Last week at TNB, Joel Fishman called out the New York Times Book Review.Its methodology of selecting which books to bless (or damn) with a review, he suggested, has become whimsical to the point of irrelevance.

Fishman’s piece, “TNB 112, NYT 27,” went viral.It was direct-linked all over the place.In terms of page hits, it is the most popular post in the annals of The Nervous Breakdown.(Riding the wave of wider interest, Joel cannily posted the latest installment of his serialized novel, Cadaver Blues, a day or two later).

I wanted to comment on the piece as soon as I read it.First, because I like to comment on pieces that I read—it’s the culture here at the Breakdown—and second, because it’s the sort of dispatch that invites rigorous debate.I could feel Becky licking her chops all the way in Minnesota.

I would have written something like this:

The Los Angeles Times covers the lit world better.The New Yorker does a better job at recognizing emerging writers (as our own Ben Loory can attest).But the former doesn’t have the cachet, and the latter doesn’t have the reach, of the Times.

“My view is very much Eastern, very much Old School, where a book review from the Times was the only sure sign that an author had arrived,” Fishman says.“But maybe it’s time to rethink that, and this rethinking has been long overdue.”

The Times may be a hoary king, hidebound and dotardly, but it’s still the king.If anything, the tumult in the wider industry—papers failing, magazines shutting down, investigative journalism atrophying, book reviews going extinct—has only consolidated its power as a tastemaker.For better or worse, the Times Square throne will not be vacated any time soon.

But I didn’t leave that comment.The über-secretive Scorpio in me advised against it.You don’t want your name there, my inner Dick Cheney advised.You don’t want to arouse the anger of the Gray Lady.

There was no reason for the cloak and dagger stuff.The NYT did not review my novel.My greatest hope for making the pages of that august newspaper, probably, is to get a movie deal, and have A.O. Scott write a sentence or two about Totally Killer in the review of the film (“Based on the smart, gripping thriller by Greg Olear…”).

However the editors there go about deciding which books to review—taste, whim, payola, dart toss—three innocuous paragraphs I write on a comment board, one would imagine, wield little influence.Do Michiko Kakutani and Motoko Rich troll the Internet for trash talk?

And yet I chose not to leave Joel a comment.I didn’t want to get involved.For purely political reasons, I didn’t want to show my true colors—even though, in this case, those colors run the gamut from beige to ecru.Elena Kagan’s got nothing on me.



 You never know who will wind up reading what you write.

To wit: some time ago, a certain writer on this site referenced, in a comment thread, a certain former Playboy centerfold.The writer called her a sociopathic slut, or words to that effect.The next day, said former Playboy centerfold, who obviously knows her way around Google Alert, sent this writer a belligerent e-mail demanding an apology, which the writer hastily and sheepishly provided.And that was on a comment board!

I am careful about whom I disparage in my posts.Seldom is heard a disparaging word.And when I do talk smack, my opinions are not to be confused with courageous.

In my piece about Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, for example, I take the extremely controversial position that Dan Brown is a lousy novelist(Way to make a stand, Greg!). In another post, I advance the notion that Roland Emmerich’s films suck (Balls of steel, Greg!).And in “Soldier On,” my essay about two Holocaust-related books—a piece that, for reasons beyond my understanding, was not as widely read as the one about how Angelina Jolie should hang out with my wife, or the one in which I summarize the various personalities at TNB—I politely disagree with both Kakutani of the Times and Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, but not before bending over backwards extolling their virtues.

Heck, I don’t even make fun of the Kardashians anymore, for fear of pissing off Phat B.(Although I did take Heidi Pratt to task for the F-cups—and if Us Weekly is to be believed, Spencer’s scruffy ass will be on my porch before Simon and Zara get here.We’ll see how much juice TNB has, or how obsessively Speidi Googles.That’s right, Spencer Pratt, I’m talking to you: free heidi!And when you’re done with that, call your sister; she misses you.Oh, and: shave!).


Most of the time, I take to heart the old saw: If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.

Not that I adopt this motherly advice because I am, or even wish to be, nice all the time.

Writing something negative about someone is like challenging him or her to a duel.And I just don’t have the stomach for pistols at dawn.



 Most of us at the Breakdown are like that.We’re cordial.We’re supportive.We pat each other on the back (Tarantino might phrase this a bit more colorfully, using a different body part in his metaphor).We gush—sometimes to a fault.

Here are some snippets from the last few comments on the board:

You’ve got a fantastic way with words.

This was great.

I think both of your titles are perfect!

Great idea!

The nature of the TNBeast is good.Part of the charm.

You don’t ever hear This piece is a bit sloppy, or You really need to brush up on your grammar, or For the love of God, Greg, stop writing about lesser celebrities.

And our good nature is sturdy, as it turns out.We don’t take kindly to strangers throwing our contributors under the bus—as Steve Almond found out a few weeks ago, if he bothered to read his comments (and wow did he miscalculate his audience!).

After all, it’s easy to knock someone down.It requires no special talent to be mean.Howard Stern and his bullying ilk—a group that in my view also contains the odious Michael Moore, who I’m convinced is a Republican double agent—have no truck with me.

Why not gush?Why go negative reflexively?

Snark and a surfeit of cleverness are the calling cards of too many web addresses as it is.

Although this “perfunctory kindness and soft praise,” as our resident curmudgeon Justin Benton put it, can be excessive at times, I like it.And as the Almond/Daly dust-up showed, that is the general consensus.It was refreshing, wasn’t it, to see Slade Ham and Matt Baldwin and Nathaniel Missildine and Sean Beaudoin and Zara and the others ride to Gentleman Joe Daly’s defense.

If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.

Words to live by.

Unless you’re talking about Spencer Pratt, that Svengali motherfucker.


TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

GREG OLEAR is the Los Angeles Times bestselling author of the novels Totally Killer and Fathermucker and founding editor of The Weeklings.

408 responses to “Something Nice”

  1. Simon Smithson says:

    I’ve wondered about this. More so recently.

    See, I like kindness. I like support. Especially when it’s to directed towards a collection of writers who I consider at a base minimum, talented. Jesus, has anyone been to WeBook recently? Goddamn it. If I rate one more fucking story about an assassin, a werewolf, or a single mother who discovers herself, I’m going to mercy-shank Paul Auster and the future of literature. Dear Floodgates: you could stand to close a crack.

    It makes you appreciate what it is we’ve got here – what it is that Monsieur Listi (why are you French, Brad? I don’t know) has created.

    At the same time – have we direction? Have we drive? Do we need such things?

    Or maybe this is a just my own self-expressional angst bleeding out across the wider canvas as I continue to define just what it is that I have to say, and how I want to say it.

    Gardens don’t grow through pruning alone – I think TNB is testament to that. There’s a lot of nurturing being done here, too. And that’s a good thing, especially when the Powers That Be have done such a good job of bringing those with talent into the fold.

  2. I was talking to Brin Friesen about this… I’ve participated in other online literary communities (but I’m monogamous now, I swear! those ones meant nothing to me!) and all people do is backstabbing and bitching. It’s refreshing to hear people say, “You’re awesome! I love to read your stuff!” because I think it’s sincere. We’re probably the friendly bunch of cyber-nerds around.

    Hell, I was in the Korean newspapers two weeks ago because my blog took a record number of death threats. Two other bloggers were forced to leave the country because their children were being stalked. My name and address is all across the (Korean-insulted) internet because people aren’t as accommodating there. I actually had to get a second apartment because my first one was so well known in the psychopath community.

    I think it’s nice that we can all be friends here. I do, however, feel a little restricted sometimes… I don’t like hurting feelings or treading on the feet of others. Joe Daly’s post was something I really liked, and I thought the comments against him/his side of the debate were worth arguing against… but I left it. I don’t come here to debate politics. I come here to read good quality writing, and that’s what I invariably find. I’ll happily discuss writing or poetry or occasionally get drawn into other debates, but I don’t like fighting with people, so I’m happier to back off. But I do applaud Joe and Matt and co for their well-thought arguments. It’s nice to see people being rational and not resorting to name-calling. (Which is what I do in arguments… I’m a child.)

    Oh, and I did post a vaguely unkind comment… I recently pointed out a typo! I felt like a dick, of course, and confessed my sins.

    • Oh, and you are still the only person from whom I’ve heard the word “Kardashian.” Seriously, I think you’re making her up.

    • Greg Olear says:

      A second apartment? Jesus. It’s the Wonder Girls, people! Leave Wills alone!

      I don’t like arguing, either, because I suck at it, and also default to name-calling and tantruming. I find arguing about politics exhausting and, ultimately, futile. More fun to discuss the Beatles and the Beats, although that too is futile.

      Joe didn’t deserve the pillory for not digging on Rush.

      • Exactly. I’m a shit debater. It’s my poor memory… even when I’m right I have trouble getting that across. But then, I’m also lazy. I don’t care enough to push views at others. There are plenty of other people out there who foist their silly opinions one the public. I’m happy to talk about K-pop and shit needles.

  3. Thoughtful post, indeed, Greg. Yeah, I really do try to live by the words, “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say it at all.” And by the words of David Byrne in “Psycho Killer,” ‘Say something once, why say it again?’

    And if I ever slip up on either of those wise words, I’ll just have to remember to not trash talk that former Playboy playmate. Woof. She sounds like trouble.

  4. J.E. Fishman says:

    Could it be, though, Greg. That virility promotes virality?

    Seriously, I think it’s o.k. to speak truth to power, but trashing one’s peers (unless your both among the powerful) seems gratuitous. Plus, man, we all hear “no” enough. My post on the New York Times was essentially a cri de coeur. Stop telling these people “no”!

    • Greg Olear says:

      Virility/virality! Ha!

      And in case I wasn’t clear, I liked your piece a lot, Joel…which is why I made that cool icon for it.

      The AP, my old place of employ, has a policy where they don’t review books that aren’t hardcover. That sort of thing irks me to no end. I would have gotten a good review there, and it may have wound up in random newspapers and web sites all over creation, but that was denied me because of an outmoded system. Grrr.

      • J.E. Fishman says:

        “Outmoded”?! You can do better than that. Go ahead. Knock that chip off AP’s shoulder.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I had a lot more foresight about the Internet than the people in charge there at the time. AP was like ML Baseball, or the Catholic Church…slooooooow to change.

  5. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    This is great psychological experiment, first thing on an undercaffeinated Monday morning. I want to say something nice about it but then think I’m just following along with the tone of the piece. So I think perhaps I’ll be snarky but then worry that this was your intent all along – to draw out the negativity by creating a vacuum of it. And, to top it all off (so to speak), you included a picture of Heidi Pratt, a woman I had never heard of much less laid eyes upon, and it’s hard to type a decent comment when you keep pausing to scroll up the page and stare. So… perhaps I’ll just leave it (for now) with “Thank you, Greg, for getting my ‘fantasy infidelity list’ a little bit closer to the requisite five. I never knew I was a ‘breast man’ before this post.”

    Seriously, though, this piece was great. Both of her ti- I mean, you’ve got a fantastic way with words.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Anon. Re: intent, I think you’re giving me too much credit. This is one of my more rambling efforts.

      I find all this Heidi and Spencer stuff infinitely amusing. She is Gertrude McFuzz to Lauren Conrad’s Lolla-Lee-Lou.

      • Andrew Nonadetti says:

        Being a predatory capitalist, I often provide too much credit knowing full well it can never be repaid. It’s all part of my evil plan to enslave the world. As for your rambling, perhaps it’s just synchronicity. I’m running on very little sleep after perhaps indulging just a little much last night so I am primed to absorb ramblings and/or stream-of-consciousness far better than dry, structured data. I need mental comfort food not rice cakes and you have comforted nicely.

        And now I have to head back to lab to verify tests of a software package that performs complex analysis of geospatial and geospectral satellite data. It’s gonna be a long frigging Monday. I may print out this piece for inspiration before interacting with humans.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Your undercaffeinated self is still pretty damned funny, Anon. Or A-Non, I suppose.

          I was working on little sleep when I wrote this, so maybe it’s the best time to take it in.

          Enjoy the geospectrum.

        • I did what you did, Anon. I think I scrolled back up to the Heidi photo three times and just sat there like a zombie staring for roughly 26 seconds each time before I made it down to comment. Then after I commented, I scrolled back up to the Heidi photo again. Then I went to MSN.com to read the headlines, read the headlines, then came back to The Nervous Breakdown to Greg’s post to look at the Heidi photo again. And as soon as I hit Add Comment on this comment, I’m going to scroll back up again. I still have 26 seconds before my lunch break is over.

        • Greg Olear says:

          She is pretty. Looked better before the latest round of surgeries, though.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          @Greg, always happy to entertain. And I’ll have you know that, in a fit of technical boredom, I… um… saved the pic and converted it to a usable format for some of my testing. Based on the results of the target detection software, I can almost guarantee that the routine was coded by a heterosexual male :). I considered looking for a pre-surgery pic on the Web and running our anomaly detection routine on it for laughs but figured I make HR wince enough on a regular basis.

          @Jeffrey…. I don’t even know what I was going to type. I started writing, scrolled up and now it’s gone. It’s like I had a UF(cup)O encounter and suddenly there’s all this missing time…. Sigh. Back to the lab… in a minute… or ten….

        • Greg Olear says:

          “Converted it to a usable format for some of my testing.”

          You’re talking about masturbation, right?

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Only of the mental variety. I mean, seriously, Greg. How could I type this much otherwise?

        • Greg Olear says:

          Maybe you have someone taking dictation.

          (Pun intended. I think. Groan).

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Not me, my friend. My wife would have my dictaphone nailed to a wall if that ever happened!

        • Greg Olear says:

          I would never peg you as the cheating kind, Anon. And I want to make a vasectomy joke about the dictophone being nailed to the wall, but I can’t think of one. Curses! Foiled again!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Thank God Heidi caught everyone else. I’d never heard of her before this. And now I can’t… I can’t look away…

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          @Greg: Heh. My first attempts at that “nailed” comment kept turning into “well-hung” and “mounted” gags. I applaud your resistance to the “low-hanging fruit”. Oh… wait… that’s bad, too….

          @Simon: She’s like a train wreck, isn’t she? Like a buxom, vacuous, buoyant, would-believe-you-really-are-a-surgeon-and-will-call-her-again train wreck.

        • Greg Olear says:

          The caption on that photo was “The Hills are alive.” Ha!

  6. James D. Irwin says:

    This was great.

    You have a fantastic way with words.

  7. James D. Irwin says:

    Seriously though, it’s strange to see how much TNB has grown. I’ve only been writing here for around 15 months and the difference between then and now… huge.

    And yet at its heart it’s still the same place… maybe not as tight and communal as it once was, but that makes sense given the expansion of the site and the number of regular contributors increasing dramatically… it’s still communal. It’s still a nice— nay, fantastic— environment to be writing in.

    TNB is the best thing I’ve ever been a part of.

    • Greg Olear says:

      At its best, it’s pretty darned good. And while it’s organic — I don’t know that the positive social interaction was part of Brad’s strategic plan — the tone does flow from the top, with Brad.

  8. Jessica Blau says:

    Okay Greg, I’m going to GUSH over you because I think you’re a great novelist and a great guy. (Honestly!)
    You’re right about everything here. Many of the writers here have writers groups, or have been in grad. school, or have spouses, lovers or parents who excoriate their every word (I have, or have had, all of those things). The thing about posting is that once you’ve posted it, it’s essentially published, so there’s NO USE in calling out what’s wrong with it–too damn late! If you want to save someone from future mistakes, a private email isn’t a bad thing. But a public scolding–fagget about it!

  9. Judy Prince says:

    Or, Greg, you just might be a wimp. DO NOT AGREE WITH THAT!

    Where’s the smiley emoticon; I need insurance; this comment might make it to the Supreme Court’s blog—–and we know that the full-breasted photo will make their daily round of “cases”. OMG—-now I’m gonna be on a Supreme Court bad-mouthers list!

    Ah, here’s the smiley. 😉 I hate to criticise anybody!!! I bleed! I ache!! I die!!! I’m Grizelda, or is it Grendel? I’m Dame Aux Camille!! I’m tired of using the shift key for the exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!


    • Greg Olear says:

      I don’t think the Supreme Court peeps get out much. They seem pretty isolated. And therefore fair game. Hey, Clarence Thomas! You stink!

      • Judy Prince says:

        Clarence Thomas is still there? Oh right, I forgot that *everybody* is still there—-it’s a life sentence thing. I wish Justice Brandeis would speak up, though, and Justice Marshall, too. It’s been a looooong looooong time since we heard true moral geniuses speak.

        • Greg Olear says:

          To swing it back to the topic, word on the street is that Clarence Thomas is a super nice guy — really kind to the building employees, etc. I mean, other than the whole Anita Hill, pubic-hair-on-the-Pepsi-can thing.

  10. Nice, thoughtful piece, Greg. I know a lot of people live the whole “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything” maxim, which, as maxims go, ain’t a bad one to live by. I think its corollary is “If you have something not nice to say, make sure it’s true.” Or something like that.

    I think writing groups and workshops made me partly allergic to the idea. A lot jokingly referred to the “shit sandwich”: you open with what you like, continue with a few suggestions/what didn’t work, finish by reiterating what you liked. I think it’s partly psychological in how it works; you get more receptive to criticism if you were just praised.

    As for the Grey Lady, well, I literally can’t remember last time I held a newspaper. It must be difficult to be held as a standard of something, as the epitome of something, and then one day realize your past doesn’t amount to much in the future. She’ll always be around, sure, and probably printed, even, but a lot of people probably won’t read her that way; they’ll get her news online, or via her app, or whathaveyou.

    And emerging writers? I’ve become more and more convinced that we’re looking at them right now here, on this site. That in the future, writing for a site like this will become somewhat equivalent to a cover band gigging around in bars before they score a deal. You’ll get exceptions, like someone jumping to the New Yorker, but they’ll be the Greyson Chance/Lady Gaga/Lily Allen sorts of stories, the exceptions that prove the rule.

    • Greg Olear says:

      1. The maxim is, “If you shoot at a king, make sure you kill him.”

      2. I’d never heard that described as a shit sandwich before…but that is what they teach you in HR classes on how to give employee evaluations.

      3. The format is not important. The mistake newspapers made is that they got hung up on the format rather than the content and the brand, which is all that matters. The NYT on my ipHone is still the NYT.

      4. Have watched a lot of Lady Gaga and Lily Allen lately, as my daughter digs them. Perhaps fodder for my next post. They are both great.

  11. Art Edwards says:

    Such a careful line to walk, Greg.

    You want to be interesting, and provocative, and sincere, and at the same time you want no one to get hurt.

    How about a new take on another old maxim: “Take it one word at a time.”

  12. Brad Listi says:

    I’m with you on pretty much everything but Stern. Why you gotta crack on my boy Howard?

    BABA BOOEY!!!!

    • Brad Listi says:

      But seriously. I do think Howard goes over the line here and again. He’s certainly been guilty of saying some hurtful things.

      But beyond that, on the level of comedy and candor and personal honesty, I really get what he’s trying to do. Our media (and our literature?) is filled with bullshit. Tripe. People softening the edges of everything they think and say. And Howard doesn’t do that. He puts himself out there. He takes risks. And sometimes, yes, he says reckless things. But hey…he’s live on the air. That’s the game. It’s hard to do what he does.

      I also think he’s gotten better over the years. Meaning: He’s less mean than he used to be. His show on Sirius is the best.

      And I’ll always say that he is–bar none–the greatest interviewer in all of media. Nothing is more riveting than a Howard Stern celebrity interview.

      • Greg Olear says:

        I should probably do a mea culpa on Howard. I haven’t listened to him in ages, and of course he IS funny, without a doubt. And I like him — he seems like a good guy in real life. In my mind, though, he embodies the meanness. Is the meanness justified? In most cases, yes. But still.

        But then, I also like Borat and Bruno. So I’m a tad inconsistent, I guess.

        A better interviewer than James Lipton? No way!

        (Steph and I saw Lipton at Penn Station a few months ago. He ambled right up to us, looked at us blankly, as if mistaking us for a couple he’d interviewed, and ambled away. He looks old in real life).

  13. Slade Ham says:

    I think the fact that everyone tends to be encouraging here is what pushes some people to keep writing. Not being faced with the usual barrage of “critique” found elsewhere takes a lot of the pressure off. It makes people want to write more, and writing more will generally make you a better writer much faster than all the jabby criticism in the world.

    This is a fun place.

    As for Steve Almond, that was a total dick move on his part. I was happy to see the rally happen too.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Well put, Slade.

      You have an interesting perspective on this, being a comic. You have to be mean up there, to a certain degree, and committing to the meanness — or the honest critique, or whatever — is part of the art. If Chris Rock started backtracking after he said the Lewinsky thing was Hillary’s fault because she didn’t give Bill enough blow-jobs, it wouldn’t have been as funny.

      No accident that yours was the first anti-Almond comment, I think.

      • Lorna says:

        Well, Slade does have the mental death list and all. I was giggling this weekend thinking “what if” Scott Stapp should Google his name. hahaha. Oh, was that mean? 😡

      • Slade Ham says:

        I think in many cases it’s simply a “pick your battle” thing. I am unapologetic when I choose to go down that road however. Like you said, you have to be totally committed. Here though, in this medium, there seems to be little need for such a stance. In the few instances where it feels justified, like the Almond piece, I will probably always be first in line.

        On stage though, all bets are off 😉

        • Greg Olear says:

          Stand-up is all about confidence. Projecting confidence is almost as important as the jokes. Look at Letterman. He says something, no one really laughs, and he keeps saying it until they do. Because he’s Letterman, and nothing rankles him. He doesn’t flinch.

          (I love stand-up, BTW. I’ve seen a lot of acts, including Carlin, Dennis Miller, and Jake Johansson, who totally rocks).

          When are you getting to NYC, Slade? If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. And there are more bars than in Kuwait.

  14. I’m with you Greg. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all . . . unless you’re truly being humorous with your satire and not just being a douche.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Right. Or unless you’re calling out that fuckwad Pratt.

      • Ditto. What kind of blonde redneck mustache is he sporting? Jeez, that thing is horrible.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I think he’s gone batshit insane. Always fun to watch the wheels fall off…

        • Judy Prince says:

          “fuckwad”, “douche”, “total dick move” and “batshit”—–just four more reasons why I scroll through TNB comments to expand my vocabulary.

          Thanks, guys.

          Nice Mailer quote, Brad; though I prefer many TNBers’ writings to his.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Judy: an etymological side. I only use “batshit” to modify “insane.” Because, you know, being insane is just not strong enough.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Good syntactical point, Greg, but it overlooks the power of the word “batshit”, which, if used correctly, as you have done, actually o’ershadows, rather than intensifies, the word it modifies.

          I think the answer to this conundrum is applying modifiers to the word “batshit”.

        • Greg Olear says:

          When in doubt, “fucking” is always a good choice. It works with everything. It’s the O positive of swear-word modifiers.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Greg, you get the comeback award—-at least for today!

          HAhahahahahaha—–love it: “It’s the O positive of swear-word modifiers”!!!!

        • Becky says:

          Oh yeah. “Batshit” is established enough to stand on its own and thus, be modified in turn.

          You can be “batshit,” “totally batshit,” “fucking batshit,” or even “totally fucking batshit.”

          You could put the “insane” at the end of any of those to really draw out the insult, but it is not required in order to be understood.

        • Greg Olear says:

          That’s bloody great!

        • Don Mitchell says:

          So how many of you have ever seen batshit? It’s very pretty. Shiny, glinting sometimes, from all those insect parts. I have a whole barn awash in batshit. Any of you are welcome to come and take as much as you like.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I’ve seen batshit. Longer and wider than mouseshit. We had a bat who lived behind a shitter on our porch. He did a number on the mosquitoes.

        • Gloria says:

          You have a shitter on your porch?

        • Greg Olear says:

          The bats died off in droves a few years ago. Some kind of weird disease. I used to be afraid of them, because they are so mouse-like, and I’m terrified of mice. But they are actually more like miniature cats with wings. And that echo thing? Wow.

          No, where the poop was, is now just ladybug corpses and cigar ash.

  15. Becky says:

    I’m famous!!!

    After all, it’s easy to knock someone down. It requires no special talent to be mean.

    Okay, now I am insulted.

    People keep saying this, and it is simply not true. Anyone can TRY to be mean and anyone can say something pissy, but I have worked long and hard to become the bitch.

    I EARNED that “Becky licking her chops” shit, man.

    Respect. The. Fang.

    The only reason it doesn’t turn on you is because you keep putting my name in your posts, which makes me feel special, which is the only point of being a bitch in the first place.

    Well that and the taste of blood.

    Spencer Pratt IS a Svengali motherfucker. I wish he’d die.

    Him and Nic Cage.

    Fuck him, too. Fuck them all. Fuck everybody.

    I love you, Greg.

    • Becky says:

      “The bitch that I am,” that was meant to read. Not, like, THE bitch overall…that’s more of a long term goal.

    • Greg Olear says:

      I wouldn’t put you in the “take down” category at all. You argue a lot, and you’re a contrarian, at least on the comment boards, but that’s good; it’s needed. You’re generally very good at maintaining distance when debating, which is something I can’t do.

      I don’t know that I’ve ever seen you attack someone personally. I mean, other than Spencer Pratt, that Svengali motherfucker. And Nic Cage, who named his son Kal-El.

      “I love you, Greg.” – Becky That’s going on the next book jacket.

      • Becky says:

        Well, I am subtler than I used to be.

        More nuanced and sophisticated. But make no mistake. I argue with people in order to make them look/feel small, panicky, and intellectually awkward. Because they are. As is everyone who isn’t me.

        Except people I need things from. They’re brilliant.

        I mean, see? See what I did there? Is that my actual opinion of myself? Do I actually like anybody? I am fuckin’ with yer MIND, man.

        But seriously. My hatred for Nic Cage burns with the fire of a thousand suns. If I ever laid eyes on him in person, I’m pretty sure he’d burst into flames. Then I’d rename his son.

        Bob. Bob Cage.

        Then his evil would be undone. (hey! rhyme!)

        But only if Simon quits watching KickAss. Which can’t possibly KickAss, since that Nic Cage fucker is in it.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Cage was funny in Raising Arizona and Honeymoon in Vegas, the latter being one of my guilty-pleasure faves. But as a dramatic actor, or, worse, an action hero? Oy. I saw Leaving Las Vegas on a date years ago, and wound up laughing my ass off the entire movie. Which wasn’t what they had in mind.

          A weird, weird dude. He went from impersonating Elvis on SNL to marrying Elvis’s daughter, and now he collects rocks from other planets. I think he keeps them in a lead case in a fortress of solitude on the North Pole or something.



          His cousin is so much cooler.

        • Becky says:

          Okay. I’ll give him Raising Arizona. But I think that only worked out because he was playing a somewhat brain-damaged human being, which I don’t think is too far from the truth.

          And it was the Coen brothers (Minnesota represent!). So cheesy, goofy acting is encouraged.

          I was telling Simon yesterday that National Treasure did me in. That piece of trash. Low-rent Da Vinci Code…or sort of the one-celled cinematic ancestor of Da Vinci Code, which isn’t too high-brow or evolved itself.

          But now I’ve insulted Dan Brown too.

          Oh well. Fuck him, too, then.

          What does Kal-El even MEAN?

        • Becky says:



        • Matt says:

          Cage lobbied very, very hard to play Superman in the reboot that eventually gave us Superman Returns. It went so far as costume fittings. There are photos of him in a muscle suit and Superman costume floating around out there, and he looks rigoddamndiculous.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Yes. He named his son that to get into character.

          I can’t believe you watched National Treasure, Becky. I left off the SS Nic Cage long before that — right after he won the Oscar, I think.

        • Becky says:

          Where was the child’s mother during all of this????


          I was pretty much leaping the railing after watching the first 5 minutes of “Gone in 60 Seconds,” but National Treasure turned my disappointment to rage.

          It’s mostly Palani. Palani is unbothered by Nic Cage. He even bought Book of Secrets on PPV and then tried to hide it from me.

          When I found him out, I told him he had to wait until I was out of the house to watch it, or I would rush the living room and throw our beloved TV through the picture window.

          HE HAS AN OSCAR???? Oh my. He does.


        • Greg Olear says:

          Not sure who the mother is. Perhaps a resident of the planet Krypton.

          One of the best parts about our marriage is that Steph and I have almost identical tastes in stuff like that. It’s very rare that we disagree about someone. I like Laura Brannigan; she doesn’t. That’s the most egregious one.

          Meantime, rent Palani “Traffic” or “Syriana.” Or, if it must be NC, “Gods of War.”

        • Matt says:

          You mean, Lord of War? Which, despite Cage’s presense, is a good film. Jared Leto actually shows he’s got some depth.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Yeah, that’s the one. Never saw it and thought I had the title wrong, but The Sports Guy said it was good.

        • Becky says:

          Jared Leto, too?

          Plech! PLLLLEECHHHHHH.

          You guys!

          Meantime, I have no interest in seeing Syriana or Traffic. I am still trying to get around to Public Enemies and Alice in Wonderland (woah, okay, so I sort of like Johnny Depp) and whatever-epic-pseudo-historical-bloodbath-is-new-this-year.

          Make no mistake: I have awful taste in movies, for the most part. I am just sophisticated enough to hate Nic Cage.

        • Matt says:

          People bagged on Public Enemies, but I actually enjoyed it. Despite the massive and pervasive historical innacuracies.

        • Greg Olear says:

          So Becky, I supposed you’re stoked for Jake G in “Prince of Persia”?

          “Traffic” is a really entertaining movie. And Benicio is hot. So there.

        • Gloria says:

          Jared Leto was in Requiem For a Dream – he showed his acting chops in that, too. And, Becky, wasn’t Leto inducted into our man harem? I’ll have to go check. I think he may have been one of the ones that you crossed your arms over your chest and hurumphed, “fine” about.

        • Becky says:

          He may be in the harem, Gloria, but it certainly would not have been my doing. Honestly, his eyes are too close together. That’s the problem. And the fact that he constantly comes off as a total douche in the press.

          A million times YES on Prince of Persia, Greg. YES on Jake Gyllenhaal.

          Another little-known fact about me: I play video games. I played the HELL out of Prince of Persia. I will love that movie regardless of its quality.

          But nooo no no no no on Benicio. I don’t find him attractive at all. Seriously. Kind of the opposite.

        • Greg Olear says:

          You might change your mind if you watch “Traffic.” His character is damned sexy in it.

          Who else is in this harem, besides Johnny Depp?

        • Becky says:

          Who isn’t in the harem?

          There were about 6 of us putting it together, so just about anyone who could feasibly be considered even remotely attractive made it in.

          I’m sure Gyllenhaal is in there; I would have also offered Joaquin Phoenix, Jude Law, yes, Depp…others…

        • Zara Potts says:

          Benicio is TOTALLY hot.

        • Becky says:

          If Benicio is going to be in the harem he has to be in a separate, isolated room so that none of my Adonises contract puffy, baggy eyes and caterpillar brows. And that simian muzzle of his! Eeeyuck.

          20, 30 years ago, he may have been alright, but the man has been ridden hard and put away wet.

          I am sorry. This is how I feel.

        • Zara Potts says:

          It’s okay. Benicio can spend his time in my room.

        • Becky says:

          Then we have an accord.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I promise you won’t even see him. I’ll keep him away from your harem.

        • Gloria says:

          Oh Greg, you may just be sorry that you asked. But since you did, here is the complete list (which was compiled over a day-long, 100+ response discussion back in November):

          High Chancellor of Manharamsville:
          David Bowie (who shall be called “Lord Bowie”)

          Old dudes who made the list (50 and older):
          Jeff Goldblum (57)
          Bill Murray (59)
          Bruce Willis (54)
          Jeremy Irons (61)
          Patrick Stewart (69)
          Daniel Day-Lewis (52)
          Scott Bakula (55)
          Ed Harris (59)
          Dennis Miller (56)
          Mikhail Baryshnikov (61)
          Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (62)
          Hugh Laurie(50)

          Aged, like fine wine (40 and older):
          Robert Downey Jr (44)
          Johnny Depp (46)
          John Cusack (43)
          Jon Stewart (47)
          Matthew McConaughey (40)
          Edward Norton (40)
          Craig Ferguson (47)
          Clive Owen (47)
          Paul Rudd (40)
          Owen Wilson (41)
          Eddie Vedder (45)
          Chris Cornell (45)
          Dave Grohl (40)
          James Spader (49)
          Keanu Reeves (45)

          Young dudes:
          Shia Labeouf
          Daniel Radcliffe
          Kieran Culkin
          Adrien Brody
          Jake Gyllenhaal
          Joseph Gordon-Levitt
          John Krasinski
          Jude Law
          Joaquin Phoenix
          Rufus Wainwright
          Caleb Folowill
          Orlando Bloom
          Zachary Quinto
          Alexander Skarsgard
          Zach Braff
          Andy Samberg
          Topher Grace
          Ethan Embry
          Christian Bale
          Ewan McGregor
          Jon Hamm
          Ryan Gosling
          John Mayer

          Added later, as the discussion progressed:
          Daniel Day-Lewis
          Jon Hamm
          Paul Rudd
          Naveen Andrews
          Djimon Honsou
          Chiwetel Ojiafor
          Kal Penn
          Denzel Washington
          Chow Yun-Fat
          John Cho
          LL Cool J
          Ice T
          Mos Def
          Will Smith
          Jet Li
          Terrence Howard
          Djimon Hounsou?
          Russel Crowe
          James McAvoy
          Diego Luna
          Gael Garcia Bernal
          Gilberto Cerezo
          Lebron James
          Peter Sarsgaard
          Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as The Rock

          Honorary positions (welcomed to visit):
          Antonio Banderas (ten years ago)
          Sydney Poitier
          Viggo Mortenson
          Eric Bana

        • Gloria says:

          I think Benicio should have an honorary position at least.

        • Greg Olear says:

          That’s a pretty extensive list. Thanks for sharing.

          You forgot Riggins from Friday Night Lights, and Stringer Bell from The Wire.

          Also: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

        • Zara Potts says:

          No! NO!
          Clive Owen MUST be banned.

        • Gloria says:

          Yeah, Kareem snuck on there because my friend Amber insisted. Something about a childhood crush. There’re so many there that I won’t be bothered by Kareem’s presence. Besides, he’s a fairly affable guy, it seems. I’m sure he’ll just be hanging with Bowie and Poitier.

        • Gloria says:

          @Zara – can he just go in the visiting Man Slut column? Or maybe, like, a door guy?

        • Zara Potts says:


        • Gloria says:

          I see, too, that Daniel Day Lewis is on there twice. Yet, somehow, that seems appropriate.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Is Billy Zane on there? Steph teases me because I have a total mancrush on Billy Zane. Him and Idris Elba.

        • Gloria says:

          Billy Zane is not on here. But it’s interesting who is and who isn’t. It’s like you were saying before – you and your buddies were trying to agree on just four ladies who you all found attractive and were having a hard time. Six of us spent all damn day modifying the above list and making concessions until finally it was fine-tuned. Then Zara comes along and says No!!! to Clive Owen.

          I’m thinking that rather than limiting the people who are allowed to be in the man harem, we actually just need to build a wing for each of the women. That way, the ones they don’t like don’t ever have to enter their space. 🙂

        • Greg Olear says:

          That’s fine by me.

        • Becky says:

          Gloria, and whose wing does Johnny Depp live in?

          Are we laying the groundwork for turf wars? Kidnappings? That’s what happens in Amazonian tribes, you know.

          They raid each other’s villages for women. And axes.

        • Gloria says:

          I think Johnny Depp better start stocking up on sleep now. That’s all I’ll say.

          Amazonian women also shear off their breasts so that they’re better with a bow and arrow. We don’t have to follow all their rules.

        • Becky says:

          It’s not a rule, it just happens.

          Maybe that would be a matter for resolution by Lord Bowie.

        • Gloria says:

          I’m sure Lord Bowie would be a wise and benevolent ruler. He reminds me of the babe. The babe with the power. The power of voodoo.

        • Dana says:

          I’m sorry to break up your amusing little turf wars ladies, but if we’re in a fight over Johnny Depp there can only be one winner.

          *** BOOM ***

          And btw – Is Nathan Fillion on that list? Cuz if not, it’s deeply flawed. 😉

        • Becky says:

          Who do?

        • Becky says:

          Well, you’d have to make it to Manharemsville if you wanted any part of him, because he has already been claimed as the property of what is, apparently, our sex commune.

        • Gloria says:

          @Becky – isn’t a harem, by definition, a sex commune?

          @Dana – I don’t know who Nathan Fillion is but the more the merrier, I say. Especially now that we’ve modified the compound to include wings for each of the ladies.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Becky a communist. Who woulda thunk it.

  16. Gloria says:

    Jesus Christ! What is this shit? This is awful Greg. Blech!

    • Gloria says:

      Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry! I take it back! Please forgive me! 🙂 <— See? I’m offering a happy face to assuage my cruelty.

      • Greg Olear says:

        We were watching Friday Night Lights, S3. There was a character on the show who was in a few scenes — she was the QB’s new girlfriend — and every time she came on, Steph said, “Gloria Harrison!”

        Not terrible casting (she looks less like a teenager on the show), I think:


        Check out Taylor Kitsch when you’re there. He should be in your harem.

        • Gloria says:

          Holy crap! That’s one hell of a compliment. Thanks, Steph!

          That Taylor guy is okay. He’s not Matt Damon – who, I just realized, is nowhere on the Man Harem list. Must…modify…list…NOW!

    • Greg Olear says:

      [sobbing uncontrollably]

    • Becky says:


      Ouch, Gloria.


      I mean, that is just one step too far.

  17. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    As a TNB newbie, I’ll consider this a primer on TNB commenting. Not that I’d have it in me to disparage anyone in a comment thread, but after a bad day and a few margaritas you never know. For the record, I think I could probably take a little kindly-phrased criticism around here if warranted. Like, perhaps, “no one wants to read a story about your Captain Kirk ornament! But you are otherwise (insert kindly adjective here).” Something like that might save me from myself …

    • Greg Olear says:

      No, no, we like stuff like that! And more pieces about your obvious crush on Gerard Butler!

      A great plot for a rom-com: a writer in San Antonio blogs excessively about her disdain for Gerard Butler, only to meet him on the Riverwalk and discover he’s a great guy in real life — and way cuter. Who plays you in the movie, Cynthia?

      (I’m not being sarcastic, by the way. We really do love stuff like that.)

      • Cynthia Hawkins says:

        Ah, thanks. But I think you’re just being nice 😉

        Well, that indeed sounds like a Gerard vehicle, and sadly by my own standards I could not watch it.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I can’t remember if you guys have kids. Now that we have kids, I’m much less particular about what movies I watch. Time was, I was quite the film snob. No more. I don’t have the time. Now, I just want to be entertained. I’d rather watch I LOVE YOU, MAN than most of the other films that came out last year.

          That said, there are many, many movies that suck. DATE NIGHT was disappointing, for example. Started out funny as hell, but took a page from MEET THE FOCKERS and never recovered.

          Did you see the pic of Gerard with his fingers all in Aniston’s ass that ran in the tabloids a few weeks ago? Gross.

  18. I can’t believe I missed Joel’s piece…it went viral? Wow–why did no one tell me (I need reminders).

    Yours is just ok. 😉 I am joking. It spoke to me! Really.

    I think if it’s true, you should say it (mean or sure-to-angering or just out there). Don’t be afraid to speak the truth, eveer. But that’s the journalist in me.

    • Greg Olear says:

      A corollary to the Entrekin axiom, then: Never feel guilty about speaking the truth.

      Why did you not know? Because you’ve been working hard on your novel, is why!

  19. Phat B says:

    I like the “softness” of the boards here, if only for the reason that these type of boards simply don’t exist elsewhere on the internets. All of the other boards I frequent are littered with trolls and assholes to the point where you gotta wade through 25 useless comments to get to an actual comment on the story. If this story were posted elsewhere, my comment would be buried underneath some horribly off topic racist rant about the Arizona immigration law. I don’t know how you guys do it, but it’s nice to have a place to post when I get fed up with reading “die in a fire” for the 10th time in a 5 minute span.

    Oh and I think Spencer is gonna O.D. on cocaine, go to rehab, or both within the next year. I hope that asshole dies in a fire. And how about those racist assholes in Arizona? Man that Lost Finale can lick my balls.

    • Becky says:

      Is this a crack about me setting Nic Cage on fire with my mind?

      • Phat B says:

        I think the nation should come together as one and try to light Cage on fire with our minds, or at least his hair. No I’ve just been seeing a lot of “DIAF” comments lately, it seems to be the troll of the month. Next month “you sound fat” and “Obama’s America” will take over, but not on these boards.

        • Becky says:

          You ARE well-traveled.

          How is it that you are not our official intertubes gossip guru? We need someone to keep us abreast of things like trending troll fashion.

          I’m not even kidding. This is a gaping hole in TNB’s cultural relevance.

        • Phat B says:

          I already jumped on a grenade by being one of the few people willing to admit that I know who Kim Kardashian and Spencer Pratt are. Plus if we start discussing trolling on these boards, how long until the trolls find us? I want TNB to be blissfully unaware of the evil trolls can do in their natural habitat. Like a hammock swaying over a pool of lava.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Phat is, in fact, our pop cultural correspondent. I often summon him on the boards for summations of what’s what in reality TV land. Always fun when the summons is answered.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        You should watch Kick Ass.


        About two thirds of the way that’s pretty much what happens to Nic Cage’s character.

        Also, he’s genuinely quite funny in it.

        I say this as someone who really can’t stand Nic Cage. I don’t even like Raising Arizona all that much.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I wanted to see it during our annual night at the movies, but we saw DATE NIGHT instead. Disappointing. Cage being funny will be like watching Billy Joel just playing piano and singing his old numbers. What he’s supposed to be doing. I’m sure you’re right. I’ll be shocked if I don’t love KICK ASS.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          Kick Ass is great fun, if not a great film.

          I only go to watch films to be entertained, and Kick Ass delivered entertainment in spades…

        • Greg Olear says:

          I want great fun. Great film is optional.

    • Greg Olear says:

      We’re watching the fourth season of WEEDS now, where they go to the border town, and it’s fucking brilliant. We just saw the episode where Andy is the nice-guy coyote, and fashions himself a neo-Moses. Can’t hear about Arizona without thinking about that.

      Never got into LOST. But somewhere in Oklahoma, Richard Cox is watching the finale over and over on DVR.

      Good call on Spencer. But it appears he’s ventured into Margot Kidder territory. Unless he’s making it all up.

      Always a pleasure when you weigh in, Phat.

      • Richard Cox says:

        Hahaha. Whatever, Greg. I only watched the entire thing once, though I did go through the last thirty minutes a second time to see if I’d missed anything.

        The thing with Lost is it showed me that a speculative fiction story could still appeal to a large, intelligent audience. I’ve always liked to write stories with a similar conceptual framework, but as my metaphysical beliefs have waned, so has my ability to be entertained by or create my own fiction that exists in that realm. Early Lost was a lot like Stephen King–it put us in a very believable place (if you never watch any of it you should still give the pilot episode a try) and only then did it attempt to scare and delight us in a primal way. Whereas in your typical supernatural thriller you’d have taken some folks into a jungle and then started killing them off with a stupid monster.

        As the series progressed, it retained its feel of reality by having us believe there could be a real-world explanation for the events of the island. It excited me because it made me realize that if these guys could write a story like this, one that appealed to more than just the nerd audience, then conceivably I could, too. At least it was possible. And really I didn’t mind if it ended up being a metaphysical explanation instead of a scientific one, because as long as you pay lip service to reality, that’s enough for me.

        But in the end there wasn’t even a metaphysical explanation. Not for origin of the island, at least, or the reasons for its existence. In a speculative fiction story, no matter how great the characters, you have to pay off with some kind of an explanation for the weird events. And the problem with such stories is the root cause invariably boils down to some ephemeral god in the machine. There is no answer because none of us know the answer to why we’re here, which is the real question behind stories like this. In Lost there was some bright light and some hellish orange light and there was a drain plug, and it left me wanting. And then everyone hugged and went to heaven.

        Lindelof and Cuse are still heroes to me. They created a terrific amount of entertainment over six years and I loved it. I’m glad the characters all found love and happiness and each other. But the plot suffered mightily at the end because the story asked questions that were simply unanswerable. I equate it with The Stand. That was Stephen King’s biggest and most entertaining story, but even he couldn’t figure out how to end it.

        Did you ever try to watch Lost? I would think a guy with your interest in conspiracy theory would enjoy it. I can’t remember if you enjoyed The X-Files? Lost is like the ensemble cast version of that.

        • Greg Olear says:

          The Stand. That book STILL infuriates me. So good…and no ending in sight. But still so good.

          This is a good recap, Richard. I’m certain I’ll enjoy LOST, and we’ll get around to it sooner or later. We tend to watch shows once they go off the air, so we can rent the DVDs and plow right through. Back before kids, during a dreary NYC winter, Steph and I watched three seasons of The Sopranos in a week. One day we watched seven eps in a row. Seven! Ah, those were the days…

  20. Sarah says:

    Sites like TNB are interesting. There’s the relative anonymity of the Internet that frees many people up to truly speak their minds mixed with a fairly tight-knit community, many members of which really do know each other. Add to that the fact that a large component of the people here who aren’t contributors or even writers arrived here via shared interests. I think this all lends itself to positivity being the norm on these boards. Except Becky. That bitch.

    I would suggest you at least cut back on your Speidi hate, at least in public writings. Not for the same reasons as that Playboy playmate, but because that slimy creep probably reads, “Spencer Pratt, that Svengali motherfucker” and sees, “$$$$$$$$$$.”

    • Becky says:

      He is a slimy, slithery ball of litigation.

      That is absolutely true. Dammit, Greg. You chose wrong! You chose wrong! Back to Dan Brown! Quick!

      • Greg Olear says:

        I didn’t say I wanted him to die. That was you! But even that isn’t actionable. He can’t sue you to change your opinion. Well, he can, but he won’t win.

        • Gloria says:

          I don’t even know who he is. I get all the news I need on the Nervous Breakdown report.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Gloria: There is absolutely no reason to know who he is, other than to make jokes about him. We have a subscription to US WEEKLY. It’s in the bathroom. That’s where I can the dirt on everyone.

    • Greg Olear says:

      It’s been enormously fun, too, Sarah, to meet the TNBers in real life after interacting with them online. Last week, I went to NYC and got to meet Will, Gina, Kristin Elde, and Robin Antalek, and to see Jessica Blau and K-Dub again. Always fun.

      I hear you about Spencer. But from what I hear, he needs the press. And I need the press. So, you know, maybe we could help each other out. US called him a Svengali, actually…but “motherfucker” was mine. Although I don’t know that it’s slander to say that about someone. Plus, if it’s money he’s after, Casa Olear is not really the best source…unless he starts taking pictures of he and Heidi reading Totally Killer at a book club.

  21. Dana says:

    “You don’t ever hear This piece is a bit sloppy, or You really need to brush up on your grammar, or For the love of God, Greg, stop writing about lesser celebrities.” HA!

    If I had an email address I wouldn’t have any qualms pointing out spelling or grammar errors, but would feel a bit rude about posting it publicly. When someone attacks content or style it just seems angry and futile. But it WOULD be nice Greg, if you’d work your way up to C List celebs.

    “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

  22. Sarah says:

    Greg, as for you censoring yourself in Joel’s NYT piece, I’d just chalk that up to the instinct of self-preservation. You have a vested interest in being on the Times’ good side and the internets are forever. From your description, it seemed less about rocking the board’s boat and more about not pissing anyone off who could some day make you filthy rich. You can hardly be blamed for that.

  23. Tawni says:

    Wow. I completely missed the Joe Daly dissing. I just clicked your link and read it. Steve who? I’m a musician and lifetime constant reader, and I’ve never even heard of his books. I totally related to Joe’s piece because I have also never understood what people see in those five particular bands. It made me feel less alone.

    Hey, look. Well-deserved chops props for Becky, one of my favorite big brains. Yay!

    I like the friendly vibe here at the TNB. Life’s too short for nasty.

    Speaking of nasty, you will never be able to convince me that Heidi is anything but gross. What is beige and beige and beige all over. At least Pamela Anderson was actually pretty before she ruined herself with plastic surgery. Pre-surgery Heidi was a boring, thin-lipped, albino rabbit of a woman.

    Gosh, I sure hope someone will write “Five Hot Chicks I Should Like, But I Don’t. At All.” and include Heidi, so I can feel less alone again. (:

    • Tawni says:

      TNB, I meant, not “the TNB.” I can haz redundancy, plz?

    • Becky says:

      I think she’s gross too.

      Bimbo all over the place.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Oh my God, Tawni, that would be the best piece ever!

      Every year, I go on vacay with five of my guy friends from NYC. One year, we were trying to make a list of five hot chicks that all of us agreed on. It was surprisingly difficult to do. If we used the consensus method, the list was blah. If we used the method the used on the VH1 show “The List,” which I don’t know why they canceled, the list was far more interesting. Anyway, I thought my friend Chris was going to do me bodily harm because I refused to accept the allure of Alyssa Milano. I think he’s still mad at me about it.

      I shall now spend the rest of the day coming up with the other four.

      • Tawni says:

        I want to go on vacay every year with five of my girl friends! What a brilliant tradition, Greg.

        I am soooooo looking forward to your list.

        And now I think everyone should do a “Five ________ I Should Like, But I Don’t. At All.” written pieces on assorted topics, in a show of support for Joe. How fun would that be?

        • Greg Olear says:

          OK, my list: Alyssa Milano, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Hudson

          Steph wants to do it too, Tawni. It’s a bear to organize, but it’s always fun.

        • What’s a bear – coming up this list? hahahhahhahhahahaha

          Tawni – I want to do the same, true – I see my friends more often than Greg sees his – but I have never (since becoming a mom 5.5 years ago) had more than two nights away – and I’ve only done that once – last summer. This will be Greg’s 4th trip at 3 nights a pop (ok – except this one because of Dominick’s pre-school graduation – he has to cut it short) – I am so overdue. I just need to publicly declare this. And I’m sure you are too. Wanna come?

        • Greg Olear says:

          July 2011. TNBstock. Five year anniversary celebration and retreat. Destination TBA. Mark your calendars now!

        • Tawni says:

          Greg: Good list. My husband calls Cameron Diaz “H.R. Pufnstuf.” I think Reese Witherspoon looks like a little troll. I have never understood the appeal.

          Stephanie: Count me IN. And I’m definitely keeping my calendar clear for July 2011 TNBstock. Woo! (:

        • Greg Olear says:

          My father went on a tirade once about Reese Witherspoon, and how she would look dismal when she got older. He was so passionate about it, and it was so unlike him, it made me laugh. She has a ginormous chin. Leno-esque.

          HR Pufnstuf. Ha!

  24. Matt says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately myself. I’ve written a few posts that don’t paint members of my family in a particularly positive light, and gotten some crap for it. While most of that happened as semi-private communication on Facebook, I had to delete a few comments from my posts that were inappropriate for various reasons. I did get a nifty troll comment on my Sea World piece though, which I’m leaving up for posterity’s sake.

    Given that most of the writers here are established in one form or another–previous publications, academic education, or even just raw talent–I really don’t think “constructive criticism” is all that necessary, or interesting from a discussion standpoint, so I refrain from it. And while I really hate leaving a “this post is great!” comment, I will do so on posts I think are quality but that don’t really provoke any other reaction in me. And I categorically refuse to give insencere praise (this has not helped my social life lately); if I think something isn’t any good, I choose to take the “say nothing” approach….despite some occasionally intense desire to do otherwise.

    And on the subject of not being nice, I confess right now that I have a self-imposed moratorium on commenting on the posts of contributors who don’t bother to read/comment on works by the rest of us. I might read them, I might not, but it has to be really, REALLY good to get a comment out of me–and I don’t want to hear the “no free time” dreck either. Everyone here has other obligations outside of TNB, yet we find the time to interact and engage with each other, and with the rate new work is going up on the site these days, it’s not hard to find SOMETHING worth commenting on once or twice a week.

    The social aspect of TNB is a big driving force in the quality of the site, and if you don’t have time for it, then honestly, why are you here? There are plenty of other venues, in print and online, that have no interactive aspect at all. Your work could just as easily find a home there.

    • Tawni says:

      “a self-imposed moratorium on commenting on the posts of contributors who don’t bother to read/comment on works”

      Along the same lines, if a writer whose work I read and comment on never replies to my comments, I stop commenting as well. It makes me feel like when I walk past someone and say hello, and they don’t even bother to nod back at me.

      • Matt says:

        Yeah, I do that too.

        I’ll give a contributor say, a 3-post grace period. If at that point I don’t start seeing their name pop up here and there elsewhere, or if they don’t bother to respond to the comments anyone (it doesn’t have to be me) has left, then they get the right off. I’d spend that time writing my own material than wasting it on the work of someone just pulling a fly-by on the site.

      • I have total commentaphobia because of that, Tawni.
        Sometimes, I have totally embarrassingly gushed and then gotten nothing.
        It’s so empty and cold out there in the dangling comment.
        I think I’m spoiled because of the graciousness of TNB, actually.
        Also, I started commenting, not because of Greg, here,
        but because of Duke’s, “Banned For Life”. I had read it, had a life altering experience
        because of it and couldn’t BELIEVE I could also get to know him through the comment board.
        (and through other means, as well – but the comment board was so freaking cool, if you
        have just finished someone’s book that rocked your world).
        And of course, he’s such a good commenterback that he has raised the bar.
        However, even just a sentence or two will do.
        Not that I’m crying about it, but I have stopped commenting as much, in general – truth.

        • Tawni says:

          Me too. Commentaphobia. Commentile dysfunction.

          It has genuinely hurt my feelings to repeatedly comment after the work of a writer I really enjoy and respect, only to get nothing back. They don’t need to respond every time; I understand that people get busy. But when I go back and they’ve skipped over mine to reply to a person further down, I can’t help it, I do feel slighted; like they didn’t find my thoughts worthy. I’m not a fucking groupie. So I stop reading them.

          Duke is the awesome-est of the awesome. (:

        • Agreed on all fronts there.
          And if there’s no comment back and they’re just not
          commenting, it doesn’t sting as much as they don’t comment
          back to just mine. It makes me feel like the writer’s wife – like
          because I’m just a commenter and not a contributor, then, well, I’m
          not as worthy.

          Man, I’ve obviously had issues with this.

          Yeah, Duke is the best – just a very sensitive and caring soul.

          And you too, Greg!!! Since this is your piece and all. And you are my
          husband and all. And sitting right next to me. Hi.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          @Tawni. I like “commentile dysfunction”. Of course, I apparently have a lifetime prescription for Verbagra. “If your commenting lasts longer than four hours, unplug your laptop and have a non-virtual conversation with someone.”

        • Matt says:

          Personally, I’m having a massive commentgasm at the moment. Just from you lovely, intelligent ladies taking the time to comment on Tawni’s comment response to my comment. It’s an orgy of commenting, one I find very….stimulating.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I think we’ve all had that happen, the dangling comment. You feel like a fool, or worse, like a sycophant.

          I feel like we’re lucky anyone reads these pieces at all, let alone takes the time to leave a thoughtful comment. I’m particularly sensitive to, and grateful for, the regular commentators who don’t write for the site — Tawni, Becky, Phat, Stephanie (hi, honey), etc. — who really are the engine that drives TNB. If we don’t appreciate you guys especially, as Matt says, why are we here?

          For those who are about to comment, we salute you!

        • It’s true – it’s not like I’m trying to promote myself as writer.
          I’m just here for the commentimacy.

        • Matt says:

          I’ll say this up front: if I fail to respond to a comment, it’s either because a.) I don’t really have anything further to say, and your comment strikes me as a worthwhile capstone to the discussion or b.) I got drunk and forgot. And Choice A far more likely. Personally, I feel grateful for everyone who takes the time to read and drop a few words in exchange.

          Well, except for that one asshole.

        • Greg Olear says:

          @Steph – Commentimacy. Ha!

          @Matt – Your comment is a worthwhile capstone.

        • Don’t worry, Matt – you’re one of the good ones.

          But it’s real, this online group dynamic. I wrote about it for my
          final paper this semester (yes, I write papers, even though I’m not a writer).
          And there has been much research as of late regarding the validity of group dynamics.
          And how one can be ostracized from a group if one does not adhere to group’s social norms.
          The social norms for TNB are absolutely one of support and camaraderie.
          It’s pretty rare, I think, especially in a group of writers.
          It’s been cool for me to see Greg have a group of writers who all support each other
          and who are all so talented.

        • Becky says:

          You know what bugs me?

          –I’ve mentioned this before–

          Being thanked for reading.

          It always feels like the “thank you” get from a gas station attendant or grocery checkout girl.

          I can’t put my finger on it. Like I’m a customer.

          Sometimes, it’s just bored and distant or a total brush off and rude and not even a little genuine, but even when it is genuine, it makes me really, really uncomfortable.

          Like, did I just do this person a favor? Do they suck or something and nobody bothered to tell me?

          Tough to pin down. I don’t understand it at all.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          @Matt: “Well, except for that one asshole.” Look, I have apologized for the whole Inbox thing and have given you carte blanche in retaliating. What more do you want? Tchk. So hurtful, these people….

        • Greg Olear says:

          I think it’s something that people mean sincerely every time they say it, actually. It just means we appreciate the attention, is all. Quite the opposite of the perfunctory gas station attendant thing.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I second that. I mean every word I say. And just to make you even more uncomfortable, Becky – I’m always happy when I see a comment from you on my posts. Even when they are about the Evil Dead.

        • Matt says:

          @Anon – Heh. My “dad” actually left a very intrusive, self-centered, inappropriate comment on one of my family-themed essays a month or so back. It wasn’t up ten minutes before I deleted it, but not before I’d posted a copy of it on Facebook, where it was duly excoriated by all who saw it.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          If it was only up 10 minutes, I’m not surprised I missed it. However, you could always have edited it for, um, “special content” and/or left it for us all to use for verbal bayonet practice. I would’ve been happy to oblige, from what you’ve shared.

        • Matt says:

          Oh, he actually left it on an old one, my “1000 Words” piece from last summer. And it was my “dad” (in so much as he was married to my mom when I was born), not my stepfather–that asshole knows better than to try and get in touch with me these days.

          It got it’s just desserts on FB, trust me.

        • Becky says:

          But that’s just it.

          Even if it is sincere.

          I don’t see myself as a patron or customer or someone who is going around doing favors for people’s egos. I see it as conversation. I mean, if you’re in a conversation with someone, you don’t go, “Dude, I’ve got a story for you,” tell your story, and then after the person reacts, say, “Thank you for listening and responding to my story.”

          “We know you have options. Thank you for choosing Greg Olear for your story-listening-to needs.”

          It’s weird.

          It’s fucking weird.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Then I suppose you don’t want to hear about my new promotion, where for every tenth comment, we throw in a comment absolutely free?

        • Erika Rae says:

          Becky – speaking personally – when I thank someone for reading, it’s usually because I’m so damn shocked that they took the time to read what I wrote. Truly. It’s kind of a “Oh my God…seriously? Somebody took the time to READ this?” kind of thank you.

          And I’m with Zara. I love it when I see you’ve left a comment. I mean, joined the conversation. And actually, come to think of it, I think it’s because you only leave a comment when you’re interested in a conversation. Respect.

        • Judy Prince says:

          “Verbagra”…….”commentgasm”——Anon and Matt, let me drink my tea for a minute or two while wiping the keyboard dry.

          Great idea, Greg, to throw in a free comment every 5 comments.

          Yeah, we need more comments!

        • Becky says:

          When I’m interested in the conversation, and when I’m obligated because Greg put my name in it.

          And Greg, I wish you’d quit calling during supper asking to talk to “the man of the house.”

          It’s offensive.

        • Dana says:

          “I’m particularly sensitive to, and grateful for, the regular commentators who don’t write for the site — etc. —”

          I knew you were a sensitive guy, Greg.


        • Greg Olear says:

          @Erika – Exactly.

          @Judy – I deleted two…I fixed one of Matt’s to make it read better, and I deleted one of my own, because it was a non sequitur.

          @Becky – Well, put him on the phone, then, and I’ll stop calling. ; )

          @Dana – I’m a water sign, after all.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Greg, whasup with this @Erika @Judy @Becky @Dana stuff?

          No way is that a one-free comment for 10 comments like you said.

          I want an entirely separate comment from Erika and Becky and Dana.

          You actually deleted what (I think) was your own word (“fuckwad”)…..bcuz it was a non sequitur?!!!! Explain that, Mr. French-speaking-person I mean Latinophile person—–but explain it in ENGLISH, and with no Verbagra, unless of course you want a hyper-load of commentgasms.

        • Greg Olear says:

          No, I deleted Matt’s correction post, because the original read better with it fixed.

          And I deleted one of my own, from yesterday, announcing that I was drinking a beer at noon. I have a beer at home once every month, maybe, but I didn’t want people thinking I was a lush. Also, it didn’t really make sense where it was.

          As for the preponderance of @’s…comments below this line will not nest. I can only go so deep, literally.

          That said, I’m always up for commentgasms.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          So would all those @s qualify you as having had a male multiple commentgasm? And is not going so deep the trick to having them?

          You wrote “I didn’t want people thinking I was a lush…” as though it was a bad thing. I mean, I’m not much of a beer guy myself but I refuse to be bound by something as silly as time of day when I have a thirst (and when I’m not at work, of course… mostly).

        • Greg Olear says:

          It was hot yesterday, I was home with the kids, and it was the last day on the mini-break from pre-K. I needed that beer…er, those beers.

          @ @ @

          Sort of look like sperm, now that you mention it.

          – – –

          That would be the post-vasectomy commentgasm.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          I’m trying to find an appropriate “unfixed” one but can’t find a suitably large reservoir tip on my keyboard. Perhaps [ @@@} ?

    • Greg Olear says:

      Totally hear you about the comment etiquette.

      At this point, there are simply too many contributors for me to read and comment on everything, and I’m more Zen about it. If I read it, I’ll usually comment, but not always. And I no longer feel obligated to comment on every piece, even those I want to read.

      Also, I’ve allowed myself to take breaks, especially when I’m working on my book. I check the site every day, but sometimes I’m less active than other times.

      • Matt says:

        Yes, the sheer volume of contributors means we have to be selective; a person who tried to read and engage in discussion on everyone else’s pieces wouldn’t have time for anything else in the day.

        I tend to take weekends off from TNB, in part just because it’s spring in California and the weather’s nice and I’d rather be outside. It helps me stay a bit grounded, gives me time to work on my fiction, and means I usually have a few nice surprises when I log in on Mondays. Just like today.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I bow out when I feel overwhelmed. Usually I say so on FB, so people don’t think I’m ignoring them, or that I don’t care. I like to read all the pieces, especially by my favorite writers, but sometimes real life intervenes. Like right now, for example, I’d like to stay and comment more, but the kids are yelling at each other.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Uh, Greg, I was totally teasing you about no more @ comments. You’re way totally allowed to have many more male multiple commentgasms (Anon, Anon….).

        A few @ @ @ @ never hurt anyone. heh.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Greg, my @ is bigger than your @

          Work on it.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Hey, wait – here’s my Tantric joke of the day:



        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Aw, crap. There were a whole lot of spaces between those two when I typed it. 😀

        • Judy Prince says:

          Anon, what in the world R U doing with your @’s?

          A little @ can go a long way.

        • Greg Olear says:


          The spaces came through on the email, which is where I first saw it. Mission accomplished. Ha!


          I tried a big @ but it wouldn’t take the H1 tag. Doh!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Foul! Two penalties right off the bat, Greg: First, your @ is apparently only big when it’s in um emails. And second, you needed help getting your @ big.

          And I think Anon’s @ is a loose cannon on deck. Betcha he won’t come up with a decent @ for weeks.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Sigh. It was worth it. 🙂

        • Greg Olear says:


          “you needed help getting your @ big”


          [thinking about making a joke about your Anon comment using the phrase “lip service,” deciding against it, walking away]

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Good call, Greg. I mean, this whole piece is about being nice to each other. Don’t blow it.

        • Greg Olear says:

          It was hard, but I managed to suppress the urge. You’re right; this post is no place for a jerk-off.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Good to hear you’ve got a firm grip on yourself, sir.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Quite right, Greg, always best, if in doubt, to hold back, especially regarding slips of the tongue.

          And Anon, as the old hopeful saying goes: “If you don’t lose it, you use it.”

          @ :D;;;;;;

        • Zara Potts says:

          Penises. It always comes back to penises.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I’ll try not to let it give me [a big] head.

          That’s a flaccid attempt, I realize, but I’m tired. My son woke up at 4:15 this morning.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Zara – I’ll let Anon do the honors of making the obligatory “penis comes” joke. Too tired to think…

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Greg, I appreciate the offer. I was actually contemplating it but it seemed so cheap and easy. Not that those are bad qualities, necessarily. I was just saving myself for something better. Now get some sleep, my brother. Mine (my son, that is) was up at 5:30, after Her Highness had a nightmare at 3:30 that needed vanquishing. I know how I feel and you’ve got me beat!

          And Z, your statement is misleading. One would have to leave a topic to come back to it and, well…. I’m a guy. 🙂

        • Zara Potts says:

          Nicely done.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      I completely agree about not commenting on posts from contributors who don’t comment.

      And I feel like a jerk when I do the “this post is great” thing, because if I thought well enough of it to want to leave a comment, I ought to think of something to say. But sometimes I can’t.

      I routinely call in on some boards with an oversupply of nasty members, because they’re directed at some things I’m interested in. Ugh.

      TNB is soul-cleansing.

      • Greg Olear says:

        One of these days I’ll write an etiquette guide. Although, I mean, it’s not rocket science. Anon and Gloria and Joe Daly figured it out. Had Steve Almond taken more than a cursory glance at the site, he wouldn’t have done what he did, and he might have found a new wave of fans.

        • Matt says:

          Posting here without commenting is the equivalent of fucking a woman, wiping your dick off on her knee, and tossing a fiver on the bed as you walk out the door.

        • You know why I think people do that – (besides what you just described, Matt – ssshhhuuuudddeer) I think people are still trying to be cool from leftover high school stuff.
          And I think they’re afraid, on some level, of commentimacy.

        • Greg Olear says:

          @Matt – Ha! You’re on today. The weekend rejoove.

          @Steph – You may be on to something. I think some writers view this as yet another place to post a recycled blog on the same topic as whatever book they’re trying to sell, which, of course, it isn’t.

        • Gloria says:

          @Stephanie – did you just make up “commentimacy”? Because, if so – kudos, lady. That’s brilliant.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Gloria: She did and it is.

        • Becky says:

          I don’t like the notion of some kind of Miss Manners-style, official comment board ettiquette. I mean, even if it’s tongue-in-cheek. That’s all sort of vulgar, in my opinion. “Lurk MOAR!!” a-DEERRRRRP.

          At least part of what has kept the place unique is that it tends to police itself.

          There aren’t too many people here who even entertain trolls, so they have no good reason to return.

          At the end of the day, a place like this can, by and large, be trusted to be self-cleansing. If someone wants to persist in genuinely deviant behavior, they will simply be very lonely.

          But if you go around saying, “you have to post two comments for every piece of your own you post,” or “at least have the decency to say ‘thanks for reading,'” (*shudder*) you take away the organic nature of the whole community.

          Please don’t write that piece, Greg. I beg of you.

          It will ruin everything. We’ll be like every other goddamn message board with the “READ THIS FIRST” sticky thread about how to behave so as not to disturb the overlording locals.

          It will make us…well…common. Pedestrian. Which is as good as death, as far as I’m concerned.

        • Greg Olear says:

          An etiquette post is not high on my priority list right now. But if I ever got bored enough to do so, it would be a joke piece, fear not. And you would almost certainly get mentioned, Becky.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Wow, Matt. You mean there’s another way to do the thing? I’d saved up quite a few fivers…….

  25. JM Blaine says:

    In Nashville they say the
    hardest thing to get
    is an honest opinion
    from someone who has the insight
    and experience to help you with your art.

    Gladhanded shallow praise
    flows so freely
    that there are whole communities
    that feed off each other’s delusion
    wasting time and money and going
    many many miles in the wrong direction.

    Bully for you Greg.
    I’ve been thinking someone
    needed to write a post like this for years.
    I would have done it
    but that’s not my gimmick here.
    I’m the shadowy sort of encouraging guy.

    Dawn Corrigan batted around the idea
    though of having a troupe of TNB mean girls
    who would pop in and tell you what sucks
    about your stories.
    I can’t imagine why she approached me first.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Gladhandle is such a great word. And I’m sure that in Nashville, being where it is, it is particularly difficult to get an honest opinion. In NYC or LA, that isn’t an issue.

      And Dawn’s idea is great! We need us some Fug Girls round here.

    • Greg Olear says:

      I should add, JMB, that you also played, and continue to play, a large part in TNB being such a pleasant place. Always great to see your free-verse comments!

  26. Matt says:

    Forgot to mention: post-surgery Heidi Pratt completely provokes an “Uncanny Valley” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_Valley) response in me. Just makes me skin crawl to look at her—and mind you, I’ve looked at corpses that spent four days floating in Katrina waters without any real problem.

    • Greg Olear says:

      This made me laugh out loud for a good thirty seconds. It suggests Mr. Burns saying to Homer, “You’re the fattest thing I’ve ever seen — and I’ve been on safari.”

  27. lieu ste. jean says:

    just make sure to slightly misspell the celebrity’s name which will then make it harder for them to google your bad commentary. so, lieu ste. jean, gregg ohlear, new york timez, cardashian, anuston, etc. if vanity would otherwise prevent you from following through with this, simply alert your audience at the beginning of each article that you will be misspelling names on purpose. and — voila! i mean, viola!

  28. Zara Potts says:

    Oh TNB.
    If I’ve said it once, i’ve said it a hundred times – this site helped me get through a tremendously difficult year and in the process let me discover myself and find that at the heart of me -I’m nice.
    It has helped me become a better writer AND a better person, simply through the incredible support both on and off the boards. I feel so protected and cared about by this amazing community of writers and this has allowed me to pick myself up after a nasty break up and feel like I am actually okay and worthwhile.
    The graciousness of the readers and writers here is second to none. I have made some of the best friends i will ever have on this site and the generosity of spirit is evident in the fact that on our upcoming trip, Simon and I have been offered so many places to stay and homes to visit.
    I just want to say that I love you all. Really.

  29. angela says:

    i agree with Matt that TNB isn’t really the right piece for “constructive criticism” (or shitty criticism for that matter). i see it as sort of the inverse of my grad school experience – while my professor critiqued our stories by harping on our smallest mistakes (typos, muddled sentences, etc.), TNBers try to understand where the writer is coming from and what he or she is trying to say.

    TNB is sort of like that writing class post-MFA – full of people who only want to tell their stories, and hear others’ stories, and aren’t competitive douchebags.

    and like slade said, the openness and support is so encouraging. it’s such a delight and relief to come here away from the haters who feel free to critique and sling shit with absolutely none of their own work to back them up or to show that they’ve put themselves out there too.

    • angela says:

      the right place for constructive criticism. dammit.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Well put, Angela.

      I think it’s also important to note that, while we obviously want to put our best foot forward and post work that isn’t sloppy, these pieces aren’t edited at all, either edited-edited or copy-edited (although sometimes the Hand of God does go in and fix stuff, if the Hands have time). Whereas a novel, for example, has so many eyeballs look it over…and still there are errors. It’s a different breed of cat, in other words.

      • Matt says:

        Confession: when I put something up, it’s usually at least draft #3, and I’ll usually do more revising after I’ve started inputting it into WordPress.

        The presence of editors et al. in the world of publishing is nice, but I’ve always felt that ultimate responsibility for the quality of the text remains with the author. It’s my name that’s going on anything I put up, after all.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Yeah, I go through these things quite a bit. Except the Feed pieces. Sometimes I knock those off in 15 minutes with frequent breaks to tend to the kids.

  30. Marni Grossman says:

    I don’t consider myself to be a shit-talker. But I’ve tried not to be afraid to take a stand either. I wrote one vaguely political piece and it elicited the craziest comment I’ve received thus far. And I found it oddly upsetting. Not because I don’t like debate, but because I’m not interested in an unreasoned one.

    It’s fine to disagree with a post but it has to be done, I think, in a kind and respectful way. Because, as you say Greg, the congeniality is one the the very best parts of the site. I LIKE being nice. I like picking out a good line or a nifty turn of phrase and lavishing praise. There’s so much negativity elsewhere. TNB has, for the most part, been a delightful bastion of support. And that’s worth maintaining.

    I just realized I’ve added nothing useful to this conversation.

    Also, Greg, you rock my world. Thanks for letting me vent this week.

    • I agree, Marni. I love picking out a good line and lavishing praise. It’s a mitzvah.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Anytime, Marni. I hope all is well, or at least better.

      And I’m with you. I like to be supportive. You know what you call somebody who kills your buzz? A narc. And who wants to be a narc?

    • Judy Prince says:

      Marni, you had me identifying with you and thinking “Yes! Yeah! Yes!” with your assessment of TNBers’ effect on you.

      So NO WAY did you add “nothing useful to the conversation”.

      Be nice to Marni. She’s our girl. And I still have a pair of Big dental pliers.

  31. Quenby Moone says:

    Holdup. You mean someone might have actually read my comments on that piece about the Gray Lady? Did I say anything inflammatory?! *Checks under the covers* Am I permanently banned from the NYTimes forever and always now? Will they always hate me? Because they are, and have always been, my go-to news source. Great. Now I’ve pissed off my idols.

    In other news, I’m an extremely soft touch. I was almost ill with stress when I put my first (and second–maybe even my third and fourth) pieces up here because I don’t have the stomach for internet lynch gangs. I’ve left more groups than I can count when people started to go off the rails; most of the time it’s not debate, it’s actively hostile mud-slinging. I can’t get behind it at all.

    Which is why I feel so damned lucky to have stumbled into TNB for my first foray into a public face of my writing. Not one of you has disparaged me or the writing, neither constructively nor for the sport of it, and I’m extremely grateful. I can find a writing group somewhere–I can ask friends and family to read and comment on the structure, worthiness, quality–but here I put something up and people either respond positively or not at all, and it’s amazing.

    Thank you, Holy Grail of Literary Awesomeness. And thank you, Greg Olear, for being a similarly soft touch. And you, Lion, and you Tin Man, and you Scarecrow. You most of all.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Marni’s comment above reminded me that I too got one of my most inflammatory comments when I wrote “When Whitman Met Levi,” and posted it on my own little site which literally had an audience of, possibly, on a good day,four. And the passion that was inspired by my writing that Willie Aames was kind of a goon was remarkable and hostile.

      But he was kind of a goon.

      And really, the piece as a whole was completely neglected; not one iota about the subject to hand, just a mean-spirited attack on my character and my general sinfulness as a person. Which, you know, might be true, but WHAT ABOUT THE WHITMAN?

      Anyway, that never happens here. Or at least, not until Steve Almond shows up. Good lord have mercy, that was outta left field. I’m glad I missed that one when it happened because my plate’s been pretty full and I don’t think I could have taken one more thing. Yikes, dude. Just…yikes.

      I’m babbling in a discursive way because I have a head cold and my son has the stomach flu and life is crackers. But you guys are a plum bunch. Or a bunch of plums. Something nice and juicy which I like to savor.

      God I need a nap.

    • Greg Olear says:

      You needn’t have fretted, QB. You’re a natural fit here, and I’m glad you happened by.

      I think we’re far enough down in the comment board to tell the NYT to fuck off. At least, I hope so. (Just kidding, guys! Really! Just joking!)

  32. Did you hear me sigh after I read this? Because by nature I am sarcastic — quick to pick a phrase and destroy it — a mocker — a social commentary nit-picker (can I still be coined a nit-picker in 2010?) During High School and into college I was the girl in class making the teacher miserable by always wanting to start a debate. Pick a side and defend it — that was me much to the eye-roll of many, I’m sure.

    Then I began to write for a living and all that changed. Give and take of critique? Yeah — bring it on. But mean-spirited just because I can? Nah, not so much. You see I figure I know how hard it is to get the damn words on the page and then even harder to put it out there for all to see. Communities like TNB? We know how many similar sites exist. And I stayed so far away from this sort of Internet discourse cause a lot of the sites just aren’t civil. The people are nasty because they have the anonymity of the keyboard. TNB seemed genuine — and for the most part people are here to support each other — cheer each other on. The core group of TNBer’s who welcomed me back in September continue to be some of my best advocates — and have become friends — real honest to goodness 3D friends. So maybe we are unique here at TNB — maybe we might be accused of occasionally being “too nice” — but I’ve also seen some people get told through the comment boards in a mostly civil way when something just doesn’t sit right with the people of TNB. And really, isn’t that the best we can hope for? And something we can champion on this very atypical site?

    Sorry for the novel, Greg — but you were among the first of many to offer me a warm welcome here — it’s great that this site continues to thrive while shape-shifting and sorting on a daily basis. TNB works because it is ever evolving and it’s people like you that make TNB worth taking the time to comment.

    xx ~ r

  33. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    Gah! Well, that’s a mental image that can’t be unseen!

    I have two kids, 8 and nearly 2, and actually the opposite happened to me. With movie time being so limited now, I’m even pickier about what I’ll see than before. That said, you should know I went, willingly and with much excitement, to CLASH OF THE TITANS. I can’t explain that.

    • Cynthia Hawkins says:

      Okay, that didn’t nest right, but you know to which comment I refer, way up the chain there. Sorry!

      • Greg Olear says:

        No, I got it.

        It does affect your choices, the having of kids. I don’t watch sports anymore, for example. But I found keeping up with the indie films exhausting. I’d rather watch Borat and read. Although “Rachel Getting Married” was pretty fantastic.

  34. JB says:

    Blessed are the happy-go-lucky girls and boys.

  35. I would sit around and sing campfire songs with you freaking fabulous TNBers. This place is just too good to be true. We are an embarrassing love fest, and I am embarrassed, but only a little, and not nearly enough to stop. Yea: Zara and Simon are coming to the States! Yea! I got to meet Jessica Anya Blau and Robin Antalek and none other than Greg Olear in NYC just a few days ago. Life on TNB is good!
    Kissy Kissy. I wish I were being ironic, but alas, I mean it like a motherfucker.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Yes! Campfire songs! (I wanted to use a “sing ‘Kumbaya'” line in here somewhere, but I couldn’t make it fit.)

      So much fun in NYC…and now you get to go to La-La, you lucky. What a party that will be!

  36. Jude says:

    Bejesus Greg – when I got up this morning I saw your post and it already had 116 (or more…) comments on it.

    I come home from work and it’s got 241 comments! And it’s scooted to the top of the Most Read… and it’s not even on the front page anymore! Phew! That’s what happens when you close your eyes for a minute!

    And now I’ve just added another one…

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Jude.

      In this case, the comments are better than the actual piece, so well worth scrolling through…we need to know where you stand on the Clive Owen controversy. ; )

  37. Lenore says:

    i don’t think nice is the issue. it’s bullshit that’s the issue. nice is always okay, but littering the internet with words that don’t mean squat is irritating. or at least that’s what everyone tells me whenever i post stuff.

    that spencer guy has really strange facial hair. the girl actually has some pretty well done implants from what i can tell. good for her. i bet whoever owns her makes her give lots of money to charity so she looks like a good person.

    • Greg Olear says:

      I’ve heard the same argument, but with “mendacity” instead of “bullshit.” Tomato, tomahto. And you’re right, of course, about that, and also Spencer’s strange facial hair.

      Have you ever run into Speidi in your travels? I imagine that he hires someone to snap photographs wherever he goes to tip off the other paparazzi.

  38. Erika Rae says:

    I love our niceties, dammit! Part of the value of TNB, in my opinion, is that we build each other up and encourage each other as writers. It’s the feedback – the “what works” – that is so valuable. The “what doesn’t work” is usually apparent by the silence. Or by a comment from Becky. In the sea of hundreds of rejection letters that has become my life as a writer, it’s sooo welcomed and appreciated. I never take it for granted.

    Also, I’ve found that off the comment boards, certain authors with whom I’ve exchanged pieces/manuscripts, are much more likely to say what they’re really thinking. I’ve had some REAL reality checks that way – and I appreciate it.

    Fantastic article, Greg. (wink)

    • Greg Olear says:

      Well put, Erika. I agree that off the boards, more rigorous discussion is there, if you seek it. Someone wrote…I forget who…that what writers need is encouragement. Period. Rings true.

  39. Richard Cox says:

    Great piece, Greg. I’ve thought about this before, the “softness” of the commenting here (as Phat B) put it, and I do sometimes find it a bit much. Like I wouldn’t mind the occasional harsher critique of my work just so something would stand out against all the 3-ply layers of Charmin softness.

    Kidding aside, I do think Becky’s comments often provide a measure of that. She can be gushy like everyone else, but she’ll also call you out when your arguments don’t make sense. Good comment discussions often arise from her questions, and actually yours as well, Greg.

    But I suppose I agree with Phat that comment boards on most other sites are so full of flame wars and meanness that TNB is a welcome change. It feels more like a real life community than all the senseless hate that gets tossed around elsewhere.

    On that Almond piece, Justin gave him kudos for having balls, but to me it’s not balls. Justin himself, though I don’t know him at all, occasionally makes comments like “I hate hanging out with writers… they’re boring and dress poorly” that seem contrary just for the sake of being so. I’ll take a scathing critique any day if there is a point, because pointed critiques can help writers improve their craft. But I don’t get the point of stirring the pot simply because being nice is boring.

    • Tawni says:

      Richard Cox! Your work sucks like cheap, scratchy 1-ply toilet paper!

      Feel better? (:

      • Hey, I once got mad at you Richard!
        And you at me, if I recall.
        But then we hugged it out with Xanadu love for like a week.
        But, really, it wasn’t even that bad – but for TNB – I felt
        like we were in a FIGHT! Funny.

        • Becky says:

          I told Richard I was gonna kick his ass once.

          I was only partially kidding, but he was drunk, so it wasn’t a big deal.


        • Richard Cox says:

          I remember that. I was at a bar and trying to respond on my iPhone because I felt all guilty and stuff. That was awesome. Pretty scandalous and yet compared to other comment boards it wasn’t even a blip.

        • I was totally upset – but I’m prone to being too sensitive (if you hadn’t noticed).
          I actually had checked it on my iPhone while Greg and I were out,
          and I was like,”Greg – I think Richard Cox just bitch slapped me!”

          And Becky, if I recall, actually came to my defense, I think.
          (warm fuzzies) I remember then reporting to Greg,
          “Aaaaand, Becky just came to my defense!”

        • Becky says:

          That was one of the first arguments we had in a long while. Just making up for lost time. A love fest in disguise.

        • Becky says:

          I do try to balance my predation with a bit of defending the innocent now and then.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Man, why doesn’t anyone fight with me here on TNB? Steph? Becky? Richard? Bueller? Bueller….? Anyone….?

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Fine. I’ll make you a deal, there, Xena. You start writing about what a worthless, unpleasant, unintelligent, classless shit you are and I’ll fight with you. Gladly.

        • Zara Potts says:

          You’re on, Anon.
          I’m in a scrappy mood today – perfect timing for a stupid classless shit like me.

        • Gloria says:

          @Zara – for me it’s because I’m kinda scared of you. You have that one crazy eye…

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Yeah? Well, I have to get home and do the domestic thing for a bit so here’s a taste, just for now. You are sensitive. Beautiful, inside and out. Thoughtful, considerate, passionate and a brilliant writer that makes me…. Well, the fact that your words can “make” me do anything speaks volumes to their power. My daughter? Yeah – I’d be lucky if she ends up like you.

          So fucking there. Choke on it. I’ll be on later tonight for more so don’t punk.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Anon – How can I possibly fight that?? Now you have me in tears. Damnit. Damn you!

        • Zara Potts says:

          @Gloria – Crazy eye?? CRAZY EYE?? Why I Oughtta….

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Sorry if I was rough, there, doll. But you came looking for a fight. Here – here’s a hanky. Would you care for a glass of wine?

        • Zara Potts says:

          Thanks for the hanky but you’re about three hours too late. I will have that glass of wine though.. Gee you pack a hefty punch, Anon….

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          My apologies for being a cad – you were no daisy at all. Now here [hands glass] – drink up. I’ve lot of domestic wonders to achieve – magical moments like unclogging the sink in the downstairs half-bath – so I’m afraid you’ll have to holler for refills. You’ll get much finer service in person.

      • Greg Olear says:

        Marcal Cox. (Do they have Marcal everywhere, or is it just a NY thing?)

      • Richard Cox says:

        Not specific enough, Tawni, I hate you now.

        • Tawni says:

          But do you hate me in an Angel Soft way? Because I’d be okay with that.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I could never hate you, Tawni. Not even in the Angel Soft way.

          And btw, I have taken some pictures that I will soon share with you and Gloria and Nonadetti. The garden is a swirling mass of green. It even survived the superstorm on March 19th, which was my biggest worry considering the erosion problem. Thank you guys!

    • Becky says:

      But writers ARE boring and dress poorly…

      *blank stare*

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Richard. And I agree re: Becky. The site would be a bit too much like “The Five Club” on SNL if she weren’t here. But she and I had our lovefest yesterday. Today, she’s fighting a losing battle against the United Nations on Simon’s comment board.

      And yes, stirring for the sake of stirring is futile. But then, Justin is boring and dresses poorly (just kidding, JB!).

      At the end of the day, there’s no better feeling than falling in love with a piece of writing, or a song, or a work of art. We watched this great doc called “Beautiful Losers” (which is how I found out about Margaret Kilgallen, who I talk about in my ‘Live Waver’ piece), and it ended with one of the artists saying that, by way of advice to young artists of whatever medium: don’t be afraid to like something. You don’t have to hate everything to make your name. I loved that.

    • Gloria says:

      I find that the comments on TNB are kind and often come from intelligent people. I’m thinking there might be a corollary there. Have you ever read the comments on ANY Youtube video? Not only are they the worst of the worst, but they are vitriolic, moronic, and almost always misspelled. I’ll take three ply ass wipe over that any day. That (as Becky puts it) makes my ass itch – and there really isn’t any bathroom tissue that can fix that.

      • Richard Cox says:

        Gloria, my friend Brett told me once that he believes that YouTube comments reflect the collective consciousness of humanity. No filters for education, age, socioeconomic class, etc. It’s television, after all, and anyone can leave an anonymous comment. I’ve partially written a post about it, but I’m so far behind on writing projects right now (heh) I doubt I’ll ever post it.

        • Gloria says:

          Behind on writing projects? Whatever could you mean? I starting writing this outstanding post about sex and dating with this super gorgeous, well-spoken, thoughtful guy and it fell by the wayside. I haven’t posted a new post on here in almost two months. I have so many writing projects to finish that it feels like finals week.

        • Greg Olear says:

          We were writing a post together?


          Also: you’re not really going to New York in June, are you? Because that would be fabu.

        • Richard Cox says:

          No, I was planning on going to LA for the TNBLE there but it fell through. However I believe I’m seeing Zara and Simon and Slade in Dallas sometime in June. And I’m hoping to host a TNB event here in Tulsa as previously discussed. I’ll be sending invitations soon to get an idea if it’s feasible. My book promoter friend is all over it, so I just need to find a few willing travelers.

        • Slade Ham says:

          Well, you know I’d be game…

        • Greg Olear says:

          See? Now it’s a party. Tulsa Represent!

        • Gloria says:

          @Greg – not unless I get my teleportation machine up and running by then. I’m cash poor but hope and delusion rich.

          And yes, don’t you remember the post we were writing.

          I’d also LOVE to go to the Tulsa TNB event. And why Quenby and I haven’t organized a Portland one yet is beyond me!

        • Greg Olear says:

          @Gloria – Richard is the man to see about the teleportation device. It’s his company: Richard’s Industries For Teleportation. RIFT, for short.

        • Richard Cox says:

          402. And I just saw this comment. Nice.

  40. Brian Eckert says:

    Dude. What a shitty post. I’d rather be a Gulf Coast pelican than read this again.

  41. sheree says:

    Your post made me think of this: http://www. antonosart.com/zoornalism.html

  42. Jordan Ancel says:

    There’s enough shit-talking in the world we have to face on a daily basis, and we have to trudge through it without gumboots.

    As writers/artists, there’s far too much criticism (and often not of the constructive kind), and very little validation. There’s plenty of reasons why some artists go insane, get depressed, drink, smoke, etc.

    It’s nice, as a newcomer to TNB, to be part of a community that is supportive, and where the discussions about writing are congenial. I think it gives people confidence to explore things and take more risks, revealing more about themselves, knowing that there are people who can relate in some way.

    The worst thing for an artist stepping out into a new arena, shaky and unsure, is to be shot down. When that happens, the chances are more likely that said artist won’t risk it again.

    TNB is a nice place. For someone like me, I feel like I can open up, take some chances, be part of something positive. The encouragement will help me grow as a writer, become better and more expressive.

    I am a firm believer that the kind of nurturing that happens here is the kind that helps people flourish.

    Now, I’m all for healthy debate, discussing opposite sides of the coin, and flat-out disagreement with ideas or subject matter. BUt what I appreciate about this community is that it’s done tastefully and in a way that fosters thought, provoking one to go deeper.

    The comments are incredibly insightful, and having only posted twice so far, I can whole-heartedly say that because of the intelligence and eloquence of many of the comments I received, I have been forced to think more, to really investigate myself on a deeper level.

    To me, that is key for growth. And that is something I truly love and appreciate.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Amen, Jordan.

      I can’t remember who said it…Margaret Atwood? Somebody like that…that all that writers need, education-wise, is encouragement. They’ll figure out for themselves how to write better, if they have the desire to do so, but encouragement is gold.

    • Judy Prince says:

      “The comments are incredibly insightful, and having only posted twice so far, I can whole-heartedly say that because of the intelligence and eloquence of many of the comments I received, I have been forced to think more, to really investigate myself on a deeper level.”

      True and true, Jordan.

  43. Ben Loory says:

    thanks for the plug, greg!

    personally i’m all for a little rudeness and argumentation. it gets the juices flowing and keeps people coming back. i mean nobody wants just a lot of screaming and yelling. but different viewpoints and strongly held (and reasoned) opinions are indispensable. back on my myspace, in jonathan evison’s fiction files, we had a guy who was always pissing people off. he was a libertarian and an autodidact with some very strange opinions. argumentative to the nth degree and often just a pain in the ass. finally people got so angry they asked him to leave. he did, and then the group quickly became boring. there was nobody left to get people riled up. we all just sat around and agreed all the time. it was dull. it’s nice as a writer to have people say nice things to you. but as a member of a literary discussion group, unrelenting agreement is not what i look for.

    • Becky says:


      Bobblehead syndrome.

      It gives me a visceral, terrible, fear/loathing reaction. I get mad at it. I would say anything to break up a bobblehead session, whether I believed what I was saying or not. Anything at all. Whatever it takes.

        • Becky says:

          This has never been a secret.

          I talk about my distaste for bobblehead syndrome pretty regularly.

          People who surround themselves exclusively with others who agree with them and thus create a situation, merely for their own egos’ comfort, in which their opinions can pretend to reality is embarrassing to me. Shame on that. Wrong thinking! Pride! Cowardice! Abomination!

          I mean, it’s more complicated than that, but it’s the gist.

        • This is for Becky…
          I used to be a lot more argumentative.
          And I used to call people out a lot more.
          But once I called someone out, a fellow singer/songwriter
          who claimed to be very supportive of her local community
          (that was her schtick) and in reality she was a total climby bitch.
          So, I called her out on it – I actually (in an online forum)
          said that she was full of shit and that a mediocre talent like hers…
          I can’t even repeat it, because I still can’t believe I called her mediocre – isn’t
          that the worst thing you can say to anyone?
          To make a long story short – I was basically banned from the group, which
          was a women’s music group. Which totally turned me off to women’s music groups
          and online groups.

          So, I think I admire how free and honest you are.
          At first you scared me. I’ll admit. But, now you’re kind of my hero.
          And maybe one day I’ll get into an argument with you!
          But, I’m not ready yet, ok? So, don’t yell at me now.

        • Zara Potts says:

          You called her mediocre?? Ha! That is funny. You are wonderful!
          I remember a SNL gag where Bill Murray called Chevy Chase a ‘Medium talent.’
          I have stored that one away.. just waiting!

        • Greg Olear says:

          Or in “American Beauty” where he calls Mena Suvari “ordinary.”

          Steph really let that chick have it, though. I was there, and mediocre is a nice term for what she was.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Anytime, Ben.

      My wife took a class in group dynamics, and there’s all kinds of research on that stuff…your autodidactical chum was “holding the hostility for the group,” or some such thing.

      I’m sure there are instances at TNB where we read a piece, and we don’t love it, but we want to say something encouraging. There are also, I’m sure, occasions when we overdo said encouragement. If you write “This is the best thing I’ve ever read” on everyone’s comment board, it starts to lose its meaning. Like the Gilbert & Sullivan song: “If everybody’s somebody, then no one’s anybody.”

      But at the end of the day, I think there’s just enough venom on here to keep it interesting. That and jokes. TNB is a social club, or part of it is. When I post a piece like this one — not one of my top ones, writingwise — what I’m really doing is creating and monitoring a forum for discussion. Like having a theme party. If you like the drinks I’m serving and the music I’m playing, you drop on by. That is what people really want from the comment boards, I think; I know it’s what I want; there’s encouragement and debate when it’s appropriate, but mostly it’s a bunch of people hanging out, which wouldn’t be possible without the miracle of the web.

      • According to my class, this group would be past the forming and norming stages and maybe possibly entering into the storming stage.
        TNB is chock full of group dynamics.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Put me down for storming.
          oh. maybe not. I’m a chicken.

        • It all just speaks to the level of group cohesion.
          The more tight a group, the safer everyone feels to be able to
          be more honest and perhaps: storm.
          Maybe certain members are what is called, “holding
          the anger” for the group – and the group uses that member
          to express its anger.

          I think you have always held the love for the group. I think you are one of the people
          who set has the tone for the group – you’re the glue – if I were to analyze the group in a professional manner, which I am not.

        • Greg Olear says:

          As Lady Gaga would say, Zara’s the “love-glue-gunnin'”.

        • Zara Potts says:

          “Love glue gunnin'”
          I’ll take that! Thank you very much.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Do you know that song? It’s fucking awesome:

          That’s an embed test. If not, here:


        • Zara Potts says:

          Funnily enough.. one of my colleagues said that she thought I looked a bit like Gaga the other day. I think I might have to stop wearing that one piece spacy swimsuit to work.

        • Greg Olear says:

          The main thing is her glasses.

          For Halloween this year, Dominick, who loves lights, was a “chande-robot” – half chandelier, half robot. And in the “Bad Romance” video, I swear, she’s also a chanderobot.

          I don’t know that I’d say you look like Gaga, but you could definitely pull it off for Halloween.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Oh thank you for saying I don’t look like Gaga. I had a few sleepless nights over that…

        • Greg Olear says:

          Gaga is awesome. There’s nothing wrong with looking like Gaga. Dressing like Gaga, on the other hand…

  44. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    I’m sick of the meanness in this world. TNB is an oasis where people can share their stories and be respected, appreciated, and valued for just that. We have a pretty damn special community here. Why change it?

  45. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Hey! I thought no-arsehole day was next week, like!


  46. Greg Olear says:

    He’s a distant relative of the Florentine minstrel Douchebaggio.

  47. Mary Richert says:

    Greg, GREAT PIECE! YES, I LOVE IT. anyway, I do love it. But I’ve also developed a little rule for myself: If I’m going to criticize, I will do it constructively and not in public. As a writer, I know how it hurts when someone picks you apart in public. Yes, we all want to learn and be better writers, but the most helpful criticism typically comes in personal conversations. Also, I find it hard to take critique from complete strangers (except that one time I asked everyone to just come out with it and help me revise a piece, which was a really fun experiment). Otherwise, I just don’t respond to pieces if I feel that my response would be false in any way. Sometimes, I read things that are good but don’t inspire me to say much, so I just don’t. But with the extremely high comment numbers posts can rack up around here, I think we come to expect a massive positive response on every post, which is a bit dangerous. Then you get to feeling like one positive comment or 10 isn’t enough. You have to have a couple hundred to feel like you’re really doing it right. It gets a bit silly…

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Mary.

      Yes, the comments can get out of control…after my “Dramatis Personae” piece I had to take a break from the site, and the Internet in general, for a good two weeks. It was like I OD’ed.

      I liked when you did the experiment to have people critique you…that was a creative use of the TNB resources.

  48. I think it’s silly you didn’t leave a comment on Fishman’s piece. Go be supportive and leave one. The Gray Lady isn’t going to snub you because you write that you have noticed some skullduggery. Sheesh. They are just as apt to find this piece anyways… Chances are, powers that be will troll for related pieces…

    Your support shows the Gray Lady that new trends exist. And other trends do exist.

    So quit complaining about being nice and get over being scared (you call it politics).

    With that said, I still want to have your baby.

    • Greg Olear says:

      I figured a full piece with a pingback trumped a comment.

      I’m honored that you want to have my baby, but the sad truth is that it’s biologically impossible. You’re too old.

      (Buh-dump-BUMP. Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week).

  49. […] his recent article “Something Nice” Greg Olear labels me “the resident curmudgeon”. In the spool of comments beneath the article, […]

  50. Tom Hansen says:

    (unable or unwilling to read thru all the comments)

    Greg: “You never know who will wind up reading what you write.”

    See, this is where I’m going to get into trouble at some point. I’ve already gotten into trouble for not knowing that journalists will take a little crumb of what you say and make it into a problem. And this is another reason why I usually don’t blog. Because I have this thing with what I call “crazy talk.”

    Aside from my fiction and nonfiction writing I usually just blast things out there. Comments, blog posts, filled with irony, hyperbole, sarcasm. They are sometimes reactionary and paranoid…damn…maybe I should just shut up. When I’m in a serious mood I tell people “I want to write books and then be left alone for five years to work on the next one.”

    But you can’t do that now. You’ve got to blah blah blah all over the web and shake hands with people and play nice…see where this is going? I just can’t do it. I have to be me, it’s part of my being a writer, and for me it has to include all of me and it can’t have any rules. But that’s just me. We’ll see how it works out I guess

    • Greg Olear says:

      No, no, you won’t get into trouble! You totally have the bona fides to get away with “crazy talk.” If pressed, you could always say you were trying to “manage your image,” or some such thing.

      And you can just walk away to work on the next one. Per Megan Power’s request, that will be the subject of a future post.

  51. Tom Hansen says:

    Not saying I’m critical of other people work, btw. I just say what comes to mind when I’m not writing. And not dissing TNB or blogs either. I’m immensely grateful for being invited to be a part of this community. I just sometimes don’t understand it and I have a penchant for being subversive (probably my punk rock past rearing it’s head–I did after all swing a dead cat around onstage once).

    You know what I really don’t get? Twitter. I think one of my recent tweets was (and I had to tweet word by word backwards to get it right) was constructed so my page would read:


    • Greg Olear says:

      No worries. I have it on good authority that you are quite a nice guy, and nothing on the boards would lead me to believe anything to the contrary.

      Twitter = dead as Dillinger.

  52. Joe Daly says:

    I’m finally catching up on all my TNB reading and was so happy that I didn’t miss this. So much resonated with me, and without reading the comments before me, just a couple personal observations:

    Your comments about withholding scathing criticism were particularly meaningful to me, given my recent piece about five bands I don’t like. While I tried to pull some punches there, I think that I lost some of my style in not committing more to my opinions. That lesson seems to echo your comments in that when your subject matter does not serve your style (yes, I think that’s possible), you do both yourself and the reader a great disservice. So yeah, if you can’t be authentic when saying something nice, or respectful when saying something critical, then maybe it’s time to confront something closer to the heart. And I’m not talking about you here, which I hope is obvious. Just a realization I came to and which you stated so well.

    I love the comment culture on TNB. When I got started here I noticed that some contributors are diligent in responding to all comments on their work, while others choose not to interact with the readers who comment. I asked a couple vets what the general consensus was, and found that there is none- it’s pretty much split between commenters and non-commenters.

    But I choose to align with the authors who do comment because I agree that what sets TNB apart from print sites is that we give readers the ability to interact with us and each other. In my opinion, if someone takes the time to read something I wrote and to then comment on it, I like to acknowledge their investment on some level.

    There does seem to be an overwhelming amount of glad-handing, but I find it to be entirely sincere- this is a supportive community and it seems that regular interaction with other authors cannot help but push the author to further his/her craft, simply knowing they’re being read. And while there’s no room for personal attacks, I do think that TNB is a fantastic resource for exchanging and processing respectfully-delivered criticism and opinions.

    We have a good thing going here, and I appreciate cats like you rolling up your sleeves and digging in as deeply as you do.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Joe.

      Little did you imagine, when you posted your “Five Bands” piece, what it would lead to…

      I should add that there are good reasons why some writers choose not to comment, or to not do the comment dance. I think there’s a healthy balance between commenting on everything, and going crazy with it, and not commenting at all. I’m working on finding that balance.

      Are you back from Scotland?

      • Joe Daly says:

        >>Little did you imagine, when you posted your “Five Bands” piece, what it would lead to…<<

        Phew! You sure said a mouthful there, brother. I’ve taken most of the day catching up on all the TNB pieces that I missed in the past couple weeks and was surprised to get name-checked in two of them. It certainly has become a robust and necessary (in my opinion) debate, and while I’d like to be remembered more for how I write than how I’m treated, it is what it is.

        And yes, I appreciate you clarifying that it’s perfectly legit for writers to not comment. My initial concern when I got started was that if I replied to every comment, it would look like I was fluffing my own work. But it was explained to me that if I choose, the interactive component is a great way to offer something more to the people who take the time to read my articles. So it works for me, but I understand that a healthy balance is key.

        Yep, back from the UK last night. It was a fun trip, but it’s always good to be home. Spent the day stretched out in the sun with my dogs and a new Guns ‘N Roses bio. Any chance you’ll make it out for the TNB thing next week?

        • Greg Olear says:

          The Simon & Zara Show is coming not only to New York, but New Paltz, to my front porch, so I will be seeing folks on this side of the country. But the LA event will be fabu. Wish I could get there. I love LA.

  53. Ryan Day says:

    Must admit to feeling a touch awkward about having just posted two consecutive AZ political pieces 🙂

    I’ve really appreciated TNB as a site where you can garner encouragement and build a bit of confidence through sharing some less-edited pieces. It’s a great source of feedback in a world that often doesn’t offer much of it beyond, “Thank you for you submission. Pass -the editors”.

    That said, there’s nothing wrong with a little fire here and there. I tend to find that upon settling down after being riled up, I’ve usually developed my thinking on a thing. Arguments can be the best place to figure out what your opinion really is… And then again, they can just make you look like an ass…

  54. D.R. Haney says:

    All right, damn you, here’s 400. How’s that for fucking nice?

  55. […] next thing I knew, people began weighing in and a very different debate arose. Greg Olear’s piece, “Something Nice,” was awesome because it set off a very thoughtful and sometimes animated discussion about what the […]

  56. Shannon says:

    i decided that it’s ok to be late on this one because, i might actually be right on time! 🙂
    i read this piece just after finally finding the maura kelly blog that she’s getting so much crap for right now (rightly so, after reading it): http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/dating-blog/overweight-couples-on-television
    and it definitely reflects the “being mean for the sake of being mean” thing you’re talking about. who does this help? who does it alienate? is this chick screwed now because she was heartless and didn’t think about what she was putting out there? a tiny part of me hopes so because i’ve never seen anyone get their “just desserts” so immediately before. i’d be super interested to see how all this pans out. i’m curious about your thoughts (if any) on it?

    as well, my #1 movie man crush isn’t even on anyone’s radar (simon and zara may know who he is though): david wenham.
    i like red-heads. and he’s got a fantastic nose.
    can you write about him? i would guess that he’s an “m” list celebrity.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Somehow, the Maura Kelly blog has escaped my attention. Usually I care deeply what the sex-and-dating blogger at Marie Claire thinks about any number of topics: the federal trade deficit, North Korea, and of course, the urgent matter of whether there should be a TV show starring BBWs.

      A few of the comments talk about her being a “journalist.” She’s not a journalist, and the blog is not journalism; it’s an opinion piece, and she’s entitled to her opinion. I don’t think she should be fired or anything; presumably, someone is editing that page and has to sign off on the posts.

      That her opinion is, in this case, insensitive, is axiomatic. It’s nice to see so many people stick up for the show. Also, I hate how Hollywood starves naturally curvy women until they look like interchangeable concentration camp prisoners. I also dislike the glamorization of teen moms. I blame Spencer Pratt, but then, you know that already.

      I do not know David Wenham. But there; I just wrote about him.

      Thanks for commenting.

  57. […] cyberspace—in the piece. I was even moved, as a freshly-minted senior editor, to weigh in about kindness and etiquette (call it my Emily […]

  58. […] So too did the Benton/Olear juxtaposition of pieces about whether TNB’s commentary could be overly nice and/or the praise […]

  59. zi xiu tang bee pollen…

    […]Greg Olear | Something Nice | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

Leave a Reply to Will Entrekin Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *