Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday Story Hour: Boxing with David Schickler

It's Saturday Story Hour--even when it's a busy week.

Last week's story left at least one of you feeling melancholy, so this week I want to make up for that with a story that approaches romantic comedy(!).

Believe it or not, sometimes a writer publishes his or her debut story in The New Yorker--after which, of course, pretty much everything else is downhill. For example, the author of today's story, David Schickler, debuted "The Smoker" in TNY and (sadly) has never written anything nearly as good or successful. Fosco's writer friend NR was so enamored with "The Smoker" that he looked forward eagerly to the publication of Schickler's first collection (Kissing in Manhattan); however, after reading the collection, NR literally threw the book out the window--he was that disappointed. Fosco would never dispose of a book, but he agrees that the rest of Schickler's collection was not nearly as good as "The Smoker."

What makes "The Smoker" so good? Well, for one thing, it's a humorous and quirky take on the old teacher-student romance cliche. Charmingly, it plays that scenario without resorting to cheap sexual thrills, favoring instead awkwardness and sweet incomprehension. And there are some gems of dialogue:

"Is this real? I mean, are you . . . in love with me?" He couldn't believe what he'd asked.

"I'm ready to be," said Nicole. "And I mean this as a compliment, but I've got nothing better to do."
I must say, that's kind of a good line.

Now if still think the story sounds a bit odd and creepy, that's because I haven't sprung the story's surprising twist on you. I don't want to give things away, but this isn't really your typical teacher-student romance story (no "Don't Stand So Close to Me" here). I would suggest you give the story a chance: see if it doesn't charm you by the end...

You can read "The Smoker" here.

And if you must discover David Schickler's other work, please do so by following these links:

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Thursday, April 09, 2009


Okay, instead of hiding in my bed as promised, I opened Photoshop and had fun with the whole "communication blackout" thing. Because there is nothing more fun than homemade "CSI: Miami" comics.

This is how you turn fear into empowerment!

Listen all of y'all...'s a SABOTAGE!

Phone and internet in a large area of the South Bay have been completely down since 2 AM this morning. Fosco is completely without phone service (both landline and cell). His internet is down; he is only getting internet from an unprotected wireless network (which runs on a cable connection) in his apartment complex. The UCSC network is down, so no email. Supposedly, most of San Jose and its suburbs are down as well. If that's true, that could mean something like one million people are currently without phone service.

If you think this sounds absolutely crazy, you're right--especially since the 911 network is also down and has now been down for more than 24 hours. What makes things even worse is that we are now learning that, as the Beastie Boys lyric that titles this post suggests, the cause of the outage is SABOTAGE.

According to this article,

Four AT&T fiber-optic cables in an underground vault were severed shortly before 1:30 a.m. along Monterey Highway north of Blossom Hill Road in south San Jose, police Sgt. Ronnie Lopez said. Four more underground cables, at least two of which belong to AT&T, were cut about two hours later along Old County Road near Bing Street in San Carlos, authorities said.
And lest you think that this was an easy task, consider how this had to be done:
In both instances, saboteurs had to use a piece of equipment to lift heavy manhole covers and climb down several feet to get to the cables. They would have to have been equipped with heavy-duty cutting equipment to slice through the thick cable coating.
Translation: this was an organized and professional act. We're not quite talking Ocean's Eleven-type professionals, but maybe something close. No media outlet I have seen has been willing to speculate about the reason for the sabotage yet, but I think you have to wonder about whether this served as cover for some sort of criminal act (robbery, murder, etc.)

Even scarier, as I write this, I can hear a major confluence of emergency sirens nearby--police, I think. This is not comforting. I think I'm going to draw my blinds and hide in my bed until cell service returns. It's amazing how only a few simple technologies stand between us and complete anarchy. Maybe I should buy a gun.

But hey, you know what might be fun? Watching the video for "Sabotage." It was directed by Spike Jonze, remember? It never fails to put a smile on my face.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

UCSC Tapas!

Some brief updates on life here at UCSC:

  • The giant UCSC campus 4/20 pot festival approaches. Watch the video from last year. This year, the Admin plans to get even more difficult about the whole thing (and I guess it is bad publicity for the U): UCSC has already contacted the parents of first-years. As the email to parents notes:
    "I encourage you to talk with your student about his or her plans for 4/20. Ask direct questions about the choices they make and express your expectations regarding marijuana, alcohol or other drug use. Although students may not initiate discussion on this topic, your opinions and expectations can influence their behavior."
    If only UCSC would contact my parents. I would love to have that conversation.
  • Sad news from budget-cut land: UCSC's uber-liberal Community Studies Department may get the axe. Sure, it's a crazy radical major that creates community activists, but then again, community activists do more good in this world than almost anyone else (especially white trash governors).
  • This past week, Fosco discovered the beauty of the Porter Koi Pond. Did you know that koi live 25-35 years? That's longer than most dogs, cats, and Community Studies departments. True.

    Sadly, there is this old story about two UCSC fratboys who caught and grilled one of the koi several years ago. Luckily, those frat boys are now dead.
Aren't they gorgeous?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Fosc Olives Tapas

Greetings, my friends. I fear that I will be testing your loyalty this week. This will be a difficult week for me work-wise (you know that thing I do that [barely] pays the bills?). But rather than abandoning you entirely to the uncivilized wilderness of most of the non-Fosco Lives! internet, I will be offering a selection of very brief posts this week in lieu of the more traditional FL! features. Call it "blog tapas"--which is, not coincidentally, one of the best ways to savor olives (including Fosc Olives).

Because we usually talk about music on Mondays, allow me to offer you today several photographs from the recent Bruce Springsteen concert in San Jose that I attended with my friend Todd. These photos were taken with my pathetically inadequate cell phone camera; however, at least I didn't hold a digital camera over my head for the whole concert like the jackass standing in front of me. Tradeoffs.

We were actually standing pretty close, no?

Also, I may have been standing next to tween sensation Zac Efron during the set. Judge for yourself from this surreptitious photo:

Okay, it probably wasn't him. But what if it had been?