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January 23, 2007

Mike Daisey's Statement on His Heritage

Daisey's been compared to Spalding Gray and other masters of the solo show.

But there's one difference: he works without a script.

Daisey's stock is rising lately: witness Jason Zinoman's article/interview with him in this past Sunday's (January 21, 2007) New York Times.

His new one-man show, "Invincible Summer," is at Public Theater in New York City; 425 Lafayette Street at Astor Place, East Village; 212-539-8500; tickets $15; through next Sunday, January 28, 2007.

Here's the Times story.

    The Need to Think Onstage Is Driving Mr. Daisey

    THE lights went up too early, the cramped theater was swelteringly hot and Mike Daisey, looking a bit nervous alone onstage, could see himself sweating profusely in the mirror on the wall behind the audience. It was going to be one of those shows.

    “Camus once said that the only real philosophical question is whether or not to kill yourself,” he said in a recent workshop performance at Collective Unconscious in TriBeCa of his new monologue, “Invincible Summer,” currently running at the Public Theater as part of the Under the Radar festival. “I’ve always wanted to start a wedding toast with this.”

    It’s a good line that had received huge laughs the last time he delivered it, half a year ago at the Spoleto Festival in South Carolina, but this crowd merely chuckled. “All I was thinking then was that I wanted to kill myself,” he said the next day.

    Since he burst on the scene at the 2001 New York International Fringe Festival with “21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com,” an expertly constructed monologue about the madness behind the Internet boom, Mr. Daisey, 34, has been one of the hardest-working and most accomplished storytellers in the solo form. His plays, which include multiple narrative threads, echoing off one another and intersecting in the most unexpected ways, have received consistently good reviews, earning comparisons to premier yarn-spinners like Spalding Gray and David Sedaris. But what Mr. Daisey does is considerably different in at least one respect: He works without a script.

    Like a voluble raconteur who is always the life of the party, he builds his work extemporaneously in front of audiences, using his store of memories of what has worked in the past as well as a bit of improvisational riffing. No two shows are the same. “Working on the story in real time utilizes tool sets in the subconscious,” he explained in an e-mail message, “because the conscious mind can’t keep up, especially during heightened performances.”

    Mr. Daisey doesn’t rehearse his monologues, so when he walks onstage and sits behind a desk with a glass of water and a few pages of a skeletal outline, he is never exactly sure what is going to happen. At their best his shows recreate that rare moment when you can see a performer actually thinking through an idea. But early in the process it sometimes looks like that lackluster performance at Collective Unconscious, only the third time he had ever performed “Summer.” Before officially opening, Mr. Daisey did four workshops to massage it into shape.

    What also distinguishes him from most solo performers is how elegantly he blends personal stories, historical digressions and philosophical ruminations. He has the curiosity of a highly literate dilettante — exploring subjects like the James Frey scandal (“Truth”), Scientology (“Great Men of Genius”) and Nikola Tesla’s battle with Thomas Edison over electricity (“Monopoly”) — and a preoccupation with alternative histories, secrets large and small, and the fuzzy line where truth and fiction blur.

    Mr. Daisey’s greatest subject is himself. With each new monologue he exposes a new aspect of his biography, and part of the fun for his loyal fans is filling in another piece of the portrait. So far we know, among other things, that he grew up in a remote part of Maine as the son of a therapist and that he had a child with his high school sweetheart, both of whom he left after a painful decision.

    He moved to Seattle, where he met his future wife and started performing his monologues and working at Amazon.com, which gave him the material for his breakout show. That led to a book deal, an appearance on David Letterman’s show and minor celebrity status.

    His new work provides something of a bookend to “21 Dog Years,” which describes a young Mr. Daisey getting wrapped up in the national obsession for lucrative stock options and absurd Internet riches. In “Invincible Summer” he talks about his parents’ divorce, the creation of the New York subway system and his move to New York, but the emotional center is another kind of mania in which Mr. Daisey loses himself.

    “I supported the Iraq war,” he said in a recent interview, with the shamefaced seriousness of a man admitting to adultery. In the play he describes how his rage over the events of Sept. 11 informed his politics, leading to a subsequent sense of loss and betrayal. “I wasn’t willing to admit that my government was lying — or wrong,” he said. “It was a failure of imagination.”

    The day after his first workshop performance, Mr. Daisey, whose gesticulating arms, rubbery face and round belly can make him look like an overgrown baby, sat down to receive notes from his director, Jean-Michele Gregory, a focused, youthful woman who also happens to be his wife and, for that matter, a central character in the monologue. Mr. Daisey begins the show with a romantic description of their wedding and later explains how moving to New York introduced a new distance between them. At one point he describes taking her to the Brooklyn Promenade and being furious that she was not as impressed by the Manhattan skyline as he thought she should be.

    Sitting in their bottom-floor apartment in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, they worked on the piece with an oddly clinical distance, sometimes even referring to themselves in the third person. “So when Jean-Michele comes back,” Ms. Gregory, 29, said at one point, before pausing for a smile. “O.K., when I come back.”

    Most of her notes were trims and edits, pressing her husband to distill each part of the show to its essentials. In their discussions they paid meticulous care to the language, rhythm and length of each story line and how each played off the other. Occasionally they disagreed on things like how much specificity should be used in describing Mr. Daisey’s experience on Sept. 11. Ms. Gregory said she didn’t know where he was exactly, but he wanted to keep it vague, recreating the chaos of the day.

    They agreed on the main problem: that the rage Mr. Daisey felt in the wake of his parents’ divorce and the terrorist attacks, two events that shook the foundations of his belief system, remained distant and unexamined. “We need to attempt to get inside your anger,” Ms. Gregory said, staring him in the eyes. “Are you entitled to it?”

    The next afternoon he returned to Collective Unconscious. This time the lights came up on time. The crowd roared at the Camus joke, and he hit his stride, starting his stories quickly, building momentum and finishing them delicately, stretching out syllables for emphasis. About 20 minutes had been cut, including the scene with his wife at the promenade, which it turns out Mr. Daisey merely forgot. (He later mused that his subconscious was trying to tell him something.) He also added a fantasy scene in which members of the Bush administration serve up bowls of borsht to members of the American public.

    When he spoke of his parents’ divorce and the collapse of the twin towers, Mr. Daisey was expressionless, but when he talked about meeting his father’s new girlfriend for the first time, he exploded. In an odd, indirect way the evolution of his anger started to come into focus.

    “Spalding Gray said there’s a relationship between extemporaneous performance and therapy, and I think that is true,” Mr. Daisey said before the performance. “It can be therapeutic. It can also be the opposite of therapeutic. There’s a moment of self-understanding, of opening a door, and then you can’t close it again.”

January 23, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Plank Yoga Mat — 'Add some wood to your routine'

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From the website:

    Plank Yoga Mat

    Add some wood to your routine

    Practice your Plank pose and other moves on a natural looking surface that brings the outdoors in.

    This yoga mat features the rich digital image of a wooden plank that will add just the right touch of rusticism to your routine.

    The mat is made from extremely durable non-slip neoprene that provides just the right amount of cushioning.

    68"L x 24"W.

$90.

January 23, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Protopage

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I'm not quite sure what it is or what it does but stuff happens when you move around the home page.

It's free to join and create your own personal Protopage.

We like free.

January 23, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Shine your ever lovin' [solar-powered] Bogo Light on Africa — Episode 2: Mark Bent takes it to the people

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Last evening at 10:58 p.m. ET the comment below appeared in the sidebar.

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Episode 1 back on October 19, 2006 featured the $50 solar-powered MightyLight.

$25 for two BoGo Lights (top) sure beats $50 — at least where I learned math.

If you decide to buy, make sure to tell Mark Bent, the grand panjandrum of SunNight Solar, the company marketing the BoGo Light, that I sent you — then he'll understand why you're so confused.

Featuring low-priced solar- and self-powered devices is not just my inner Good Samaritan speaking: rather, it's my barely-containable excitement about the hundreds of millions of potential new bookofjoe fans in Africa, waiting for electricity to finally enable them to plug into the internet and get on board here.

In five years, when I look at my statistics maps I'm hoping to see Africa no longer invisible — as is currently the case (below)

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but, rather, lit up like Shinjuku.

w00t!

January 23, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wear Paul McCartney's jacket — you know that can't be bad

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Russ Lease (above, in front of a glass case in his basement holding the actual jacket Paul wore in the Beatles' August 15, 1965 Shea Stadium concert) has reverse-engineered it and now sells copies for $295.

John Kelly featured Lease and his business, www.beatlesuits.com — which also sells a whole line of classic early Beatles clothing — in his column in yesterday's Washington Post.

FunFact: About a third of the suits go to tribute bands.

Here's Kelly's piece.

    Collector Can Keep You Looking Fab

    One day, a little over five years ago, Howard County's Russ Lease decided that what the world needed was historically accurate, reasonably priced reproductions of Beatles clothing: stitch-for-stitch copies of the distinctive outfits the famous musicians wore in concert.

    Luckily, Russ was in the position to provide them. With his brother, he had owned the Pants Plus clothing store in Landover Mall, from 1976 until the mall closed in 2001. Russ knew the clothing industry. And he knew the Beatles. A fan since childhood, he's a leading collector of high-end Beatles memorabilia: signed letters, rare albums, old performance contracts, one of "The Beatles" drumheads from the front of Ringo's bass drum.

    At a Sotheby's auction in 1994, Russ had paid about $5,000 for a tailored tan jacket, size 39 regular, with epaulets, pleated breast pockets and Nehru collar. It was the so-called "Shea jacket," the very jacket Paul McCartney wore when the Beatles performed at Shea Stadium on Aug. 15, 1965.

    Recently, Russ, 50, slipped on a pair of white cotton gloves and eased a headless mannequin out of a locked display case. He unbuttoned the Shea jacket and removed it from the form. The fabric was clean and unwrinkled, although there were sweat stains on the acetate lining.

    Russ's idea was to reverse-engineer the jacket and create an exact duplicate.

    "All of the tailors I spoke with wanted to take it apart," he said. "I said, 'No you can't do that.' "

    Finally he found a master tailor in Lehighton, Pa., named Pete Camioni. The two spent four days poring over the jacket, taking measurements, making sketches. Today, you can buy your own Shea jacket — in tan or black, sizes 38 to 50 — for $295 from Russ's company, www.beatlesuits.com.

    Next, Russ duplicated the frock coat Ringo wore on the cover of the "Abbey Road" album. (The original — size 34 short; Ringo is tiny — is in another display case.) Russ also sells the collarless suits from the Beatles' early days, the narrow-lapel jackets and drainpipe trousers they wore on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and the velvet-collared sharkskin suits seen at the end of "A Hard Day's Night."

    These outfits are a godsend for people whose job requires them to dress as John, Paul, George or Ringo. These are the hardworking Beatles tribute bands, made up of musicians who comb their bangs over their foreheads and master not only the chords of the Beatles' songs, but also the distinctive bounce of the Beatles' heads, their knees-bent joggling stance, the slight eyeball flutter that accompanies a lusty "Woooooo!"

    These groups — with such names as the Mersey Beat, the Beat Club, BritBeat, the Beatalls, the Beatlads, the Fab Four, the Fab 5, Fab Forever and Almost Fab — were cruising thrift shops looking for clothing that could be altered and made to look vaguely Beatlish.

    About a third of Russ's suits go to "trib" bands. More recent rockers including Elliot Easton of the Cars and Doug Fieger of the Knack are also customers. So, too, are relatively normal folks.

    "Some of it is kind of back in style now," Russ said of the clothes, made at a factory in Pennsylvania that also sews police uniforms. "Then I think there are people who just want to have it to hang in the closet. I have a fair amount of women customers who want [the Shea jacket] in Paul's size — not to wear it, not to give to their husband, just to have it in their collection, to put it on a mannequin in their Beatles room."

    There is something Shroud of Turin-like about the clothes. Looking at them brings a flood of associations. And Russ's memorabilia-filled basement is like a reliquary, adorned as it is with various slivers of the true rock-and-roll cross.

    So, Russ, have you ever put on Paul's jacket?

    "I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't," he said. "When you get Paul McCartney's Shea jacket, you have to put it on and slap on a Hofner bass and look in the mirror and see how it looks."

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

....................

If you're feeling really nostalgic now, go ahead: the "Shea jacket" is $295.

And you know you should be glad.

January 23, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Brice Marden rip-off or just coincidence?

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Above, a felt mat currently on sale for $22.99.

Below, a Brice Marden painting

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which, if it were on sale, would go for millions of dollars.

Here's another:

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Marden's work was recently on display in a retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art that closed just last week.

Get a Marden felt mat below.

From the website:

    Felt Mat

    Resilient felt mat for back-easing cushioning at the kitchen sink, yet it holds up in an entryway.

    The secret: it's saturated with latex for long wear.

    The ribbon-like swirls in this rug are the result of a creative process that makes it super-durable.

    Looks like felt... durable enough for use outdoors.

    Use it at the kitchen sink or on the front porch!

....................

Red or Lime.

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Two sizes: Small (20" x 30") is $22.99; Large (23" x 35") is $29.99.

Both here.

The only question that remains now is, will the cease-and-desist order from Marden's attorney arrive at the mat's online seller before they sell out?

In any event, it won't be long.

Don't plan on waiting until Christmas to order one.

January 23, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

DogFriendly.com: Dog-friendly lodging — motels and hotels that welcome dogs of all sizes

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Arf.

January 23, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bowlgaiter

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There may be a reason why this item was on the catalog's sale page, under the heading "last chance clearance."

Start with the name.

From the website:

    Bowlgaiter

    Water won't spill or splash out — even if you bump the bowl!

    Is your dog's water bowl a bit of a flood zone?

    This simple device keeps water (and food) from splashing out of the bowl — even in a moving vehicle!

....................

That's exciting: finally, you can peel off that bumper sticker — you know, the one that says,

    If this van is rockin' don't bother drinkin'

I wonder if the lawyerbots over at the Gator Bowl read bookofjoe?

If they do, this'll give 'em something to do until the college football season starts.

Two sizes: Small for 7"-8" bowls is $4.99; Large for 10"-11" bowls is $5.99.

Both here.

January 23, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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