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Posts Tagged ‘This American Life’

The Art of ALMOST Succeeding

This guy makes me feel less embarrassed about EVERYTHING.

I am going to be on the new Ricki Lake Show tomorrow. At least, I think I am. There is no guarantee that I will actually be on the Ricki Lake Show tomorrow, because it was prerecorded, which means I could be edited right off the show. It wouldn’t be the first time. I am someone who quite often gets really really close to having exciting things happen and then, usually at the last minute, finds the rug gone and my ass on the floor.

I am not complaining. It’s nice to know that I get to keep coming really close to accomplishing things. It means that there will always be new and exciting things that I can ALMOST accomplish.

So in the spirit of all the possibility and hopefulness that still exists about tomorrow’s show – crazy-eyes or cutting room floor not withstanding – I would like to list some of my past ALMOST-SUCCESSES. Won’t that be fun? (Cue The Kenny Rogers -)

#1. I ALMOST Got Price Waterhouse Coopers to Fund a Theater Company: They did actually fund part of two shows, but they had ALMOST agreed to pay for all the shows that year- That is until all of our actor’s got drunk wearing jeans at their black tie Christmas party.

#2. I Was ALMOST Dakota Fanning’s Assistant Talent Manager: Well, technically, I was for six weeks. Our roster included Mamie Gummer, Julia Styles and Mike Myers’ ex-wife Robin. I also bought girl scout cookies from Dakota and her sister Elle. I got fired in large part because I sent Jennifer Garner’s ex-husband on an audition for a movie being directed by Jennifer Garner’s current husband. So that was bad.

#3. I ALMOST Got a Famous Designer to Donate Free Couture Clothes to An Independent Film: Then I mispronounced her name on a call and never, ever heard from her again. But seriously, Malandrino is kind of hard.

#4. I ALMOST Got a Million Dollars to Make a Movie With Michael Showalter and Eugene Mirman: Like, I came surprisingly close for a public school graduate. There were many many meetings. We were so close. Then it all fell apart. I’m still not sure why but I blame not using drugs.

#5.  I ALMOST Had a Story on NPR’s This American Life: This was recent, and to be honest, I ALMOST had two stories. But both fell through at the last minute. I am no longer crying every seven minutes. So that’s an improvement.

What if I’m making this face on the Ricki Lake Show?

I’ll stop there but the list goes on and includes being edited out of a Hilary Swank movie in which I was given really good hair or the time I ALMOST married Heath Ledger after he bumped into me at a restaurant in Prague and said, “Pardon me.” But that last one might have been for the best. The point of this stroll down memory lane is basically the song Tubthumping by Chumbawamba. That’s all I can say.

Tomorrow, for better or worse, Ricki Lake will air and I may be on there looking like I’m mid-electrocution, or I might be photoshopped into a giant moth. I can’t say. But I’ll always keep assuming that there will be other chances to be on talk television. And you know what they say about people who “assume…”

For more info about where and when I will or will not be (crazy-eyed) on the Ricki Lake Show click Where to Watch.


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The Very Weird Week: Part I

Sometimes you just wish someone would come rescue you from a very confusing week.

I  am in the middle of a very strange week. Let me illustrate what I’m talking about starting with a week ago Tuesday:

This is what happened on Tuesday in this order-

1. I found out the This American Life show I had worked really hard on, recorded, written and completely believed in had been, as they say in the Biz, “killed.” (Upside, I immediately submitted the piece elsewhere and only cursed Ira Glass a little bit under my breath.)

2. My best friend and her boyfriend came from Europe to Visit! (Downside, none except, see above.)

3. I got an email from the person who was supposed to be the star of another TAL story I had pitched letting me know she was no longer interested. (Upside, the show hadn’t been chosen by the producers of the show and after the bloody “killing” earlier that day weren’t likely to do so.)

4. I got an email from Ira Glass asking if TAL could buy the show starring #3. (Upside, I got an email from Ira Glass!)

5. I got an email from a popular 90’s television talk show that is getting an apparent reboot asking me if I would come give a purity test from the book I wrote five years ago to her audience of virgins. (Downside, I had a ticket to Tulum for the very day I would need to be in LA.)

6. I tweeted and facebooked about the show! (Downside, the show asked me to wait for my announcement until they had an air date in case someone else wanted me to come on their show and give a purity test…)

7. The washing machine broke while my clothes were in it covered in soap. (There is no upside.)

Okay, so that was Tuesday.

-Wednesday I lost a brand new lovely video camera I had recently purchased

-Thursday I wrote Ira Glass a really snarky email

-Friday I wrote a redaction to my snarky email and found out that they still want my story, but they don’t want me to tell it -and my laptop broke with a looming deadline

-Saturday was a bit of a reprieve which included bedrest

-Sunday someone found my camera and called me to tell me I could come get it

-Monday the talk show began begging me to change my ticket on their dime and come to LA

-Tuesday I changed my ticket to go to LA and picked up my computer at the Mac repair store (in Brooklyn, I love them)

-Wednesday I paid a nice lady $30 to do my laundry at the laundromat and went back to the computer store (loving them less) because my computer was still freaking out

-And finally, right now, this very second, I am on a plane flying to Los Angeles to appear on this national talk show and I am having a very very bad hair day.

The proposed cover of the book I am supposed to be finished writing with my name spelled wrong. And it’s supposed to say “AND” JoselinE Linder…Not “With.”

There isn’t much more to say than that.

But here’s the thing, at several points during my weird week I pretty much fell apart. There were tears, there was a little bit of crazy-eyed laughter, most of which took place in the car but at least once took place in the Mac store and required someone to ask me if I needed some water. There was a lot of introspection wondering how people with children and a real job ever have a chance to grocery shop, much less watch TV. But right now (and let’s just say any of a thousand things can go wrong so let’s call this Part I of HOLYSHITI’MGOINGTOBEONTHERICKILAKESHOW) everything is going somewhat “smoothly.” Things are going to be okay. Computer is mostly working. I have a seltzer water the flight attendent just brought me, I’m going to meet my husband in Mexico tomorrow. All is well.

Except that I have a major book due.

I definitely definitely need a vacation.


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Memoirs are For the Constipated and Dostoyevsky

The photo I keep using as a “headshot.”

I love to write. In case it isn’t obvious by looking at some of the books to which I’ve attached my name, I will write anything. The simple fact that someone will pay me to write “Have you ever tossed a dwarf?” (The Purity Test, 2008) fills me with the same humble honor as the fat kid that isn’t chosen last on the playground. I can’t believe my luck. I still can’t believe it.

So what is it about this blogging business that I find so difficult? The answer is simple: I do not think I am very interesting. Before you do the, “Oh Jos, sure you are!” chin buck, I should be clear. This does not in any way stop me from dominating any conversation at a dinner party or chatting endlessly with my sister, husband, friends or telemarketers about the minutia of my daily interactions.

But when it comes to writing, I haven’t really been in the memoir game since my teens when I was also very into singing showtunes with jazz hands (see this blog entry for additional information).

I sold another book recently. It came a little bit out of nowhere because my writing partner on Game-Based Marketing, Gabe Zichermann, is truly an incredibly brilliant and well-respected star to whom I have unapologetically hitched my wagon. He was approached by an editor at McGraw Hill to write the quintessential book on gamification. A few weeks and a twenty page book proposal later, the deal was signed.

Getting this book deal is awesome on many levels, the first of which being that it means I can continue to “work from home” which let’s face it, is code for getting to drink on weeknights. But even better than that (no, you’re right, drinking on weeknights = best thing ever) is the fact that it is not memoir. Before this deal came along I was working on a book proposal about the death of my father and the terrifying gene with which he left my sister and I.

Angie Jordan liked my gene story. Or at least, was polite about listening to it.

The story, I’ve been told repeatedly, is an interesting one. People seem to love to hear about it. I feel fairly certain they are not just being polite. The other day when I met Sherri Shepherd with my family after a live taping of The View, the awesome comedian who plays Angie Jordan on 30 Rock stood there asking question after question after my mom casually mentioned the fact that my sister had undergone in vitro to weed out the gene in her amazing twins. (Did I mention that my mother is the best publicist ever?) Sherri Shepherd gave me her email address. Provided it isn’t a fake, I believe this indicates she found it interesting. It may have also been a ploy to wrap up the conversation. Don’t think I haven’t considered this possibility.

But, on a similar note, NPR’s This American Life bought the story two months ago.

And I know it’s compelling. I’m sure it must be. But there remains this internal shrug that weighs me down, this feeling that, “It’s just my life, you know?” You wake up, you get dressed, you eat, you work, you kiss your husband and go to sleep.

I have at various times worn the pain that comprised most of my 20’s like a collection of medals around my neck. I was happy to blurt out at the most festive of Sunday brunches anecdotes about loss, physical and emotional agony, infection, suicide, pain and death.

By 30 I understood better than most the notion that, “And then you die,” and thought it after nearly every major “crisis” I encountered. Ripped dresses, rain storms, lost jobs, and lost loves had a different weight for me than for most of my peers. I knew it. I felt it. There was genius in living a life so entirely present. Because, “And then you die” is the most liberating thing you can imagine. But also the most depressing. Finding meaning takes effort. Hope and belief are fleeting and tough to pin down.

I remember at 22, running late to meet friends from my graduating college class at a bar in Davis Square in Boston. I ran in breathless, took my seat in the booth and blurted out, “Sorry-I’m-late-my-dad-slipped-into-a-coma-can-I-get-a-beer?”

Someone looks like he could use a little time on the crapper, eh, Fyodor?

No one moved. I shrugged. What could I say? It was just my life.

I read once that Dostoyevesky wrote a lot of bad memoir in the years before he was finally able to write the work that would ultimately define his career. In a particularly pretentious discussion likely in a coffee shop in the 1990’s when I wore hoop earrings everyday and thrifted sailor jeans, someone suggested that memoir was a lot like shitting. It cleared you out so that you could try again to fill yourself with something meaningful. It was suggested that the great Russian writer had to write shitty memoir (pardon the pun), get it out, so that he could eventually write The Idiot, Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov.

So maybe I have to write these blogs, write this book about the gene to make room for my inner The Idiot to pour forth.

Writing about myself isn’t as boring as I imagine the act of reading about me must be — but there is something about the story of my life, my family and our gene that makes me feel like it could get me on The View with Sherri Shepherd. And with or without an inner-The Idiot, that’s enough motivation for me.


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The Art of the Overshare with Props

Perhaps we’ve stumbled upon the reason for my lack of friends in middle school…

I had very few friends in middle school. This reality applied to both real school and summer camp. I know that a lot of people feel this way about their preteen years, after all there are braces involved and, if this is the 1980’s, a perm. But I think in my case there was a bigger problem at play and it wasn’t just the mouthful of braces – it was simply just “the mouthful:” I liked to talk.

I phrased that in the past tense, not because I don’t still like to talk, but because as I grew up I discovered I liked people who liked me more than I liked talking. Therefore I had to figure out how to talk with better focus, less conviction and way, way less information.

Oversharing is a major problem in America today, made all the more prevalent by the popularity of social networking and Fox News. There are no filters. Governments break up, families break up, friends break up, you break up – all in real time, all in public.

When I run for president, this will be my central campaign focus and it will be so meta, I will lament it even as I inevitably overshare in my bid for president – like the thing about the cigar and Clinton or the Republican party and speaking.

So this week I am working on a story that might be the mother of all overshares. However, when you are being paid to do it, it’s more like Oprah talking about losing her beloved cocker spaniel, Sophie, and not like the Octomom. As such, I have had to spend the last seven days speaking candidly and intimately with a producer I have only actually known for the same amount of time. The story is about a genetic mutation in my great grandmother which causes a series of health issues exclusive to members of my family. There are only seven people known to have it and five more who have died either of it, or of something linked to it.

The thing about working with Jonathan-the-Producer is that he is a good guy. He is respectful and careful in his questions and general discourse. And of course it is safe to say that one cannot “overshare” when one is asked point blank, “So, does that totally apparent swelling in your legs piss you off?” Because anything short of, “I often say, `Fuck strappy sandals’ in public, outloud, to anyone, so yes,” would be a lie. And lying does not alleviate the pain of the overshare.

And yet somehow, even in a setting as intimate and expected as ours has been, I think I have still managed to freak Jonathan way the hell out. As a girl with boundary-issues from the outset, letting me spill only so much is akin to handing an alcoholic a mug of Johnny Walker and then challenging him to stop drinking before stripping naked and weeping while singing “Danny Boy” at the top of his lungs.

So I thought it would be fun to provide you a list of recent overshares, all in front of a producer for This American Life, and almost all actually taped for radio:

1. “I’ve done drugs!” I belt out in the middle of an otherwise staid interview with a doctor at Harvard medical school. “I mean, not like Jim Morrison,” I add, trying to fill the subsequent awkward silence, “but you know, my twenties weren’t pretty…”

2. “I wear support stockings,” I announce during a car ride when tastefully asked if I am currently having to treat any of my symptoms. Then, unprompted, I pull up my shirt and start snapping my elastic waist band while exclaiming, “I call them my rubber bands!” The drive continues in silence. (This might look crazier in my head than it actually played out…No. It looked crazy.)

3. “Want to see it?” I ask, shoving my phone in sweet-Jonathan’s horrified face, after explaining that I have what doctor’s repeatedly call “A Beautiful Liver” (this is going to be the title of my movie) despite a series of unusual veins — Because I actually carry in my iphone a picture of my liver.

4. We interview my 72-year-old aunt last Wednesday for the story. She is bemoaning the fact that another family member has never reached out to her after the illness or death of her husband. So I innocently console, “Fuck her. She’s a bitch.” (The weak laughter that ensues indicates that perhaps I’ve taken it one step too far.)

5. The liver picture. That gets two mentions because, seriously?

6. “My wife went to Tufts,” Jonathan tells me after I share that I went to Tufts for college. “Oh, I’m so sorry for her,” I say. “That school was full of the lamest people.”

This process isn’t over. There is still a whole lot of sharing and inevitably oversharing still to come. And I promise if at some point in the next few weeks I blurt out something about a chronic-low-grade yeast infection, I’ll let you know. Actually, it’d be more newsworthy if I don’t…

 


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NPR Here I Come! And Homonym’s Suck

My Great Grandmother Mae Whatlastname and the swollen legs that I am lucky enough to have inherited. And my dad and uncle (on her lap). They don't have last names either.

Update: A few blog posts ago I wrote that I had pitched a story to NPR’s This American Life. As of last Wednesday I learned that my pitch had been chosen. The story I plan to tell effects my whole family (and as a side note, has made it imperative that I learn, once and for all, the difference between “effects” and “affects” which I tend to trade in and out at random). The story is about a genetic mutation that impacts all of us in different ways, but one of the ways it unifies us is in that it make getting insurance and life insurance a total drag.

So, yesterday I sent out an email to the family in order to get emails back from those e/affected so that the doctor who is studying us can speak to me legally. Everyone was okay except (oh crap, accept?) for one person. The one person not okay with the story, was also a little bit bitchy about not being okay. His father passed of the illness when he was very young. He, however, was lucky enough not to get the gene. He was, however, unlucky enough to get the name of the people largely a/effected. In other words, guilty by association.

His argument, although presented in such a way that made you want to slap him, was sound. All of us could run into major insurance problems should this name get out and be traced back to us. Since this is a blog about naming things (genius topic, if I do say so myself) it seems sort of remarkably appropriate that a name is at the root of the problem.

I already have a problem getting insurance so I’m a little bit indignant about the whole thing. But understanding that my problems don’t need to be everyones problems, I am going to keep the name of the family out of it. In fact, I may even move forward with the project using my married name– which is a whole `nother blog with a whole `nother series of a/effects/affectations/effectiveness/effervescence — again, about naming things.

At the end of the day, what’s truly important is that I sold a story to NPR’s This American Life. Hopefully in the process, I won’t break up the family. But if I do, did I mention that I’m gonna be on NPR?!?


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