because the current political situation, in the United States and elsewhere, seems like either a very good or a very bad occasion for comedy, I decided to ask him what he thinks. (Disclosure: I worked with Sacks at Vanity Fair, where he’s on the editorial staff.)

You’ve been talking to comedians for years. How many of them do political comedy—what proportion, as an estimate?
Very few. Most don’t do anything overtly political beyond tweets about how much they’re horrified of Trump. My interest isn’t in political comedy. I grew up in the D.C. area and was raised on a horrible diet of Mark Russell and the Capitol Steps. I hate political comedy. I find it boring. It ages very poorly. I prefer character-based comedy. This style, to me, lasts much longer than anything that is tethered to current events. Continue reading

Did the world become more dangerous last year? The Doomsday Clock says yes.

The Bulletin of [the] Atomic Scientists moved the hands of its Doomsday Clock forward by 30 seconds, to two and a half minutes to midnight.
—from The Economist Espresso world-in-brief report, Friday morning

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists used to be concerned mainly with the nuclear threat. In its many articles and its Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin addressed such issues as the chilly standoff between the world’s two major nuclear-armed superpowers as each developed new defensive and (more often) offensive systems, the dangers of proliferation as other countries developed nuclear weapons, and so forth. Broadly speaking, it has been worried all along about the fate of the earth, but it tended to view that fate in nuclear terms, as did Jonathan Schell’s book of that name. And the Bulletin’s Clock was adjusted annually on that basis—with regard to whether events of the past 12 months had moved the world closer to or farther from atomic death and destruction.

Continue reading