Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Point Praises We Did Porn

This week, Zak Smith’s novel, We Did Porn, received another glowing review by John Lingan of The Point  titled “Salvation for Civilians: Porn as a Way of Life.”   

Lingan observes, “Given the tenor of contemporary conversation about pornography, the book is refreshingly unrepentant; never for a second does Smith even entertain the notion that having sex on camera constitutes a degrading step down for an ostensibly healthy citizen like him. This is not a memoir of frightened conversions or brushes with rock bottom. Smith regrets nothing, and takes to the new work with clearheaded and self-aware anxiousness.”

In his book, We Did Porn, Smith chronicles his life transition from the New York art scene to the Los Angeles adult film industry—from a world of grandstanding and pretention to a world with more straightforward and genuine human interactions. “…In the art field, you talk about, like, a Werner Herzog movie, and people pretend they’re interested in it to seem smart. But if you’re with some porn chick talking about a Werner Herzog movie, it’s because she got really excited about a Werner Herzog movie. Otherwise, she doesn’t have to … there’s no reason to do that in porn. It won’t help.”

We Did Porn is a great go-to book on alt culture, and in Lingan’s article, he writes, “Smith’s publishers explicitly compare We Did Porn to Hell’s Angels and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and in conversation Smith refers to himself as “an interpreter,” someone who describes a subculture for the benefit of outsiders who almost surely won’t see it for themselves.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This September from Tin House: Get “Hooked”

Fans of books like The Secret Diary of a Call Girl can look forward to next month’s release of Tin House’s Hooked by John Franc. It was mentioned in an article on on the current trend of stories about the scandalous, secretive world of brothels and call girls, seen everywhere from Jennifer Love Hewitt’s The Client List, a Lifetime movie now being made into a TV show, to the Showtime series based on the popular Secret Diary of a Call Girl, to books like Hooked. A Library Journal review says “Franc has created an interesting and provocative thought experiment . . . The questions the novel poses about men and relationships are as compelling as they are disturbing. Potentially great conversation fodder for book clubs; recommended for fans of the edgy read.” Hooked promises to offer an intriguing look at a taboo lifestyle.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't give up on Plan B yet!

There was an article in this Sunday’s New York Times titled, “Maybe It’s Time For Plan C” and not surprisingly, found that one of the major hang ups of pursuing a dream job is the clerical work. While most people imagine that running their dream business will involve only days filled with self-gratifying work and creative passion, at the end of the day there is still the paperwork to do that goes into making a working business. 

The article tells the personal stories of several people who were laid off from or quit their current career jobs and decided to take the opportunity to start their own businesses, only to find that there was more work involved than initially planned. One man, Charan Sachar, left his career as a software engineer to devote himself full-time to his online store, Creative With Clay, where he sells his own stoneware pieces.  It sounds ideal, but there is a downside:  “Now, instead of spending his free time absorbed in visions of clay, he spends as much as 70 percent of his day on administration… That leaves little time to enjoy the hobby he loves.” If only there was a way for Charan to hire out some of his administrative work so he could spend more time doing what he loves. Lucky for him and others like him, there are companies out there that do provide such services. 

Hiring companies such as Benay Enterprises, provides you with someone else to take care of all your tedious bookkeeping tasks and financial responsibilities so you can spend your time doing what you love and growing your business. The article concludes that, “… Everyone interviewed said that despite the unforeseen bumps, they would not trade their new lives for their old jobs.”  It’s obvious that people would rather do what they love even if it involves way more work and less pay than their previous jobs, but I guarantee that they would like their jobs even more if they didn’t have to do all the business management tasks. Benay offers the services of an entire business staff without having to hire an entire business staff. Being your own boss is hard enough; why not find a way to make your job a little easier? 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots. A book for both the recreational and the occasional plotter!

 A few months ago, Tin House, to great success, released their reprinting of The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto by Bernard DeVoto, originally published in the 1950’s. The book became a cult classic among cocktail enthusiasts, but became increasingly rare to find over the decades. In 2010, Tin House brought new life into a book that would have been lost to obscurity and time. It seems the publishing company has found another gem from the past: Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots, by the prolific pulp writer William Wallace Cook.  Cook himself banged out countless stories to the tune of 66,000 words a week back in the height of pulp writing. The man clearly had a knack for creating plots and in 1928 he published his methods in a book called Plotto. While Cook passed  away in 1933 in the town in Marshall, Michigan, I am sure he would have been happy knowing that his masterpiece how-to story writing book has made it through the decades.

Plotto is a guide designed for writing that operates on Cook’s theory that: Purpose, opposed by obstacle, yields conflict. The book is set up into sections: The Master plot, The Conflict Situations, and Character Combinations. The book is a little too complex in its set up to fully explain here,  but choosing options from each of the three sections will help the writer to create a full-fledged story—almost like a choose-your-own-adventure book that instead makes you write what happens when you flip to page 46 instead of 12.

Tin House is due to release Plotto in November of this year with an introduction by the writer Paul Collins. This book arrives just in time for all of you out there participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This book would surely be an asset to marathon novelists everywhere. To those of you not writing until your brains melt out of your ears this November— this book is still a unique book to have in your collection. If you suffer from writer’s block, I can assure that this book will offer a cure. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Equity Insurance: The Way out of the Housing Crisis?

For the last few years, people have been searching for ways to fix the U.S.’s major economic problems. In a recent article in the Wilmington News Journal, Delaware’s former chief deputy attorney general Charles Brandt proposes a new plan to reinvigorate the struggling housing market.

The housing crisis began when large numbers of buyers defaulted on their loans, which led to banks foreclosing and the market filling with cheap houses. The prices kept falling, so no one wanted to risk buying a house if the price might immediately drop again.  Lack of consumer confidence became a major issue. Brandt’s idea for a solution is the creation of Government Equity Insurance to encourage qualified buyers to purchase new homes. This program would need to be run by the government, either implemented by Congress or any state legislature, since these days private equity insurance doesn’t inspire as much consumer confidence after recent failures like AIG. Brandt likens GEI to the FDIC, which allows bank depositors to feel confident that their money is safe.

Under this plan, houses would still be appraised for fair market value at the time of purchase, and the buyer would pay that amount and own the house for five years. Then for the next twenty years, the buyer would receive a tax credit or refund to cover the difference in price if he sells the house for a lower fair market value than what he originally paid for it, minus the estimated cost of any necessary repairs. The program would be a temporary measure, probably lasting for no more than two years, though it could easily be extended or even repealed after a year if for some reason it doesn’t work out.

As Brandt sees it, GEI is a win-win program. Eventually, home prices will go up as demand matches supply, employment will rise, and the states that provide GEI will benefit if homebuyers from nearby states decide to take advantage of the insurance and move there. And as Brandt says, the most important factor is that “no GEI policy will ever have to pay out one thin dime in claims, because GEI's existence will put wind in the sails of the housing market.”

Charles Brandt is the author of I Heard You Paint Houses (Steerforth Press), which is set to be made into a Martin Scorsese movie starring Robert DeNiro.