I think I gave myself a dare. It was the height of the Cold War. The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war, it was the military….So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist….I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him….And he became very popular.Iron Man - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jake Halpern grew up in Buffalo, which happens to be a national center of debt collection agencies. He writes that more than 5,000 people in the Buffalo area work in debt collection. In his new book, Halpern takes a dive into the underworld of the debt collection industry, where having a criminal background is no barrier to entry, and may sometimes be useful. He writes of a world in which batches of old, uncollected debts may be sold again and again to collection agencies, and may end up being worked by two companies simultaneously. Jake Halpern is a contributor to The New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine, and is the author of Fame Junkies and Braving Home. His new book is called Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld.
Dave Davies asked Halpern why phone calls to people’s homes to collect debts often come from agencies other than the company they originally owed.
Brittany Shoot, my managing editor, and I consider The Magazine a very successful experiment. As noted in our Kickstarter campaign, we’ve paid out over half a million dollars to contributors of all sorts over two years, and we have tens of thousands left to pay out this year. We’ve been profitable from the start, but ever less so. I’m a working stiff, and I can’t ride this all the way down. We’re going out happy with our work, delighted with our audience, and so ecstatic to have worked with so many terrific writers, artists, photographers, editors, designers, and others.The Magazine: Issue #53 offers our Year Two book, talks farewells, and flies high
Graham Chapman, co-author of the ‘Parrot Sketch,’ is no more.John Cleese’s eulogy for Graham Chapman, who died twenty-five years ago today, on October 4, 1989. (via tterryjones)
He has ceased to be, bereft of life, he rests in peace, he has kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the Great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky, and I guess that we’re all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, such capability and kindness, of such intelligence should now be so suddenly spirited away at the age of only forty-eight, before he’d achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he’d had enough fun.
Well, I feel that I should say, ‘Nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries.’
And the reason I think I should say this is: He would never forgive me if I didn’t, if I threw away this opportunity to shock you all on his behalf.
Anything for him but mindless good taste.
I could hear him whispering in my ear last night as I was writing this: ‘Alright, Cleese, you’re very proud of being the first person to ever say “shit” on television. If this service is really for me, just for starters, I want you to be the first person ever at a British memorial service to say “fuck”!’
You see, the trouble is, I can’t. If he were here with me now I would probably have the courage, because he always emboldened me. But the truth is, I lack his balls, his splendid defiance. And so I’ll have to content myself instead with saying ‘Betty Mardsen…’
But bolder and less inhibited spirits than me follow today. Jones and Idle, Gilliam and Palin. Heaven knows what the next hour will bring in Graham’s name… Trousers dropping, blasphemers on pogo sticks, spectacular displays of high-speed farting, synchronized incest… One of the four is planning to stuff a dead ocelot and a 1922 Remington typewriter up his own arse to the sound of the second movement of Elgar’s cello concerto — and that’s in the first half.
Because, you see, Gray would have wanted it this way. Really.
Anything for him but mindless good taste.
And that’s what I’ll always remember about him — apart, of course, from his Olympian extravagance.
He was the prince of bad taste. He loved to shock. In fact, Gray, more than anyone I knew, embodied and symbolized all that was most offensive and juvenile in Monty Python. And his delight in shocking people led him on to greater and greater feats. I like to think of him as the pioneering beacon that beat the path along which fainter spirits could follow.
I remember writing the undertaker speech with him, and him suggesting the punch line, ‘All right, we’ll eat her, but if you feel bad about it afterwards, we’ll dig a grave and you can throw up into it.’
I remember discovering in 1969, when we wrote every day at the flat where Connie Booth and I lived, that he’d recently discovered the game of printing four-letter words on neat little squares of paper, and then quietly placing them at strategic points around our flat, forcing Connie and me into frantic last minute paper chases whenever we were expecting important guests.
I remember him at BBC parties crawling around on all fours, rubbing himself affectionately against the legs of gray-suited executives, and delicately nibbling the more appetizing female calves. Mrs. Eric Morecambe remembers that, too.
I remember his being invited to speak at the Oxford Union, and entering the chamber dressed as a carrot — a full length orange tapering costume with a large, bright green sprig as a hat — and then, when his turn came to speak, refusing to do so. He just stood there, literally speechless, for twenty minutes, smiling beatifically — the only time in world history that a totally silent man has succeeded in inciting a riot.
I remember Graham receiving a Sun newspaper TV award from Reggie Maudling. (Who else!) And taking the trophy, falling to the ground, and crawling all the way back to his table, screaming loudly, as loudly as he could — and if you remember Gray, that was very loud indeed.
It is magnificent, isn’t it?
You see, the thing about shock… is not that it upsets some people, I think; I think that it gives others a momentary joy of liberation, as we realized in that instant that the social rules that constrict our lives so terribly are not actually very important.
Well, Gray can’t do that for us anymore. He’s gone. He is an ex-Chapman. All we have of him now is our memories — but it will be some time before they fade.
Gary Shteyngart Tries and Tries Again to Eat at Ess-a-Bagel — Grub Street
Buffalo’s a fun town. After the reading, some cool University of Buffalo people and I head to Gabriel’s Gate for a late dinner of wings and a bowl of fries, which I dip into a pot of gravy and wash down with some pints of simple Labbats. Buffalo wings are probably my favorite colloquial American food. I wish I were a frat boy here just eating wings all day long and majoring in organizational psychology or whatever it takes these days.
Saturday, September 27
At the Buffalo airport, some dudes in “keep calm and chive on” T-shirts are already pounding their Labbats at 9 a.m. What a lifestyle choice it must be to live in Buffalo. I have a coffee served in a clear cocktail glass and a true breakfast of insane champions, an omelette stuffed with Buffalo wings!