Updates from January, 2006 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Ted Mann 9:02 pm on January 31, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Will you be my Kitty Valentine? 

    soft pawsA quick update on Soft Paws’ offerings. Just in time for V-day, they’re breaking out the pink and red nails.

    Is it just me, or does this white kitty, as adorable as he is, look downright possessed with those red claws? Or at the very least, doesn’t it appear as if he’s just ripped apart some mouse?

  • Ted Mann 9:40 pm on January 24, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Curses on You, Elif 

    Damn! It finally happened. Someone I know, someone I grew up with, has been published in the New Yorker. Pfoey!

    It didn’t bother me so much when a Penn classmate, John Legend, got nominated for a dozen or so Grammies. And when Pingry peer Justin Gimelstob was at Wimbeldon, playing mixed doubles with Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 1999, against John McEnroe and Steffi Graf, I was like, go Justin!

    NY Cover Jan 16But publishing a witty, riveting, first-person essay about Taiwanese kick-boxing (“Cool Heart: The lethal art of Muay Thai,” Jan. 16, 2006), well, that just can’t be forgiven. I noticed the story, by another Pingry classmate named Elif Batuman, when I was slogging through recent issues the other night. I tend to hone in on my favorite authors (Gladwell, Surowiecki, Sedaris, Flanagan, etc.), read the Talk of the Town and movie reviews, and listen to whatever else is included in the Audible’s abridged version of the magazine. But this one slipped through the cracks. It was only when I did my final once-over, before the issues get sent to the great scrap heap that is the Children’s Hospital waiting room, that I noticed, with a sinking dread, Elif’s brilliant piece. Damn, this is really good. A few examples:

    I was having trouble with high kicks, and Bunkerd came over and began explaining something in a heartfeld, meaningful tone. “||| || ||||!” he said, an utterance that I pictured as a row of verticle lines, like Woodstalk talking to Snoopy. “|||| ||||| ||| kick,” he added, pointing at my leg.

    At the fight, I had taken a photograph of Bunker’s ring entrance. In it, he is walking with a light, purposeful step, and appears to be about to skip right out of the picture. You can almost tell that his recording is playing in the background. When I gave him a copy of the photograph, he accepted it cautiously and held it up to his eyes.

    “Thank you,” he said. A smile lit up on his face: “Oh — it’s me.”

    Alas, the text isn’t online, but trust me, you don’t want to throw out the issue before reading it. Next time, though, I wish she’ll have the good sense to be like Gimelstob: lose to MacEnroe and, if you absolutely must publish your writing, do so on SI.com. Just stay away from the fancy intellectual magazines and suburban lifestyle magazines. That’s my turf!

  • Ted Mann 11:04 pm on January 23, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    My So-Called Friend Leonard 

    With all the brewhaha over James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” memoir, spurred on by The Smoking Gun’s exhaustive refutation of each and every little detail of the book, I keep asking the same question: What about “My Friend Leonard”? LeonardI’ve been reading the follow-up book, off and on, for the last couple weeks, and judging by the NY Times bestseller list, a lot of others have been, too. Despite all the griping I’ve heard over Frey’s rap sheet fabrications or pretending to be part of a train crash (including, most surprisingly, refunds from the publisher, Random House), I haven’t heard one thing about Leonard–both the book and the titular characater it revolves around, a high-ranking member of the mob that Frey becomes extremely close it. The mafia-related stories, if they’re untrue, top any of the supposed obfusications that make up Freygate. What’s more, if they are true, wouldn’t they put Frey in imminent danger? Mobsters don’t care to be written about in any form, even fiction.

    Is Frey’s statement at the start of “Leonard”–“some sequences and details have been changed”–really enough to get him off the hook with both the reading public and the mob? If so, if it really is that big a get-out-of-jail free card, then–well, I think I’ll start using a whole lot more of those disclaimer thingeys.

    Note: Some sequences and details above were critical of James Frey. They in no way reflect the opinion of TurkeyMonkey or its author, Ted Mann.

  • Ted Mann 11:55 pm on January 17, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Virtual Cat 

    There’s no excuse for going almost two months without a single cat-related post, but there is one way to atone: By giving each and every one of you your own virtual cat. Behold, Maukie.

    He purrs, he paws, he yowls. And if that’s not cute enough for you, check out the offerings at Cute Overload, you desensitized bastard.

  • Ted Mann 11:41 pm on January 16, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Clippity Clap 

    I just updated my MediaBistro portfolio, which is where I try to log all (or at least a unconscionably long list of most) of my published articles. Among my recent favorites: a profile of WPLJ radio legend Scott Shannon and a bizarro interview with the Westchester Mall’s Santa Claus, both of which were nominated for National Magazine Awards.

    Just kidding.

    Or am I?

  • Ted Mann 10:32 pm on January 16, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Top 10 Books of 2005 

    In 2005, I had about as much spare time to read as I had spare hair follicles to donate to the bald and needy. Which is to say, my “top 10” list reads suspiciously like my “only 10” list. I did omit a couple of duds, though, those chick lit books that I attempt to read to get a better insight into my wife’s inpenetrable psyche. Next time I’ll just read Cosmo.

    At any rate, here are my faves. First I thought I’d skip over “A Treasure’s Trove,” seeing as how I’ve already spilled so much virtual ink about the book already. But … naah, that would just be silly.

    ATT1. “A Treasure’s Trove,” by Michael Stadther: The single most satisfying and engrossing extra-curricular part of my last year. Searching Washington Square Park, Clark Park, a hundred assorted trees between Philly and Vermont, and the infamous James Baird State Park was the best time I’ve wasted in years. It brought me closer to my brother, friend Andy, and a half-dozen internet pals who I dropped the second it was over. Can’t wait until the follow up, “The Secrets of the Alchemist Dar.”

    ATT Companion2. “100 Puzzles, Clues, Maps, Tantalizing Tales, and Stories of Real Treasure,” by Michael Stadther: It was probably this book, as much as the actual main illustrated treasure hunt tome, that got me excited about searching for bejeweled broaches. All the insights into codes, codebreaking, and hidden treasure info (maps, messagest, etc.) in literature (Poe, Doyle, etc.) was just plain fascinating. It even got me reading other armchair treasure hunt books (Maze, Masquerade, etc.) and code-breaking how-tos.

    Freakonomics3. “Freakonomics,” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: The best non-ATT book I read all year. Besides the much-quoted passages about how realtors don’t have a financial incentive to sell your house for the highest price (yes, mom, that’s right!), I really liked the section about how people choose baby names–so much so that I went and named a few babies Henrietta, just for giggles.

    Secret Man4. “The Secret Man,” by Bob Woodward: A pretty fascinating account of how Deep Throat, Woodward’s source at the FBI during the Watergate crisis, was assistant director W. Mark Felt. Just as interesting as all the steps they took communicate during Woodward and Bernstein’s historic articles during the Nixon downfall was Felt’s post-resignation reluctance to step foreward. While the story doesn’t have all the meat of Woodward’s other recent books about the Bush administration, it was far more engrossing to me because of the tense personal drama between Woodward and Felt.

    Blink5. “Blink,” by Malcolm Gladwell: Anything by Malcolm Gladwell is just plain genius, in my humble opinion. Granted, this one isn’t nearly as good as “The Tipping Point”–and I’m already more intrigued about his coming book on precociousness than I was about “Blink”–but the sections on the Pentagon’s war-gaming and doctors’ snap decisions are well worth the paperback price.

    Vowell6. “Assassination Vacation,” by Sarah Vowell: Like the Malcolm Gladwell book, this one wasn’t nearly as good as the author’s last — “The Partly Cloudy Patriot.” But the audio version that I listened to–with people like Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brien, and Stephan King bringing Vowell’s memoir-tinged stories of Presidential assassination obsessions to life–elevated the so-so stories to poetic brilliance.

    14917. “1491,” by Charles C. Mann: As I posted to Audible, the book “shows how the Amazon is largely the artifact of human engineering, with giant earthworks (canals, island mounds, fishing arteries) that prove the area is far from the pristine wilderness that environmentalists make it out to be. The revelations about terra preta — dark earth that was, by all accounts, engineered by the Amazonians with a microorganism to make it super-fertilized — isn’t just fascinating history, but could be a breakthrough discovery for present-day third-world agriculture.” Oh, and the author is also my cousin, so obviously his brilliant prose is a god-given, genetic gift that can’t be denied.

    8. “Collapse,” by Jared Diamond: Sort of like Cam’s book, only much more of a glass-is-half-full take on things. Actually, they’re both pretty pessimistic, but Diamond ain’t no cousin of mine, so he get the number eight slot. Mwa-ha.

    RHWE9. “Red Herrings And White Elephants: The Origins Of The Phrases We Use Every Day,” by Albert Jack and Ama Page: Another late addition to the list, I just got this book for Xmas, but an already engrossed with its explanations for how we got so many of the nonsensical expressions we now think of as cliches. For example, did you know that drinking the “hair of the dog” means you’re following the advice of medieval English doctors, who recommended rubbing the hair of a dog into the wound left by the animal’s bite?

    ATT Solution10. “Official Solution Book to A Treasure’s Trove,” by who else? Michael Stadther: Thought I was all done with the treasure-hunt books, eh?! I just got this one as a belated Xmas gift from my brother- and sister-in-law. I didn’t expect much, having already interviewed Stadther about the aftermath of the hunt, and thought I’d already learned everything there was to learn about the solutions from the various authoritative websites (ATT Solution, Tweleve) out there already. I was wrong. Not only does he answer all the unanswered questions I forgot to ask, but he also walks readers through how he actually hid the tokens in the first place.

    • Gwynne 7:43 pm on January 17, 2006 Permalink | Reply

      My favorite book of 2005 was “The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls. One of the MOST amazing stories…and it’s true to boot! It’s a memoir of a girl growing up with totally crazy parents who choose to be homeless and pretty much raise their kids as homeless….she’s now a successful writer and a surprising normal person.

      Everyone has to read this book.

    • Ted 11:18 pm on January 17, 2006 Permalink | Reply

      Except for the fact that my family had a home, that pretty much describes my childhood.
      Which, quite frankly, ain’t no Treasure’s Trove.

  • Ted Mann 10:25 pm on January 9, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    Good Night, And Good Luck, Vermont 

    Turn off the lights, unplug the timer, afix the moving labels, and dig up the pet tombstones. My family’s Dorset house has been sold. Well, technically we still have about a week and a half to sabatoge the closing, scare off the buyers, and burn the house down because if we can’t have it then no one will, mawhahahaha. But we’re not bitter about all this. No, not bitter at all.

    Long story short: my mom announced over the holidays that she’d not only put the house on the market, but also accepted the first offer. So–guess what, kids!–we gotta move everything out ASAP ’cause we’re closing in less than a month. In other words, our New Year’s was about as much fun as a funeral for the family dog, which, coincidentally, we had two of. Both Tiger and Suzie, our collie and lab, respectively, were still boxes of ashes waiting to be buried. We said our good byes to them, the house, our memories there, and Vermont in general. And then we took the twins sledding.

    Right now my mom is taking care of the final formalities of the sale–the moving company, trying to withstand our constant bitching about the home sale, and overseeing the close. Above all, I’m bummed that, after so many happy New Year’s Eves at the house, our last one had to be overshadowed by its sale.

    Alright, somebody call me the whaaaaaambulence.

  • Ted Mann 11:26 am on January 6, 2006 Permalink | Reply  

    This is No Game 

    I’ve decided to change my motto for 2006. Thanks to Jack Handy and his new Shouts & Murmurs column in the New Yorker, I have a new one: “This is no game.”

    This is no game. You might think this is a game, but, trust me, this is no game.

    This is not something where rock beats scissors or paper covers rock or rock wraps itself up in paper and gives itself as a present to scissors. This isn’t anything like that. Or where paper types something on itself and sues scissors.

    This isn’t something where you yell “Bingo!” and then it turns out you don’t have bingo after all, and what are the rules again? This isn’t that, my friend.

    This isn’t something where you roll the dice and move your battleship around a board and land on a hotel and act like your battleship is having sex with the hotel.

    This isn’t tiddlywinks, where you flip your tiddly over another player’s tiddly and an old man winks at you because he thought it was a good move. This isn’t that at all.

    This isn’t something where you sink a birdie or hit a badminton birdie or do anything at all with birdies. Look, just forget birdies, O.K.?

    I realize this isn’t exactly paper typing something on itself and suing sissors. Still, I hope cutting and pasting partial text to a blog is more or less the same thing. Come on, Handy, come and sue me for copyright infringement. Mmm, that’d be peachy.

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