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Circling Turds With a Heart Full of Hope

January 12th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

There were two good things about my apartment in Virginia:

The rent was only $175 a month, and Brad the landlord never came over. Ever. Or so we thought. This seemed ideal at the time, as I was using the living room as a painting space in addition to training live chickens to play keyboards in the living room. The less company, the better.

But like so much else in the world, the good and bad parts of that situation were horribly entangled.

We’d moved into the place in a hurry in the dead of an unusually cold winter – which served to keep the smell down.

But along with spring rains came this smell. This creeping, gnarly smell would wind its funky hand into the house and right into our nostrils like filthy phantom fingers picking up a bowling ball. It reeked of sloth and despair – powerful and pungent and musty all at once, like manure without any of the fertility or any potential.

You’d think you’d drowned it out or think it went away, but it was just always there, a brown undercoating that informed colors and flavors and wormed its way into your freaking dreams. Sometimes a homeless teenaged kid would sleep on our back porch under the window. One rainy morning I heard him say “Oh GOD it smells bad out here.” It happened whenever the air was especially humid, right after a rain, or on foggy mornings.

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Reverend Al Sharpton Hates Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band

November 14th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

During the time that I was in Royal Quiet Deluxe (chicken band), I was invited to a large dinner with the Reverend Al Sharpton. Everyone had to go around the table and describe who they were and what they did. I was neither an accomplished member of the community in Norfolk, nor was I African-American. Everyone else at the table was both. I just kinda ran with a description of the band.

It did not go well. At all. In fact, the evening rippled throughout my life for about ten years, causing tremendous embarassment in a comic book store this summer.

Here’s a video of me telling the story on stage at The Moth:

I think I’ve just about milked this chicken band thing for all it’s worth now …

You can see the companion to this story here:

Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band

A story by The Moth’s Jim O’Grady here:

Jim O’Grady on “Respect”

And a story by The Moth’s Juliet here:

Juliet Tells the Tale of ‘Mannequin Dan’

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Jim O’Grady on “Respect”

November 6th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

My friend Jim O’Grady is a Moth GrandSLAM contest winner — a great storyteller and a great guy. He’s been a reporter for the New York Times, and works for some mysterious think tank that he says is “physically located on Wall Street, but in no way associated with finance.”

The thing about these story shows is that they let anybody onstage, which gives the show its spirit and beauty. It keeps it from being the province of writers and actors and “who do you know” and lets the voice of the people come through. It also allows people to weep onstage and do some lame standup comedy from time to time. It’s always a crap shoot, and the surprises are the best part.

Jim’s reliably awesome — he has his nights when he kills, sure. But even when he’s not at his best, he’s still really really good, and whenever he gets picked to come to the stage the audience is in for a treat.

Here he is at a Moth StorySLAM this summer, on the theme of “Respect.”

You can see a story by The Moth’s Juliet here:

Juliet Respects ‘Mannequin Dan’

And two of my stories here:

Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band
Reverend Al Sharpton Hates Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band

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Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band: Now the Story is Told on Video

November 3rd, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Today is national fix-the-country day, and it’s gonna be a long one. No matter what side you’re on, you’re probably sick of the campaigning by now. As a little distraction from all the election-related news you’re sure to be drowning in, I thought I’d post a video of me telling the story of Royal Quiet Deluxe, (chicken band) at The Moth.

By way of comparison, you can read a written version of the story here.

The story links to one of our recordings, made with a primitive drum machine, delay/loop pedal, and my tireless prattling.

The following track, though, is a different sort of sound collage. We recorded it on the front porch of Tim’s parent’s place out in Botetourt County, VA, one hot summer evening. You can hear crickets and locusts in the background, something I think is pretty cool. I am playing the typewriter as percussion here, Tim is playing guitar, and the chickens are pecking and vocalizing. Tim mixed in a recording about Exotic Newcastle Disease in Southern California that was recorded over the telephone many years later, and presto — you have:

Exotic Newcastle Disease, by Royal Quiet Deluxe

There’s one more story in this saga. I’ve told it onstage at a Moth event recently, and I’m waiting to get ahold of the video so I can crunch it and post it here — and I’m working on the text version for those of you that want the full-on boxed-set experience. Suffice it to say that while the Internet has helped me find a whole new audience for this band that I never thought existed, I am 100 percent positive that the Reverend Al Sharpton still thinks the whole concept of Royal Quiet Deluxe is the stupidest thing he’s ever heard.

You can see a story by The Moth’s Jim O’Grady here:

Jim O’Grady on “Respect”

And a story by The Moth’s Juliet here:

Juliet Tells the Tale of ‘Mannequin Dan’

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Web 2.0 Expo: Too Much “Popular,” Not Enough “Quality,” or How To Make Good Web Content

September 21st, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

I was at the O’Reilly Media-sponsored Web 2.0 Expo here in New York last week. While I wouldn’t exactly call it fun, I learned a lot. Here’s a few observations:

*** The term “Google-juice” sounds really, really gross

*** The word “leverage” is vastly overused. It’s not a verb, people. Every time you say it, an IQ point dies.

*** People love to talk about the “Wild West” mentality on the Internet. Meaning, I think, that there are no rules or ethics online. The real Wild West was about gunfights, cattle theft, drinking whiskey in filthy saloons and dying during childbirth. Making baseless claims anonymously in your underpants is the opposite of tough. There’s a big, big difference.

*** Being articulate, intelligent and well-read and being a Top Digger are not the same thing by a damn sight. I’m not going to name names, but a certain social media expert should be aware that they speak Portuguese  in Brazil — not Brazilian.

*** There were a lot of people asking “how can I leverage the power of Web 2.0 community to ‘go viral’ and drive traffic to my market share, incentivizing revenue generation through targeted content promotion?”

Nobody asked “how can I make content that’s actually good?”

I’d like to focus on that a little bit.

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SPAMtastic: Prejudice, Conspiracy Theory, Has-Been Boxing, and the Tragic Loss of Britney Spears

July 24th, 2008 by D.Billy

I’m one of those people who tries to keep my Inbox relatively clean.  I fail miserably, but at least I want it to be more uncluttered than it is, and I think that aspiration counts for something.  However, one battle front on which I am an unequivocal victor is that of the Spam folder.  I manually delete that shit before Gmail even has the chance to do it for me.  When empty, the Spam folder displays the text “Hooray, no spam here!” and I think, “You’re goddamn right there isn’t.”

But once in a while, the universe sees fit to bestow upon me a piece of electronic junk mail so wonderful and perfect, so beautifully off-kilter in either its subject line or content, that it gives pause to my ‘delete’ finger.  Case in point, this message that I received yesterday:

Such a simple and perfect non-sequitur.

Or is it?

One day later, I received this little nugget from a different address:

Holy christ!
What seemed at first like total random word generation has suddenly turned into a somewhat linear pseudo-narrative!  Whatever the fuck nekkid Britney did in that video to expose the secret trifecta has apparently caused her untimely demise, and set off a chain of events that will undoubtedly lead to the King of Pop having one of his plastic ears bitten off on pay-per-view. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the next installment of this saga to get caught in my mail filters.

(NOTE: Yes, I blurred the links. And I deleted the messages after I took the screenshots.  If we click on spam links, even in the name of investigative internet comedy-journalism, then the terrorists have won.  Besides, whatever they linked to could never be as good as the stories y’all are forming right now.)

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Ira Glass On Storytelling

June 1st, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

I came by this on Del.icio.us, and find to be one of the most inspiring, reassuring clips I’ve ever seen …

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‘Culture Shock’ at the Moth

May 14th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon


“Culture Shock” was the theme for last night’s Moth, and man, was I ever ready. I’d written, edited, rewritten, and I felt like I had a fairly solid story — unless someone else had also worked as a kangaroo shooter in Western Australia, I had the topic pretty well locked up. So yeah, I was psyched, that combination of anxiety and jittery and *pow* that usually makes something happen.

I was pretty tough to be around, I’d imagine, especially to a good friend who came out to support me. I couldn’t help myself, I was a rubber band ball made out of thrashing fire ants — couldn’t focus on sentences, couldn’t relax into his jokes or anything.

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Tellin’ Stories

May 13th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon




I did my first storytelling show last Monday at a small venue called the Coraline Cafe, way out in Brooklyn. I’m not sure where, exactly, but at one point I was afraid that I was going to be asked for my passport. There were only five folks on the bill, and for once, one of those people was me! After a few months of writing, rewriting, and trying to get onstage at The Moth, I finally got a chance to get up and tell a tale.

I told a story about a drunk man and a drunker pit bull fighting over some cans of Old English in Richmond, VA a few years back — astute readers of this blog will remember that story from here. And I mean, I was nervous, don’t get me wrong — but once I got up there that nervousness just kinda turned into energy, and I went with it, just kinda pushing the parts that needed pushing.

Two and a half servings of bourbon didn’t hurt, either, but I had to cut myself off at a full stop by pouring the last half into a plant. There’s nothing worse than a slurred blatherer, apart from someone who used to be fat and/or geeky in high school and isn’t over that shit yet.

But yeah, it was awesome! People laughed at the parts I meant to be funny and laughed at the stuff I ad-libbed. So I’ll take that as a good sign. The compliments felt genuine. I mean, if someone was kissing my ass because of all the pull I have in showbiz, they’re just horribly misguided.

So now, just as soon as I click “post” on this post, I’m off to the train to try and get onstage at The Moth again. I’ll post the story tomorrow for you guys, but for now, I got to keep it bottled up. I’m nervous, but the good kind. The kind that means something crackly’s about to happen, one way or another. Like one story is about to turn into another. And man, I live for shit like that.

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Time For Some Stories

April 22nd, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

The problem with writing stories, actual stories for a blog is that, eventually, you run out. You’ve got to post daily, more or less (less in my case) and eventually you hit Peak Story, where you’ve told all the ones you’ve lived and are now reduced to writing about things you experienced while on your ass in front of a screen.

At least, that’s been my experience. Writing a fresh, original story every day is freaking exhausting. And just because someone has a few good stories, they don’t necessarily have a good blog.

Storylog.com aggregates great stories from all over the web, publishing at least one solid one daily. This is exactly what I want when I’m reading blogs — actual, well-done storytelling delivered daily and reliably.

This one, below, is one of my favorites, taken from a special section called simply “Time For Some Stories.

From the site:

(These) stories were copied from a message board thread on vivavinyl.org because they needed to be preserved for posterity. Every single one of these stories was written by a seriously cool Canadian man in his mid-20s who goes by the username “davesecretary“ … They are presented below in their original form: IN ALL CAPS.

Usually, all caps infuriates me, but here I think it adds an air of breathless excitement, like a little kid is telling you about the coolest thing that JUST happened outside!!!

Anyway, here goes:

********
RIGHT SO IT’S KINDERGARTEN AND IT’S SPRING AND EVERYTHING IS THAWING AND MUDDY. AND ALL THE KIDS HAVE THOSE RUBBER BOOTS THAT GO UP TO OUR WAISTS. THE THING TO DO IN THE MORNING BEFORE CLASS STARTS IS TO FIND A BUDDY, GO FIND A NICE SOFT MUDDY SPOT IN THE PLAYGROUND SOMEWHERE, FACE YOUR FRIEND AND START SQUISHING YOUR WAY DOWN IN THE MUD UNTIL IT’S ALMOST UP TO YOUR WAIST.

WE DID THIS BECAUSE IT WAS FUN. SO KYLE AND I ARE FACING EACH OTHER AND BOGGING OUR WAY DOWN IN THIS MUD PUDDLE. WE GET IT ALMOST TO THE POINT WHERE THE MUD WILL START TO SEEP INTO OUR RUBBER BOOTS. I LOOK AT KYLE AND SAY “HEY KYLE, CAN YOU DO THIS?!” AND I TAKE MY FOOT OUT OF THE BOOT, WIGGLE MY LITTLE SOCKED TOES IN THE SPRING AIR FOR A FEW SECONDS, AND PUT MY LEG BACK IN MY BOOT, WHICH IS FIRMLY LODGED IN MUD.

“YES I CAN!!” KYLE SHOUTS BACK AT ME DESPITE ME BEING ONLY A FOOT AWAY FROM HIM. KYLE TAKES HIS FOOT OUT OF HIS BOOT AND IMMEDIATLY FALLS BACKWARDS INTO THE MUD. BECAUSE ONE LEG IS STILL IN THE BOOT HE IS KIND OF PINNED. THE SUCTION FROM THE MUD IS TOO MUCH FOR HIM TO SIT UP, AND HE CAN’T TURN OVER BECAUSE HIS LEG IS STUCK IN THE BOOT.

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