Monthly Archives: September 2009

September 23, 2009

I don’t even know what to say about this commercial. On the one hand, what the fuck? On the other hand, given the political atmosphere in which we’re operating these days, it might not be such a bad thing.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 11 Comments

September 22, 2009

My idiosyncratic schedule usually allows me to avoid the subway during its busiest times, but several days ago I had occasion to ride the downtown 1 train during morning rush hour. Luck had been with me (note, please, the pluperfect tense), and I’d been able to find a seat. Between the 66th Street and 59th Street stops, however, she must have abandoned me for somebody more muscular, because the train ground to a halt. “Due to train traffic ahead this car is being held for momentary supervision,” the conductor said over the loudspeaker. “We will resume shortly.” I was on my way to a meeting I was dreading, so I was thrilled, and hoped that “shortly” meant “after a long, long time.”

The man across the aisle from me was not thrilled. “Fuckin’ fuck FUCK SHIT fuck fuck GODDAMN FUCK,” he said. (I cannot swear that I have reproduced his words with 100% accuracy, but the spirit is the same.) “Shit fuck fuck damnit stuck on the goddamn subway again why me FUCK FUCK FUCK.”

Nobody else in the car paid him any attention. We’d all been in his position at one time or another, and we sympathized, but this being the New York City subway system each of us remained in his own bubble of personal space, as is customary, reading or listening to music or fantasizing about what one might be able to convince Matt Damon to do if one could get him really, really drunk (my choice of activity this morning).

“Fuckin’ fuck fuck shit GODDAMNIT FUCK why me why me of course me FUCK FUCK fuck.”

A young woman standing a few feet from him decided to break the personal-space-bubble rule. “What’s your name?” she said. She was wearing a long skirt and had dark hair that fell midway down her back.

“Bill,” he said, eyeing her suspiciously.

“Bill,” she said, “I’m gonna sing you a song.”

“Oh, shit,” said the man sitting next to me. The woman pulled a harmonica out of her pocket and I tensed up. Things like this happen on the subway all the time, but that doesn’t mean one has to be pleased about them.

She played a riff on the harmonica. “Fuckin’ fuck fuck shit why me!” she sang, and looked at Bill. He stared at her blankly, and she made a motion with her hand to indicate that he should repeat what she’d sung.

“”Fuckin’ fuck fuck shit why me!” Bill sang suspiciously; she sort of sang along with him, to help him with the melody she’d made up.

She played another riff on her harmonica. “Stuck on the goddamn subway again!” she sang, and looked at Bill, who appeared slightly less suspicious.

“Stuck on the goddamn subway again!” The other passengers in the car had begun to pay attention; this was fun.

Another harmonica riff. “Goddamnit fuck fuck fuck fuck!” the two of them sang together.

“Goddamnit fuck fuck fuck fuck!”

Harmonica riff. “What else?” she asked Bill. His brow wrinkled in concentration and then his eyes widened.


“Fuck the bastard bosses!” she sang.

“Fuck the bastard bosses!” he sang with her.

By this time he was grinning.

So was everybody else in the car.

Harmonica riff. “Goddamn fuckin’ bastard bosses fuck fuck fuck!”

“Goddamn fuckin’ bastard bosses fuck fuck fuck!”

The subway loudspeakers emitted a couple bell sounds. The doors closed and we started to move. Bill and the young woman continued communicating with each other, but in spoken prose rather than in harmonica-accompanied song. The guy sitting next to me and I looked at each other and smiled.

The subway reached 59th Street and the woman moved toward the door to get out. “What’s your name?” said Bill.

“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” she said, and left the car.

I was still smiling when I got to my meeting; it went quickly and easily, and then I went to get ice cream.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 16 Comments

September 21, 2009

I wrote here about the misunderstanding I had with my editor in preparation for the release of the paperback edition of my book Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever and What Happened Instead, the misunderstanding being that after she said “Send me any changes you want to make,” I sent her a list of 168 changes when what she actually meant was four to six. In the comments, a couple people suggested posting the remaining changes to mitigate the effects of Random House’s parsimony. Since the fact that I had to make changes meant that the book as it exists isn’t perfect, I was delighted by this suggestions, as it means I can make the book perfect ex post facto. I can’t imagine that anybody is particularly interested in going through the text with a pen changing semi-colons to periods and adding auxiliary verbs, but in what I think is a remarkable if painful display of emotional fortitude I’m going to say that that is not my problem and that the important thing is that it’s there.

Therefore I ask you to

1. click here to download a PDF of corrections to Swish or
2. know that such a PDF exists and that if you chose you could download it and make the book perfect.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 6 Comments

September 18, 2009

I’m trying to find a way to see this as some sort of trick or strategy, but I think Bill O’Reilly actually means that he supports a public option.

I’m kind of reeling.

Maybe when I bought those cookies last night I unwittingly chose the bag that had been laced with hallucinogens so that the lacer’s enemy would buy it and hallucinate?

Or . . . is it possible? . . . is there a prominent Republican who’s actually speaking honestly about health care reform?

Don’t pinch me; I’d rather not wake up.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 2 Comments

September 17, 2009

When Random House decided to issue a paperback edition of Swish, my editor asked me whether there were any changes I’d like to make to the material as it was in hardback. There were in fact some changes I wanted to make—at the last minute I made some corrections that in retrospect I ought not to have made, and there were problem spots I’d realized since the book’s publication how to fix. So I told her I’d look through the book and give her a list. Some time went by, and then we had the following e-mail exchange:

From: Faustus
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2008 10:27 AM
To: Faustus’s editor
Subject: edits for paperback

Okay, so after promising these to you for like weeks and weeks and weeks, I finally have the edits I’d like to make for the paperback. Do not be alarmed at the length of the document—I think I counted 186 edits, but at least half of them are things like “change ‘the’ to ‘a’ ” and at least another quarter are things like “add a comma after ‘and.’ ” The rest of them are mostly things like “switch the order of these phrases” or “add the word ‘official’ .” I worked very, very hard to make sure that there be no shifting of text from one page to another, and I think I succeeded in almost every case.

Let me know what you think.

From: Faustus’s editor
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2008 4:56 PM
To: Faustus
Subject: RE: edits for paperback

Wow, you are one thorough guy. I wish I could reward your diligence with the news that we’d be able to make all of these changes, but I’m afraid I didn’t give you the best instructions about this. Even though these are tiny and most won’t cause reflow, they still cost money, and we can’t absorb the expense of making 186 changes. The guidelines are usually that we will make a change if it’s required for accuracy or to correct a grammatical error, but we won’t make dozens of changes that would just sharpen up the writing. We do indulge the occasional aesthetic improvement, it’s usually on the order of four to six changes, not 186. I’m sorry not to have given you the sense of scale earlier, but, well, not all authors are as conscientious as you. Could you please cull this list into the changes that are necessary to make the book more accurate or grammatically correct?

From: Faustus
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2008 5:07 PM
To: Faustus’s editor
Subject: RE: edits for paperback


I’ll get back to you.

In the end I was able to pare my list down to fifteen or twenty corrections, which turned out to be an acceptable compromise. Acceptable to my editor, that is.

Me, I’m just waiting to become really, really famous so they can put out another edition and incorporate my corrections. It’s taking a while, though, so I’m considering mass murder as a quick means to notoriety. At the very least it would draw attention from the currently missing commas and “and”s where there ought to be “the”s.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 14 Comments

September 14, 2009

I realize I’m days and days behind, but since I have only the vaguest notion who Kanye West is I figured I was okay sharing the letter my father just sent to the editor of the Charleston Post Courier about Representative Joe Wilson.

To the Editor:

If Joe Wilson’s outburst were unusual for South Carolina, that would be nice. Unfortunately, our state’s senators and congressmen have given the nation many similar unforgettable moments.

When a black minister rose to give the invocation at the Democratic National Convention in 1936, for example, Senator Cotton Ed Smith made a headline-grabbing show of stomping right out, followed close behind by Charleston Mayor and future South Carolina Senator Burnet Maybank.

A few decades earlier, when President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House in 1901, Senator Ben Tillman said, “The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that n—– will necessitate our killing a thousand n—— in the South before they will learn their place again.” Of course, Pitchfork Ben used the full n—– word.

Further back still, when Senator Charles Sumner made an anti-slavery speech in 1856, two of our courageous congressmen locked him in the Senate chamber and beat him unconscious–one brave Carolinian wielded the cane while the other guarded the door to make sure no one could come to help the victim.

Joe (“I will not be muzzled”) Wilson may have no manners, but he does fit in with centuries of South Carolina tradition.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 12 Comments

September 9, 2009

The other day my dad told me that he was in a gang in high school. Then he told me the gang was called the Argonauts.

So close, and yet so far.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 6 Comments

September 4, 2009

Today is E.S.’s birthday, which means that I was in a mawkish tender mood last night. He was fiddling with a laser pen pointer, and we had the following conversation.

E.S.: Ooh, look what happens when the light lands on the stone in your engagement ring!
FAUSTUS: That’s pretty cool.
E.S.: What if somebody made a ring that did that? I should have gotten you a ring that did that.
FAUSTUS: No, because this is already the best engagement ring ever.
E.S.: I’m sure that somewhere there’s a prince or tycoon or somebody with a better engagement ring.
FAUSTUS: No, because he didn’t get it from you.


E.S.: Well, you don’t know that.
FAUSTUS: Why are you always so mean to me?

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 8 Comments

September 2, 2009

Snippets of conversations from last night, as E.S. and I watched television.

(For the Top Chef elimination challenge, which involves cooking for 300 people on Nellis Air Force Base, Ash and Ashley have prepared a chocolate peanut butter bread pudding.)

E.S.: Yech.
FAUSTUS: What are you talking about? That sounds amazing and I want to make it right now.
E.S.: I would never put that in my mouth.
FAUSTUS: Honey, on a military base your mouth would already be full anyway.

On Glee, Terri has welcomed Will into her crafts room for the first time, for Wednesday night puzzle night.)

E.S.: Ooh, honey! Now we have to have Wednesday night puzzle night!
E.S.: Wait, every night I spend with you is puzzle night.

(The Glee cast has just sung “Don’t Stop Believin’ .”)

E.S.: Don’t stop believin’, sweetheart.
FAUSTUS: I stopped believing long ago.
E.S.: Actually, you never believed.
FAUSTUS: That’s true.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 2 Comments