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Creatively Speaking: Isobella Jade's memoir

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It's a new year, so I thought I'd start by introducing a new feature I'm calling Creatively Speaking, in which I interview all sorts of artists for a first-hand look at how they go about creating their work.

IsoApple5 copy.jpgLet's kick it off here with Isobella Jade, who is getting national attention these days as the model who wrote a memoir without the use of computer. (Let me clarify: without the use of her own computer.) Her new book, Almost 5'4", which chronicles her experiences as a short woman trying to break into the modeling business, was written almost entirely in an Apple store in—where else?—the Big Apple.

It may very well be the start of a new breed: books written in public spaces on public computers. Follow the jump for my exclusive interview with Jade and find out exactly how she did it. And watch for the next installment of Creatively Speaking coming real soon.

jade.jpgDI: So now that Almost 5'4" is out there have you made enough off of it to buy your own computer?

IJ: Not yet, but I am making enough to pay the bills and hopefully by 2009 I can get an iMac or a MacBook. I wrote my book on a 17inch iMac so maybe getting one of those would be symbolic and fun and I like how Apple has made the iMac, and i-products about the inner potential and creative in all of us.

DI: When you were writing the book at Apple, how did you save your files?

IJ: I saved the files each day to my Yahoo account, email form. I still have most of them saved.
The Apple store did bring some tragic moments though while writing the book...I did have a moment when the Internet froze on the iMac I was working on while writing. Which meant I couldn't save my document to my email and I thought about saving it to a folder on the desktop or making one somewhere discreet so no one would take it. After I pouted to a store employee about my catastrophe he told me I could buy a CD at the store and then download it, but my funds were limited at the time. So instead I called a film director I knew who lived in SoHo and even with a broken leg, in his crutches he brought me a CD and I was able to burn my document on the disk and save one of the best parts of my book. I believe once you write something, you can never fully write it again the same, so I wasn't going to leave the store without it. And yes I did cry, stomp my foot, and swear a few times over it. It was extremely dramatic at the time because I also realized at that moment how much the store meant to me, what I was doing, and that even if the store didn't know it, the store was my means to survival sort of, and it was like I saw my desperation on the computer screen waiting for the Internet to be turned on.

DI: Are you a MAC person or was it that the Apple store was just close to your apartment?

IJ: I grew up on an Apple II, well, only in the summers. My mother, a teacher, raised us the best she could with spaghetti O's and garage sale clothes and summer felt more like Christmas when she would bring home a barrowed Apple computer. I loved to play the program called StickyBear and Oregon Trail on it. Also during my freshman year at college I was studying advertising and graphic design and I used an iMac a lot, and I think Apple gives off an artistic feeling of chance, it is for the daring, the serious, the bold, the dreamers.
I discovered the Apple Store while walking around SoHo in mid February 2005, and started writing my book in early November 2005 when my apartment lease ended and I was couch hoping and living with what I could carry. So I didn't exactly have a stable home while I started writing the book. Since the store was where I went to check my email, submitted to electronic modeling jobs, it made sense to start writing there.
I felt comfortable being there. It became a reason to get up in the morning, my first daily stop, an office, with coffee in hand while using the computers for hours on end, because no one ever kicked you out. It was a gift. I even considered the computer I worked on most often "mine." I finished writing the book in late February 2006.

DI: I've always found it easier to write in public places, like on the subway, longhand. Did you find the noise in the store a help or a hindrance?

IJ: Yes most definitely a help. I don't think writing it in a library would have been the same. Right now my book is in raw format, I did have an editor but what you would read if you bought the book today is my Apple store version of the book; it is very lively, and probably contains a typo or two. It is as alive as the day I wrote it in the store.

DI: I think it would be awesome if Apple featured you in one of their commercials. Has anyone approached you yet?

IJ: Not yet, but that would be really fun and I would love to be a spokesmodel for Apple or the Apple Stores especially since I love the products, and the mindset of the social store, and the net connected products helped to make my biggest dream come true. I would love to share my story in a commercial form with a "create your own story with an Apple," edge to it.

DI: After you finished the book, I hear you gave a reading at the Apple store. Probably the first-ever reading of a manuscript at one of their stores -- more proof that it's becoming a hangout/meeting place. What was that whole experience like?

IJ: That was on April 15th 2006, and I wasn't totally sure about publishing the book yet, what to do next or how to do it, so the reading was also proof that people would be interested in my story because some were asking for it after the reading. When you write a book about yourself, there is always that awkward question: "Are my personal life stories able to affect someone else?" I found the answer to be yes after the reading. The book is more about my modeling experiences than the Apple Store, but telling pieces of my tale to about 30 strangers at the store, (where I wrote it) proved that I had a story worth publishing. I started the reading with a 2 minute video I created that summed up the book and it was a unique innovative way to enter my reading and I spoke and read for a whole hour.

DI: What was the strangest thing that happened to you while you were working on the book there?

IJ: In mid-type a kid next to me spilled his soda and I saved the spill from hitting the keyboard. That, and before my reading a couple of teenage girls were next to me talking about a model who was going to be doing a reading at the store, not knowing I was standing next to them.

DI: What do you have coming up next?

IJ: I'll be featured in next month's Mac Directory Magazine, posing with an iMac. After self publishing Almost 5'4", the book's world rights have been signed to The Friday Project in the U.K and a commercial version will be available in 2009.

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Creatively Speaking: MeetingBoy
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Read on to win a new Meeting Boy wall calendar!

We have a nice interview/contest today with someone you need to know about if you don't already. PC World named him one of the 10 Funniest People On Twitter. Like Racer X, no one really knows who MeetingBoy is, but whoever is behind this madness is one hilarious, talented fella. Tweeting out quips and one-liners, he's amassed close to 80,000 followers on Twitter as @MeetingBoy. I first got to know him (well, as much as you can know a masked-man) after he re-tweeted a Twaggie (illustrated tweet) we did off one of his tweets over on my start-up, www.twaggies.com.

Then one day, MeetingBoy asked me if I'd like to give away one of his new MeetingBoy wall calendars in a contest. I said sure, under one condition: he do the following interview. So read the interview and follow the contest rules at the bottom of this post. We'll pick one tweet/comment at random and send you the calendar in time for Christmas! Good luck!

DI: First of all, where do you take your meetings? Tell us about your day job.

MB: I work in a glass & steel high rise in New York with lots of lazy idiots. The managers spout buzzwords to impress each other, and my boss is a clueless, bullying hypocrite more concerned with covering his own ass than getting things done. Does that narrow it down?

I am stuck in 3-5 meetings a day, so if there’s a way to waste someone’s time, I’ve seen it. And I’m sick of it. I must have really bad karma to deserve this. I must have been something truly awful in a former life, like maybe a manager or CEO.

@MeetingBoy: 125 PowerPoint slides? Well, I hope you're not presenting a case for how efficient our department is.

@MeetingBoy: Definition of insanity: holding the same meeting with the same people every week and expecting different results.

@MeetingBoy: Four meetings today. And then later, no doubt, a meeting with my boss about how I'm not getting anything done.

@MeetingBoy: I'm confused by this article about Bernie Madoff. I thought "white collar prison" was just a euphemism for my office.

@MeetingBoy: 7 hour conference call, though my lawyer says I'll be paroled in 6 with good behavior.

DI: How’d all this Meeting Boy stuff get started? Walk us through the early days.

MB: Since my biggest pet peeve in meetings is people who ramble on and on, Twitter was the right place for me to vent. The forced brevity was just right. If only I could force the people who write PowerPoint presentations to stick to 140 characters instead of 140 slides!

I’d been on Twitter before, but mentions of work had become a problem once people knew I was tweeting and started following me in the office. After I got a new boss last year, I created the MeetingBoy account so I would stop hearing about it. Since then I only tweet under my own name after hours.

@MeetingBoy: I'm married to my job. I don't love it. It was a shotgun wedding; I had knocked up my credit cards with all sorts of debt.

Early on as MeetingBoy, I was getting positive responses. People identified with my complaints-- in fact the most common response to MeetingBoy is “do you work at my company?”

Of course I hate buzzwords, and so many of my rants result from sitting through an hour of them. The word I hate the most is “robust”:

@MeetingBoy: At the end of the day I think we can all agree how tired the phrase "at the end of the day" is.

@MeetingBoy: When the revolution comes, I'm shooting everyone who says "robust". Well, except the coffee roasters.

DI: When did your first little break happen?

MB: Last October, PC World named me as one of the 10 Funniest People On Twitter. My following increased dramatically as a result. This was a huge surprise to me. I had no idea I had broken out of the Favstar community of internet jokers. After that my friends who weren’t on Twitter insisted I start cross-posting my material to Facebook and MeetingBoy.com so they could follow along too.

DI: And then your big break?

MB: Earlier this year someone at Twitter added me to their Suggested Users - Funny list. I was pretty excited; after all, as my friend said, “It sure beats being on the Suggested Users - Not Funny list.”

Though some people would say my “big break” was when I got a boss that didn’t get my sense of humor, forcing me to put more of it on the internet. Speaking of my boss:

@MeetingBoy: We have high expectations for him - he got his MBA in business jargon from Wharton.

@MeetingBoy: You're right. It was wrong of me to question how another layer of paperwork would speed up the process. I apologize.

@MeetingBoy: Hey, everybody! My boss is running a special on poorly thought out, unworkable ideas today. The discount code is YESSIR.

@MeetingBoy: "Dumb it down. Remember, you're presenting it to management."

@MeetingBoy: "I didn't read the executive summary you sent. Can you just put the idea in a few quick sentences and send it to me? Thanks."

@MeetingBoy: New line on my job description: "maintain high morale". Told HR I could do it, but not if my boss keeps trying to motivate me.

@MeetingBoy: My boss is very susceptible to food poisoning. Apparently this occurs when he stays out late drinking.

@MeetingBoy: The boss sent an email at 11:30 "reminding" everyone that he's working from home today. He sent it from his Blackberry.

DI: Did you set out to achieve Internet fame or did the idea sort of take over by itself?

MB: I set out to vent about work in an amusing way, in part because I was so annoyed at how people in the office reacted to my being on Twitter. I certainly had no idea how to get people to write about me or who at Twitter to sweet-talk to get them to recommend me.

Being famous and anonymous is a little odd though. None of the benefits of fame have come my way. I’m not getting a better table at Sparks or celebrity gift bags at the Oscars. And no matter how many followers I have, I’m still stuck in the same meetings every day.

I would like to see a MeetingBoy calendar make an appearance on The Office. Seems like something Jim Halpert would have (though since he gave up his office, I’m not sure where he’d put it). Or maybe Michael Scott because he’s a “cool boss” and none of it applies to him..

DI: Talk about the tweets themselves. Mostly they are things you think up in these meetings every day?

MB: They are responses to things that happen in meetings. Or things I wish I could say. In a few cases I’ve actually said these things. Of course the names have been removed to protect the boring, the rude, the jargon-spewing types, the lazy, the bullies, and the people with “bad grammer”.

@MeetingBoy: I know, I know, but if your idea is so good, why hasn't some VP passed it off as their own yet?

@MeetingBoy: Sorry, I have to leave your meeting. I have something I need to do. I need to not be bored to death.

@MeetingBoy: This PowerPoint needs an art director? Wow! I never thought I'd say this to you, lady, but you're overthinking this.

@MeetingBoy: That email you claim I never sent you? Here it is. Along with your REPLY TO IT.

@MeetingBoy: No, I wasn't playing Devil's Advocate. I really think your idea is stupid.

@MeetingBoy: You are mean, incompetent, and ignorant. Life did not hand you lemons; life handed you CONSEQUENCES.

DI: But other times I see you attributing the tweets to other authors/publishers. How does that work?

MB: Sometimes I see a tweet that I wish I wrote. Other times my followers send me one I missed. Either way, if it’s something I think my audience would appreciate, I share it. After all, I don’t want to be like that guy in my office who thinks the only good ideas are the ones he thinks of.

For example, some of my favorite tweets that someone else wrote are:

@swimparallel: I've recovered from my death sickness. Now I'm back in the office. It feels like a lateral move.

@summersumz: Evaluating data, making conclusions. LIVING THE DREAM!

@kerissmithJA: Your cc list doesn’t scare me. I still refuse to respond to your email.

DI: So now you have this cool wall calendar. How’d that come about?

MB: A friend makes up a calendar with photos of his family, which I dutifully hang in my cube. I thought it would be cool to have a MeetingBoy calendar. I’d hoped to make a 365-page-a-day calendar, which I think would really work for my short quips, but I couldn’t find a way to publish it. So I went with a wall calendar, and asked for illustrators among my followers.

Of course once I had printed the calendar, I realized I couldn’t possibly put the calendar on my desk. I can’t have my boss or coworkers know that I’m MeetingBoy, and it’s probably better if they don’t even know he exists. Clearly I hadn’t thought this through.

I think the calendar makes a great Secret Santa gift. I think coworkers across the English-speaking world would love to get one.

Calendar available for sale online at http://meetingboy.com/calendar

DI: Have you learned any profound lessons going through the self-publishing process?

MB: I’ve learned that self-publishing isn’t very profitable. I’ve been very happy with all the illustrations I got, though paying for them before I sell the calendar has made money tight.

I was going to try to sell them directly myself over the internet, but I couldn’t be sure that my secret identity would be safe. Luckily one of the illustrators owns a comic shop and they agreed to carry it for internet sales.

And I’d still like to make a 365-page-a-day calendar if anyone knows how to go about that.

DI: What’s next for you and what’s your ultimate goal?

MB: Next up I’m starting to do regular illustrated tweets on MeetingBoy.com. Of course I can’t draw, so I’m using some of the same illustrators from the calendar, and any new ones I pick up along the way.

My ultimate goal is to be the boss on The Office after Steve Carrell leaves at the end of this season. Though I would also accept President Obama declaring my birthday, June 23rd, to be a national holiday, maybe National Out-of-the-Office Day. Write your congressman to make it happen.

DI: Will you always hide your true identity Meeting Boy? Or will we one day find out you’re actually Racer X’s older brother?

MB: I can’t reveal my identity without losing my job and potentially risking never working again. After all, who would hire MeetingBoy? A surly, sarcastic person who will mock your every shortcoming on the internet to tens of thousands of people. Even I might balk at hiring that guy. He kind of sounds like a loose cannon.

Okay, contest time! Of all the tweets mentioned in this post, by MeetingBoy or someone else, which would you like to see illustrated on Twaggies.com? RT it with the hashtag #twaggies and we'll pick one of you at random to get the calender. If you're not on Twitter, leave your vote in the comments below. The tweet with the most RTs will also get twagged on twaggies, too!

For my interviews with Jason Alexander, Monty Hall, Mitch Albom, xkcd and more, browse through past Creatively Speaking archives here >>

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A chat with Jeff Garlin
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Jeff Garlin co-stars and executive produces the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. The unique comedy, which is one of the rare television shows to become part of the national zeitgeist, stars Seinfeld creator Larry David, with Garlin portraying his loyal manager. Born and raised in Chicago and then South Florida, Garlin studied filmmaking and began performing stand-up comedy while at the University of Miami. He has toured the country as a stand-up comedian, is an alumnus of Chicago's Second City Theatre, and has written and starred in three critically acclaimed solo shows. I was fortunate enough to get this interview with him when he spoke at an event a charity I work with produced.

DI: Which do you prefer: writing, directing, or producing?

JG: I prefer to direct what I write.

DI: If you were to retire, what would you do with your time?

JG: Nap and eat puddin'.

DI: What's your favorite food?

JG: Puddin'.

DI: Of all the comedians and actors you've worked with over the years, who has been the most enjoyable.

JG: Larry David.

DI: Is Larry David as obnoxious in real life as he is on the show?

JG: See my answer above.

DI: What's the biggest difference between Chicago and L.A.?

JG: Human contact. In Chicago you get it on a regular basis.

DI: What's one of your favorite films?

JG: Sullivan's Travels by Preston Sturges.

DI: If you could have lunch with anyone deceased, who would it be?

JG: My grandfather Harold.

DI: Who's your idol?

JG: My wife.

DI: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

JG: A comedian.

DI: Where do you like to go to unwind when you're not working?

JG: Wherever my wife tells me.

DI: If you could change one thing about Hollywood, what would it be?

JG: The street names.

DI: Shakespeare wrote: "Brevity is the soul of wit." What do you think the essence of comedy is?

JG: A plate of fresh cornbread.

DI: I heard you studied law in college and almost graduated before deciding to pursue a career in comedy. Do you think you would have been a good lawyer?

JG: That's on Wikepedia.com and it's not true. I studied film.

DI: What's more difficult: performing stand-up comedy before a live audience or performing on camera?

JG: Actually, my personal life is harder.

DI: Do you own an iPod? If so, what's the most unusual music you've got on it?

JG: Chin Ho soundbites from Hawaii Five-0.

DI: Who is the funniest comedian of all-time?

JG: Jack Benny.

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