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October 30, 2005

Two More Down

I wiped out two books last weekend. One of them was The Dogs Of Riga, by Henning Mankell, a Swedish mystery writer who also runs a theater company in Africa. He's very popular in Europe. As with most detective novels of reasonable quality, I enjoyed the atmospherics, but didn't really care about the plot, which stopped being interesting or relevant about two-thirds of the way through. If you've ever wanted to read about Latvia during the fall of the Soviet Union, this is your dream book.

The other book is Zioncheck For President, by Phil Campbell, which is one of the best books I've read all year. The book, about an eccentric Seattle city-council race, perfectly captures the joys and frustrations of left-wing politics, yet unlike most lefty books, doesn't preach and doesn't leave you feeling hopeless. A truly fine nonfiction book that reads like a good novel. Check it out.

I've got two months and six books, and I'm moving cross-country in about six weeks. Do books on tape count? I may not make this goal. I have, however, been reading a lot of screenplays, which may give some clue about where I'm headed. Let me tell you: Nothing makes less sense than a bad screenplay. You really appreciate the good ones.

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October 27, 2005

Black Sox Fans

I've been away from Chicago long enough now so that I can't claim it as home anymore. Still, I did live there for 12 years, so I understand that the White Sox winning the World Series is an enormous deal for the South Side, and beyond. And I've still got enough emotional connection to Chicago to be pissed off at Joe Buck. As the Sox cruised toward their destiny tonight, with one out in the 9th, Mr. Buck started naming off South Side neighborhoods. He got them right: Bridgeport, Hyde Park, Back Of The Yards, and a couple of others. He then mentioned how the South Side is home to many different ethnic groups: Irish-American, Polish, Lithuanian....and then he stopped.

How in the world can a grown man in the sports business talk about the South Side of Chicago and possibly not mention that black people live there? Or hundreds of thousands of Mexicans? Or, you know, people from non-Caucasian ethnic groups? To the seven people who are reading this, even though you already agree with me, let this serve as moral corrective. Joe Buck rhymes with Dumb Fuck.

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October 18, 2005

Welcome To The House Of Tang

I have a new feature up on Cracked.com. It's the beginning of my sports character, who of course isn't parodying anyone in particular who appears every mid-day on ESPN Radio. Check it out.

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October 12, 2005

Stumbling Toward The Finish Line

I'm beginning to get somewhat depressed at the thought that I actually might not make my 50-book goal for the year. For god's sake, I'm a professional writer! Shouldn't I be able to polish off a book a week? I blame two things, primarily. The first is my three-year-old son, who has decided that 5:30 AM is an acceptable time to wake up. After one has lain on the couch and watched the horrors of predawn children's TV and has prepared a dish of "noodles with eggs" (his choice) for a toddler's breakfast, the last thing one wants to do is dig into a 500-page Rick Moody novel that satirizes the world of documentary film. Not that The Diviners is at the top of the pile, necessarily, but you know what I mean.

The other major excuse is Netflix. I'm so tired by 8 PM that I really only want to watch movies. And I'm not talking the Red-Blue-White trilogy. I'm talking The Longest Yard/Guess Who/Sahara bad mainstream Hollywood movies that no one liked. I don't like them either, but I need my brain to melt out my skull. There are three Netflix atop the TV. Two are usually pretty good and one is horrible. The other night my wife and I popped Million Dollar Baby into the player and that lasted about ten minutes; we quit when Morgan Freeman started narrating a scene that he was in. I hate voiceover narration, so we ejected and substituted Shaolin Soccer. Now that was a movie: Simultaneously a great parody of every shaggy-dog sports flick ever made while still being a great example of one of those flicks, plus kung fu. Living in Austin has caused me to change my aesthetic, and I now treasure movies like Shaolin Soccer and Shaun Of The Dead, though nothing will ever beat Mildred Pierce for me. How different a world would this be if Shaolin Soccer had won the Oscar and Million Dollar Baby had never been greenlit? I guess we'll never know.

Actually, now that I'm blog-rambling, The Office last night had some hilarious "desert-island movies" jokes. So here are mine: Airplane!, Top Secret, The Untouchables, Dazed And Confused, Mildred Pierce. I really would prefer a top 10, so I don't have to have 40 percent Zucker brothers for the rest of my life. So the second five: The Big Red One, Young Frankenstein, Casino, The Naked Gun, and Lawrence Of Arabia. All right, so that's still 33-percent Zucker Brothers. Will extend to a top 20 upon request.

So where was I going with all this? Oh, yes. There is a third reason why I haven't been reading a lot, and that is rotisserie baseball, but that is over now, praise Allah, and it's not like basketball is going to replace it in my estimation now that Amare Stoudemire has had microfracture surgery on his knee and will be out for four months. By that time, Raja Bell will be leading the Suns in scoring and the team will be in fourth place in the Pacific Division. We had one glorious season where we flew too close to the sun. And now it's over. I'm numb at the thought.

Finally, I have actually finished book number 42. I pulled it off the shelves of the secret loft where I've been working lately. It's Julian, the 1962 novel by Gore Vidal about a philosopher-king's attempt to restore the ancient Greek gods to the pantheon. The book covers the final years before the darkness of Christian ignorance spread across the earth. It's a tragic story, but also a great celebration of pagan virtues. I also enjoyed the court intrigue, particularly because we are going through our own court intrigue right now in Washington, as the retinue of our stupidest emperor is eating itself alive. The fruits of internecine incompetence are ripening. As for Julian, the scenes right before and right after he becomes Caesar are some of the finest ever in an American-written novel. As far as historical fiction goes, there is Gore Vidal, and then there is everyone else. I may have written an entire book making fun of him, but there are few writers I hold in higher esteem.

May Apollo give me the strength to read eight books between now and January 1.

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October 5, 2005

Announcing...Cracked!

Today is the official "soft launch" of Cracked.com, the Internet's newest, and soon to be best, humor site. I am very much involved in the new Cracked, though not so much in the website yet. The first issue of a completely reconfigured magazine is set to drop in January. It's like having a baby all over again.

Why, Neal, you may ask, did you get involved with the re-start-up of a humor magazine previously known as a second-sister publication to Mad? Good question. First, I needed the money. Second, they seemed to be excited to work with me and wanted to give me a lot of editorial input. But most importantly, I read Cracked when I was a kid. Maybe if I had the opportunity to influence the relaunch of Ranger Rick, I'd be more excited. But probably not...Check out the site. I think this baby has legs.

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October 4, 2005

Anthologies

I neglected to mention that I have pieces in two separate anthologies at the moment. One is Homewrecker: An Adultery Anthology, edited by Daphne Gottlieb. The other is The Encyclopedia Of Exes: 26 Stories By Men Of Love Gone Wrong. You can guess what the books are about. Everything is nonfiction, my pieces are along the lines of what I used to write about in my Bad Sex column on Nerve.com. Please take a moment to purchase your friendly neighborhood sex anthology. Thanks.

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October 3, 2005

215 Time!

Attention residents of the Mid-Atlantic region! Philadelphia's annual 215 Festival is upon you. I will be appearing with friends on Saturday night, at the Dark Horse Pub, to present a "Bad Sex With Neal Pollack" reading. But there will be many other performers, including Mike Albo and John Hodgman. Check the above link for schedules and showtimes. I founded the festival years ago, when the world was young, and it continues to plug along without my help or input. I couldn't be more proud.

By this point, you've all probably seen (or missed) my piece in the New York Times Magazine's new "Funny Pages" section, but there it is, linked for your amusement. Perhaps you didn't also realize that I'm writing occasional columns on television for Nerve.com. These are heady times indeed.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to conspire with Ronnie Earle.

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