Jeff Pearlman

  • Twitter Icon
  • Twitter Icon
  • Twitter Icon

Category Archives: QUAZ

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 11.58.27 PM

Denny Pettway

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 11.58.27 PM

Twitter is a magical thing.

Yes, it’s great for Donald Trump nonsense. And Olympic updates. And meeting large-breasted aspiring models named Gigi.

Wait, I digress.

Twitter is a magical thing because it’s the land of 1,000,000,000 different stories, one more riveting than the next. You simply never know who you’ll find, and when/where you’ll find them. I’ve probably landed, oh, 40 percent of the Quaz subjects on Twitter, and that number only grows with time. Simply put, it’s a place where the world congregates, and access is eternal.

Wait. I digress again.

Today’s magical 269th Quaz Q&A features Denny Pettway, a former marine who served in Operation Desert Storm and now works as a behavior specialist for a school district. I’ve always wanted to pick the brain of a soldier; to learn what it’s like to be in harm’s way; to understand whether one feels as if he’s fighting for his country, or being used for political purposes. Denny was more than happy to engage, and the end result is one of the finest interviews in this jarringly long series.

Denny Pettway, massive respect for your contributions. You are No. 269 …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Denny, I’m gonna start with something that’ll make me sound like quite the asshole. So as you know I’m heavy into politics, and especially the Hillary-Trump race. And recently I saw some people post how Trump is polling far ahead of Hillary among military personnel. And the argument was made, “See, he’s better for the troops.” And I was thinking—maybe they just don’t know. Maybe they’re a bunch of young, largely uneducated men and women who aren’t informed enough to understand how politics impact their status. And you say?

DENNY PETTWAY: While it’s true that only around 5 percent of enlisted military members have undergraduate degrees, the military enlisted today are more educated, curious and willing to question decisions than ever. This is definitely the result of having a small information machine in your hand at all times. At the end of the day though, it’s been my experience that military members are largely conservative. The perception is, the GOP is the party of defense and having a strong military. Having said that, I think both parties could do better. Paul Ryan and Patty Murray concocted a budget in 2012 that aimed to cut military retirement benefits and also reduced retiree benefits for military members who retired due to wounds received while fighting overseas. Military members I’ve served with would likely pin this all on Murray and support Ryan.

J.P.: You’re clearly a smart guy—master’s in special ed, pursuing another masters in social work. You’ve also been out of the marines for nearly a decade. I wonder how you feel about the way our political leaders use the military. What I mean is, now looking from afar, do you feel like most appreciate the troops? Truly want what’s best for the troops? Or is the military mainly a pawn for political bullshit?

D.P.: Our political leaders use military members the way a 22-year old would use a Mustang GT rental car. They do not appreciate the troops and they certainly do not have their best interests at heart. I’d have to say “mainly used as a pawn for political bullshit” doesn’t really capture the essence of how shitty these people are. As with everything else they do, they have special interest groups and their own financial gain in mind when they make any decisions, especially when it comes to the military. They know a vast majority of kids join in order to pull themselves into the bottom of the middle class. I was no different. I didn’t join for patriotic reasons. I joined for the G.I. Bill. I stayed for the camaraderie and the culture. The song Civil War by Guns N Roses spells the whole thing out pretty clearly. “Power hungry selling soldiers in a human grocery store” … “It feeds the rich while it buries the poor.” And my personal favorite: “For all I’ve seen, I’ve changed my mind but the wars go on as the years go by with no love of God or human rights …” which is the shit they sell you right before they send you off to slaughter for the oil companies.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 11.57.19 PM

J.P.: What do most Americans misunderstand about our armed forces?

D.P.: One of the things I think young people believe is that we wear our uniforms everywhere we go and we can’t leave the base except on special occasions. I always have to explain that we change out of our uniforms at the end of the day just like any other job, and we are free to leave the base as long as we aren’t working.

The other thing that is most misunderstood among the public is that troops are poor and many of them are on public assistance. I seriously doubt there is a job out there for 18-year-old high school graduates that will give them 30 days paid vacation, free gym membership, 100 percent medical and dental coverage, cover their meals and provide them with housing/utilities on top of their $2,000-per-month salary. If married, military members get non-taxable housing and food allowances. On top of those benefits, we have the opportunity to pay $100 per month for 12 months into the G.I. Bill where, after completing a successful enlistment, we can then get money for school. The Marine Corps has paid for my undergraduate, one graduate and half the program I’m currently enrolled in to the tune of around $80,000.

J.P.: You were deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm. I’ve never asked anyone this, but what does it feel like to find out you’re being deployed to such a place, for such a cause? How did you find out the news? How did you react? And what was Desert Storm like for you?

D.P.: I was 22-years old when I deployed to Saudi Arabia. I was at a friend’s house recovering from a night of partying with my former drill instructor (Which was weird as hell), when we turned on the TV and watched the Iraqis invading Kuwait. I remember thinking, “Looks like those guys are going to take over that country.” I really didn’t have much of a world view at that age, so I didn’t understand the significance of Iraq controlling Kuwait’s oil. Within five minutes of watching this invasion, the phone rang and we were ordered back to base immediately. That was the point where it got very real and I was nervous and excited all at the same time. All this training and now we get to put it into action. My squadron, VMA-542 (Harriers), had just returned from a deployment to Iwakuni, Japan and inherited a squadron full of jets that were in very bad shape. We worked 36-straight hours getting them ready to go. I’d never been so exhausted. When we left, no one told us where we were going, so the ride over was pretty tense.

Overall, I look back on that experience with pride. We grew close over those nine months and worked our asses off. While I enjoyed my plane captain (launching/recovering and performing inspections on our jets) and avionics job, my favorite job over there was my 60 days spent providing area security. Marines are the smallest branch of all the services and have a “every Marine a rifleman” mentality. This meant that every unit on our forward deployed base had to supply Marines to supplement the Military Police unit in order to provide security for the bases. Manning machine gun holes, climbing towers to watch for amphibious assaults, participating in patrols was something I really enjoyed.

The worst thing was probably not knowing when we were leaving.

Mainly, Desert Storm provided me with lots of perspective. To this day, the reason I appreciate the things we have in this country is due to my experiences over there. I can always say I’ve eaten worse, I’ve slept in worse places and after having gone 45 days with no shower, I’ve been dirtier.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 11.57.42 PM

J.P.: Is it possible for people to serve in a war, then return back to normal sans any hiccups?

D.P.: No. Absolutely not. There is a reentry phase that everyone goes through on regular deployments, much less one where you and your loved ones don’t know if you’re coming back. I saw so many families ripped apart during that deployment. One guy’s wife was pregnant with his brother’s baby. Wives of some Marines were moved in with other guys, or simply left with no warning. Of the Marines that had their family intact, several struggled due to the adjustment that comes with the husband reentering the family. Wives were forced to take care of everything from getting the car repaired, yard taken care of, getting the kids where they needed to be and handling the finances. If Dad walks in after being gone for nine months and tries to pick up where he left off, it never ends well. I haven’t even mentioned dealing with PTSD and all that comes with that.

J.P.: You now work with students with significant emotional/behavioral disorders, as well as a counselor for at-risk kids and their families. A. How did you enter the field? B. Why did you enter the field? C. Are there ever kids it’s impossible to help?

D.P.: After serving my last tour as an instructor for my military occupational skill (MOS) school in Athens, GA, I decided to continue in the education field. I enjoyed teaching and mentoring young people, and thought I could help kids have a positive school experience. The other reason I decided to go into teaching was the schedule. I wanted so spend weekends, holidays, spring break and Christmas break with my kids. I chose special education because I had a very shitty school experience, failing two grades and graduating 400th of 420 students, so I wanted to be involved with kids who were struggling and do my best to help them have a positive experience.

Not having a teaching certificate, the only place that was willing to hire me was a school where certified teachers avoided. It was a school for kids with the most significant of emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). I was woefully unprepared for the job, but while teaching I was also going through a special education master’s program. I had a great professor, Dr. Jeff Waller, who was instrumental in helping me understand how to help those kids. They are the most at-risk kids and get the least-qualified people to provide them with services. The kids are very hard, so most teachers don’t last three years. The school system doesn’t embrace the methods needed to shape behaviors in a manner where kids enjoy school, learn coping skills needed to successfully manage their behaviors so they can move back into the general education classroom.

Despite transitioning kids at rates research doesn’t support, I always got pushback from some administrator who didn’t know anything about helping kids with EBD. I wanted to begin a parenting program during the evening, to be held once a week for six weeks. It wasn’t going to cost the school much at all. Parents would be provided childcare, dinner and transportation if needed, but the district sat on it and never gave me the authorization to do it. This is when I decided to go into counseling. I joined an agency as a Community Support Individual (CSI), teaching parenting classes, social skills to at risk kids, and anger management. This work led me to enroll in the master of social work program at the University of Georgia. It’s been a great experience, and has really opened my eyes to the effects of childhood trauma and how it impacts brain development. I’ve also begun to understand the inequalities that exist in this country. It’s definitely made me more liberal minded. I like to call myself a compassionate Libertarian.

Are there any kids who are impossible to help? Maybe. Definitely some who are unable to be helped in a school setting. I do think every kid can be helped if given enough time and a different environment. Unfortunately, that’s not realistic.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 11.57.59 PM

With wife Jean.

J.P.: What does it feel like to fire a weapon at another human being? Can you remove yourself from any emotion at the moment? Does it stick with a person forever?

D.P.: I am thankful for not having that experience. As a young Marine, I couldn’t wait to engage the enemy and send some rounds his way. After seeing the droves of “enemy” surrendering to anyone that would take them, I developed a different perspective. Those guys have families. They have kids wondering where they are and if they’ll ever see their dad again. Of course, if they were shooting at me, I’d feel differently. I’d have no problem defending myself and my fellow Marines without hesitation.

J.P.: How did you feel about the decision to allow gays to serve openly? When you were serving, did you ever know you had gay co-workers? If so, did it distract, bother, etc?

D.P.: I was fine with that decision. I also know plenty of Marines that really didn’t care one way or the other. I’ve served with several Marines, male and female, who I knew were gay. They never came out and said it, but everyone knew and no one really cared. I chuckled at the doom and gloomers who were quick to proclaim the end of good order and discipline because citizens who happened to be gay were going to serve. Ridiculous.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your life?

D.P.: Of course, every single time one of my boys was brought into this world. Having a kid who every adult in his life had given up on, tell me I was the reason he loved school was a show stopper for me.

J.P.: Lowest?

D.P.: In October of 1986, I was arrested for drinking and driving in Monroe Louisiana. I was 19-years old, and had already flunked out of my first semester of junior college. I spent the night in jail and was planning on spending whatever sentence I was going to receive in lieu of paying a fine because I didn’t have the money, and I didn’t want to tell my parents. They found a card from the bail bondsman the night before my court date. I’m from Vicksburg, so court was 85 miles away, and my mom insisted on going with me. Having my mother watch me stand before a judge due to my stupidity was a horrible experience. I’ll never forget the look on her face. While I was prepared to do the time, the judge called my mother up to the bench and said “Ma’am, you don’t want your boy to spend 10 minutes in this jail, much less 30 days.” I agreed to let her pay the fine for me because I could see the worry on her face. To add insult to an already bruised ego, they locked me up again until my mother got back from the bank to pay the fine. I spent the next five years paying outrageous amounts for insurance, and getting a sobriety test any time a police officer pulled me over for speeding.

J.P.: What made you want to join the marines? And what was the training like? Hardest part? Ever think you might quit? Does the experience of serving match what one thinks it’ll be like?

D.P.: I was finishing concrete for a living in Jackson, MS. The guy I worked for was a great man. He really mentored me and pretty much talked me into joining so I could better myself. He had served in the Army and really regretted getting out. One day, we were putting in a walkway for one of his friends and he really had a nice house, nice car, four-wheelers, a nice boat, and he was my boss’s age but looked 10 years younger. He was retired from the Army. That really made an impression on me, but more than that, I did not want to spend another summer finishing concrete in Jackson, Mississippi! My plan was to serve for four years, get my G.I. Bill and go back to school. I ended up loving it and made a career out of it.

Having been through two-a-days for a hard-nosed football coach, followed by spending two years as a concrete finisher, the physical aspects of Marine Corps boot camp didn’t bother me. The training was fun. Learning close order drill, going through the obstacle course, confidence course, throwing grenades, etc. … was an absolute blast. The last phase of boot camp, we are in the field for a couple of weeks and that was the most physically demanding time. Parris Island is a very hot place to be from May–thru-August!

The hardest part of boot camp is just getting yelled at all the time. The constant screaming at you takes a toll. I never took it personally, but lots of recruits do. It just gets very annoying, but the thought of quitting never crossed my mind.

With anything people are scared to do, it’s never as bad as you think it is. If you want to get through boot camp, you’ll get through it. They want you to get through it. If the attrition rate gets too high, it’s goes from “The recruit couldn’t hack it,” to “Why can’t you train these recruits?” After getting you all pumped up about being a Marine, getting out to the fleet is a bit of a letdown. Staying motivated on a level one gets to in boot camp is simply unsustainable.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 12.06.25 AM


• Rank in order (favorite to least): John McCain, Bobby Grich, Heavy D, Oakland, pretzel sticks, Memphis Grizzlies, minty toothpaste, Might Mighty Bosstones, neon luggage, Walton Payton, Campbell’s chicken noodle soup: Walter Payton, Heavy D, Bobby Grich, Oakland, Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, pretzel sticks, minty toothpaste, Might Mighty Bosstones, neon luggage, Memphis Grizzlies, John McCain.

• Have you ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, please elaborate: Yes! My first time flying. I was 18-years old and headed from Jackson, MS to Los Angles. On the first leg to Dallas, the turbulence was horrible. The flight attendant knew it was my first time to fly and she could see that I was scared to death, so she came and sat next to me. I told her that if I land in Dallas, I was going to take a bus back to Jackson! She told me she’d been flying for 30 years and this is the worst turbulence she’d ever been through. At one point, we dropped so far, a man came out of his seat and hit the overhead baggage compartment and landed on the floor. She talked me into heading on to LA, and to this day, it’s the worst flying experience I’ve ever had.

• Five reasons to make Vicksburg, Mississippi your vacation destination: 1. The Vicksburg National Military Park. It’s the second largest Civil War battle field park next to Gettysburg. It’s a great place to learn about the battle of Vicksburg. Vicksburg is the only city in our nation to ever be under siege; 2. The mighty Mississippi. A river boat tour is a must; 3. The Old Courthouse Museum. Really neat place where lots of civil war and other history are on display; 4. Biedenharn Candy Company museum where Coca Cola was first bottled; 5. The mansions. Cedar Grove, Anchuca, McNutt and Martha Vick houses, and others. Great walks through history.

• I have no faith in God. Tell me why I’m wrong: Wow, that’s a tough one. As someone who struggles with my own faith from time to time, I don’t know if I’m qualified to do that. One thing I do know—Historical Jesus was a great guy. What a great model to live by. What a great example of how to treat others. I doubt he would be able to recognize Christianity today though. If he were back here in physical form, and took it all in, I don’t think he’d be a Christian.

• Favorite band or singer that begins with the letter R: REO Speedwagon … what a great show!

• Greatest advice you’ve ever received: “You’ve already done 10 years, if you get out you’ll regret it. Things will get better, stick it out for the next 10.” — Master Gunnery Sergeant Bill Bolesworth

• Seven favorite movies of all time: 1. The Bourne Identity; 2. The Bourne Supremacy; 3. The Bourne Ultimatum; 4. The Bourne Legacy; 5. Jason Bourne (On my list without seeing it yet … I’m sure it’ll be great!); 6. Full Metal Jacket; 7. Siege of Firebase Gloria

• Strangest place you’ve ever gone to the bathroom?: While in Saudi, we had shitters manufactured by Navy Seabees out of plywood. They built small shacks that had a bench with three holes next to each other. The bottom third of a 55 gallon drum was placed underneath each hole and they were pulled and burned with kerosene while some poor schmuck stirred it. The stench was so bad, you had to wear a gas mask to go in there.

• You have five boys. What’s the key to raising them well?: Model the behavior you want them to learn. Allow them to feel the pain of their poor choices without running over to fix it. This is the hardest thing to do but the most important. Provide love and empathy, but let the natural consequence teach the lesson, resist the urge to lecture, it doesn’t work. Encourage independence in all they do. Teach them to respect women by respecting their mother, even if you are divorced and especially if she’s not reciprocating. Every now and then, buy a homeless person a meal when you are with your kids. Teach your boys that sex is different for her than it is for them. While it’s like a Six Flags thrill ride for you, it’s likely going to be something deep and meaningful for her. Don’t take that from her just so you can go on a thrill ride.

Accept that you are going to screw up—a lot. Apologize to them—a lot. With five, this one is tough and I need to do a better job at it—spend individual time with each of them when you can.

• Best joke you know: George Carlin talking about the Olympics … Swimming isn’t a sport, it’s a way to keep from drowning!

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.32.35 AM

Peter Hudnut

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.32.35 AM

I love speaking with former Olympians, because being a former Olympian is a beast.

Think about it: You had this thing. And it was shiny and lovely and glowing. Everyone wanted it, but it was yours. You were an Olympian. A star. A man in his athletic prime, representing his country on the world’s largest stage.

And then (poof!) it’s over. And you’re one of us.

Peter Hudnut is a three-time member of the U.S. Olympic men’s water polo team who truly grasps the highs and lows of sports. In 2008 he was a key member of a squad that shocked Serbia en route to the silver medal. Four years later, hobbled by injuries, he was a bit player on the unit that found itself fighting for (glub) seventh. He looks back at his water polo career with bliss, but also a sense of “What if?” In short, he is an Olympian.

These days, Peter is a project manager and acquisitions analyst at the Ratkovich Company in Los Angeles. He digs Lake Tahoe, has no use for Third Eye Blind and goes down as one of the greats of American water polo history.

Peter Hudnut—to hell with another medal. You’ve got the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So since we’re in the midst of the Rio Games, I have to start with your experience. You were a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team that earned a silver after very few experts had you in the medal round. And yet, you’ve expressed dismay, sadness over not winning gold. I don’t totally get that. Please explain. And where’s the medal?

PETER HUDNUT: Honestly, I still have sadness from Beijing. I am clearly extremely proud of our team, our effort, and it was an event that truly changed and enhanced my life.

It is sad, because we worked so hard, overcame so many obstacles, had so many people doubt us, that seeing it through to the end would have been one of, if not the, greatest team journey in recent history. When you think about that semifinal game against the Serbians, I would say—with full belief—that this was a greater upset than the 1980 U.S. hockey team beating Russia. We had played them more than 25 times and won twice—both times in the United States during team fundraisers while the Serbians brought a young team and were on vacation. And in the Olympics we crushed them.

At a team event before that Olympic Games one of our athletes, well into his 30s at the time, said, “Let’s prove everyone wrong and win our bracket.” Our bracket was Serbia, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Croatia—a tough, tough bracket. And we did it. We simply hoped to win gold for each other, for all of those who sacrificed for us, for those who believed in us and for the country we love. Falling short hurts.

J.P.: You were in third grade when you wrote this poem:

I wish I was an Olympian.

I would run, jump and do the softball throw.

If I won, I would proudly carry my flag.

I wish I was an Olympian.

Sweet, cute—but why? What was it about being an Olympian, as opposed to, say, a Major Leaguer or an astronaut? And does being an Olympian live up to the hype? Was it what you’d dreamed of?

P.H.: That was right around the 1988 Olympic Games and I think it was then that I learned—most likely from my parents—that the Olympics is about constantly pursuing excellence and becoming the very best you can be.

I had been held back in school for learning disability and felt very dumb. My family members are crazy accomplished and smart, and I think I needed something to focus my passion and my insecurity. The Olympic motto—Citius, Altius, Fortius (swifter, higher, stronger)—taught me to simply push forward and become better. Shortly after 1988 I met Rich Corso, who handed me a baby blue bag. In it was a Speedo, a water polo hat and water polo ball. Coach Corso said to me that by becoming a student of the game, by working harder than everyone else and by never giving up, water polo could get me to the Olympics. That was it. Locked in and focused. At 13 I started playing and since age group wasn’t quite big yet, I was thrown in with older kids and then an ‘old man’ group and they only increased my passion for the sport. I was very very lucky to have great mentors and teachers in the sport. Jim Toring—one of the greats. Ricardo and Tony Azevedo, and Coach Corso. They all taught me the passion for the sport in my early teens and with it the four Ds (Desire, Determination, Dedication, Discipline).

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.34.04 AM

J.P.: You’re an all-time great American water polo player. You’re from California. You play a sport that depends on large amounts of water in pools. We’re in the midst of a crippling drought that is rendering the state dry. Am I wrong in finding it sorta, eh, messed up that we’re filling up all these pools when parts of the state have, literally, gone dry?

P.H.: Ha! It could be seen that way I suppose! If being serious, I would argue that having the pools recycle water, or even filtering water through gray water recycling systems so schools can recycle all water used to water their sports fields, or water fountains, or sprinklers, etc. I think these concepts need to become more efficient going forward.

 J.P.: I never knew much about water polo until moving to California two years ago. Then my daughter started playing—and I friggin’ LOVE it. Like, love love. It’s exciting, fast-paced, engrossing. So I ask, Peter, why isn’t it more popular here? It feels like a fringe American sport, even though it has many components the prototypical American sports fan loves.

P.H.: This is a great question and most everybody who watches a few games falls in love with our sport. My own mother ended up playing for a few years after she watched me play for a long time and met Tony Azevedo’s mom, Libby, who started a women’s team. The short answer is probably TV. In the United States, we are behind Hungary, Italy and many other European nations that have learned how to best shoot/film water polo over years of trial and error. Light reflecting off of the water long plagued good TV perspective. Also, much like hockey, the environment is half of the contagion. Feeling the tempo, the force, the power of the shooters is truly impressive in person and might not translate. Sadly I think there is a slight stigma still regarding men in Speedos, which is ridiculous and ancient or immature thinking ….

J.P.: So I’ve covered many athletes from many genres, and one thing that always strikes me is the difficulty of adjusting in the aftermath of a season. Yet, with the Olympics, it seems 1,000 times more harsh. All this buildup, hype, buildup, excitement, nationalism, the Village, flags—then, pfft, it’s done. Over. What’s that like? How did you handle it?

P.H.: Adjusting post-Olympics is tough, no question about it. Being so solely focused for so long makes you unsure of what’s next. For many athletes, finding your passion and drive and next goal is quite hard. I wanted to join the Navy after 2004, then my coach got a job for me playing in Italy and since I was only an alternate on that team, I jumped at the opportunity. After 2008, age, injuries and a desire to become a ‘grown-up’ turned my focus to real estate and business school. Given the state of the economy in November of 2008, I hoped for b-school, and was truly lucky to land at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

Then in 2012 I was fortunate to be reconnected with the boys, as I had a few injuries right before London. Five days after London, I was in New York City training for my job at Goldman Sachs. I definitely was a little depressed after all three ventures. It’s hard to explain because you feel so lucky and blessed to have had such a beautiful and unique opportunity … I mean, representing your family, your friends, your country … that’s truly an amazing experience. Yet you still are haunted by results and the tyranny of what-ifs. With team sports especially, you lose the gold. Pure and simple. It could be your best game ever but you still, as a unit, were beaten!

One more thing. In the Olympic village you feel like you are floating in the clouds for a few weeks. Imagine, 10,000 athletes all at their very best—the energy is electric, palpable, invigorating. It is truly amazing thing. Leaving is hard, and many athletes go through a little depression after such a high. I did. Water polo players tend to be a little older as well, which I think makes it even harder. At the end of the day you miss the mission, the bonding and the fun.

J.P.: My son refuses to even consider water polo because he says the Speedos look ridiculous. I’m gonna be honest—sorta agree. Do you? And is there any possible way for water polo to go Michigan Fab Five ’91 and break out a baggy shorts-esque fashion statement? Or is it athletically unrealistic?

P.H.: Let’s face facts—Speedos are weird! I don’t like them, especially now with my more robust physique! Water polo is about speed, wrestling, positioning. Truly, baggier, less-tight clothing allows for your opponent to potentially grab and gain advantage more easily. So, sadly, baggy is athletically unrealistic. If board shorts were aerodynamic, less heavy, and hard to grab, we would switch in a heartbeat.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

P.H.: There are so many great moments. My first time representing the U.S. overseas; the first time I learned to shoot a Hezi; the first time we won NCAA with such a special group of guys in 2001. But the best moment was that semi-final game in 2008. It was individually probably the game I am most proud of. I had to get out and duct tape my face to cover up a wound on my eyebrow; there was another cut on my lip in the last seconds; our team was the most selfless I’d ever experienced in that game. No one wanted to count his goals, or cared about anything but winning. It was amazing.

The lowest game was the end of the last Olympics in London. I had lost my front teeth two months before the Olympics, I tore my ulnar-collateral ligament three weeks before the Olympics (Tommy John surgery is the fix); and our Olympics didn’t go as we planned. I am blessed to have been there to compete with my brothers, but I wasn’t quite able to help my team as I hoped, which broke my heart. The last game—fighting for seventh place—is a terrible place to be in.

On top of that I was sad that it would be my last time representing the USA as a player. I didn’t get much run in that game ,which just made the fight in me stew. I cried at the end and tried to take in the moment for the last time. That was a hard few days and that is the sadness that is hardest to move beyond.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.39.19 AM

J.P.: You had a very close relationship with Jim Toring, a former UCLA water polo player who died in 1998 at age 23. I was wondering how his passing impacted you? Short term? Long term? What did you learn from him? How did he influence you? How often do you think of him?

P.H.: Jimmy and his dad used to drive me down to national team practice to watch and study when I was 14 and 15. That was such a lucky time for me and one I thought would never end. His passing was such an incredibly hard time for me. The last time I spoke with Jimmy he said that he hoped we could play on the national team together one day. My jaw dropped and I stood there just looking at him like he was crazy.

The morning he died I can vividly remember my father entering my room at about 5:45 in the morning. He rested his big mitt on my back and whispered, “Pete, Jimmy’s gone. He died this morning.” I don’t remember the rest. That day at school some of the teachers who knew him, as well as Coach Corso and I, had a wonderful moment of remembrance. But it was difficult time for all who knew and loved Jimmy.

J.P.: OK, I’m going off the farm with this one. Your last name is “Hudnut.” That strikes me as a toughie as a kid. No? Yes? Details, please …

P.H.: Hudnut as a kid SUCKS! Even as an adult. Our Olympic team had a plethora of nicknames for me, especially because they knew it would sometimes fire me up. The lucky thing is that I was always big and never minded standing up for myself. So it could have been worse. Some of my nicknames I didn’t mind. Like Nut, Bignut, Nutter. Those are fine.

But Butt-Nut, Nutter-Butter, Thudnut, No-Nut, Numbnuts. No thank you.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.38.26 AM


• One question you would ask Mario Chalmers were he here right now?: I don’t know who that is so—”Who are you?”

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Roger Clemens, Sebastian Janikowski, Lake Tahoe, cigarette smoke, Herman’s Hermits, Third Eye Blind, golf, Malcolm X, “Catch Me If You Can”: Lake Tahoe, golf, “Catch Me if You Can,” Malcolm X, Roger Clemens, Sebastian Janikowski, Herman’s Hermits (I know they are a band but I don’t know their music), Third Eye Blind, cigarette smoke.

• Three memories from your first date: I don’t remember my first-ever date. But here are three from my first with my wife: 1. I was late; 2. I cooked a terrible meal and only had vanilla vodka and cranberry juice. Gross; 3. Though it was a blind date, I was almost immediately head over heals.

• Five greatest water polo players of your lifetime: Revaz Tchomakhidze (Russian 2m man. He was simply phenomenal); Petar Trobojovic (One of the best players, friends and teachers I had in the sport); Dusko Pjetlovic (He was a dominant center in 2008 and a great player); Manuel Estearte (Great player. Tiny guy, who proved that will, technique, and understanding the game can overcome any size delta); Tony Azevedo (I think what he has accomplished is incredible and having seen his growth as a player for over 20 years has been a pleasure).

• Let’s say we take Bo Jackson in his athletic prime, or someone like Aaron Rodgers or Serena Williams. Can we presume they’d be able to be excellent water polo players based purely on ungodly athleticism?: Interesting question. At the highest level, water polo is a selfless, hyper-physical team sport. Many people can’t manage the level of training required for water polo. You make no money, get no meaningful glory and have to train 8-10 hours per day if you want to be competitive (that includes the studying and video time before a season or Olympics). These people could do the hours, but the type of physical and mental demands, along with many peoples discomfort with the water, are what drive people away. It is a hard sport. I would love to see such natural athletes like Bo in our sport. That would be awesome.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: We dropped hundreds of feet—but never quite enough to make me think we’d die. I remember when we dropped, I cursed. Then laughed. And then I thought that I haven’t accomplished enough, nor done enough, for the greater good yet …

• Sometimes I have to sneeze, and I use my forearm to catch it. If I don’t have a tissue nearby, what should I do with the lingering snot?: Own it. Everyone sneezes; its gross; but what are you gonna do? If I’m at a pool, I’d probably grab a towel whether its mine or not—shouldn’t admit that, but it’s true. Otherwise, own it and apologize to those who notice.

• Seriously, the drought. What to do?: Make gray water mandatory for all future development; all showers must be timed and tracked; utilize ocean water; penalties for over consumption. And if all else fails, we need to find another place to steal it from. After all, LA only exists because of that.

• Why do you think sooooo many athletes have tattoos? I’m sorta inclined to believe it’s linked to ego and self-worship, but I’m probably wrong: So I have the Olympic rings next to my heart on my side-rib cage. For me it is a link to the principles that helped form who I am today as a man. Also, after the accomplishment it seemed like a nice goodbye.

I think for many it is ego, for many it is simply a product of this day and age. Tattoos for many are expressive and speak to the core of who they are. For others it’s a look-at-me thing. But who am I to judge? I believe in why I got mine and am happy with it. If you do it, make it meaningful and part of who you are, not what you are.


Cathy Venus


This marks the 267th edition of the Quaz Q&A, and I have a few observations to share:

• 1. Journalists garner the most reads.

• 2. Actors garner the fewest reads.

• 3. Folks who work in various sex industries draw the most chatter.

I suppose none of this is particularly surprising. Writers like reading about other writers. There are about 50 million websites featuring profiles of actors and actresses. As for the sex industry, well … um … it’s fascinating. It’s unique. It’s both familiar and uncomfortable; titillating and distracting. Today’s Q&A marks my fourth interview with someone from the world of erotica, and it’s always (without fail) riveting.

Cathy Venus is not the real name of today’s Quazette. Away from her role as an erotic hypnotist, she’s a wife, a step-mother, a woman with a career in the music business. But here, off the beaten path, she works to master—in her words—”the mental arts with a sensual touch.”

One can follow Cathy on Twitter here, and visit her website here. She loves Bernie Sanders and Garfield, hates flying and chicken hearts and seems to have no opinion on the stylings of Karl-Anthony Towns.

Cathy Venus, you’re Quaz No. 267 …

JEFF PEARLMAN: You are an erotic hypnotist. Which means, specifically, what?

CATHY VENUS: The term erotic hypnotist means I am a practitioner of the mental arts with a sensual touch. I am additionally a Professional Dominant Goddess who specializes in the guidance of submissive subjects who wish to explore real change from within themselves.

J.P.: It seems like men are more sexually pathetic than women. We visit strip clubs, we read Playboy, we jerk off over 1,000,000 different websites. I hate how we’re wired—but it seems like the wiring is what it is. Agree with my take? Disagree? Why?

C.V.: I don’t think you should hate yourself. Men are the same as women. Men are actually just more vocal about their sexual frustrations perhaps. One thing I can tell you is, I have lots of online experience with men who long to be, or even pretend to be, women. And some of them are very feminine and quite convincing! There really is little difference.

J.P.: I would think for one to be hypnotized he/she would have to be in your presence, some trinket dangling, soft music, visual stimulation, etc. How can hypnosis work via phone?

C.V.: Trinket-dangling is mostly from the movies. Many everyday folks visit psychologists who perform hypnotherapy in 2016. This is hardly something strange or taboo anymore. In person is of course excellent, but phone or Skype sessions, as I do them, for the purposes they are done, can work effectively, yes. A subject can be affected by visual, auditory, as well as kinesthetic (physical) stimuli.


J.P.: How did this happen for you? What’s your life path? When did you first realize you could do hypnosis? Do you have a day job? Spouse? Kids?

C.V.: I always had the self-taught or natural ability for Hypnosis and NLP, however it took me a while to realize my potential and hone my talents. I learned by experimenting on those minds around me, using linguistics, pacing, and a few other techniques. My career path is private but I will volunteer that it’s within the arts, meaning music business as well as stage performance. I and married with two step kids.

J.P.: Your Twitter line is all about hypnosis—unless it’s about Bernie Sanders. Two questions: Along the lines of the ol’ “Republicans buy sneakers, too” Michael Jordan line, didn’t you worry about involving politics into your business profile? B. Now that Sanders is not in the running, can you support Clinton? Why, why not?

C.V.: Well, actually, I rarely post anything other than about my work but occasionally I may post about certain people I look up to. Politically yes, you are right, I did endorse Bernie Sanders, and no, I won’t be voting for Hillary, but will be supporting Jill Stein. I won’t support Hillary for many reasons, but the main explanation would be a lack of trust in her character, as well as her track record on certain issues important to me.

J.P.: What does a session with a client usually entail? How long does it last? What’s it supposed to accomplish?

C.V.: A Skype session with a client usually will be one hour long. It consist basically of some casual talk, followed by some mind-bending deep trance. I will take the subject on any journey I feel is needed to enhance their studies. Most subjects purchase my “studies” and allow themselves to go under while listening to my mp3 files. These files are necessary programming and allow me to take them deeper and further, as well as have the live sessions to be more effective.

J.P.: I once heard a hypnotist say something along the lines of, “I’m a guide, but I can’t change anything in you, or make you different.” Is that true? Or, in other words, what can a hypnotist do for a person? And how much of that is actually self-generated by the client?

C.V.: That of course depends on what techniques are being employed. Simple hypnosis can of course effect change if a subject allows it to happen. The subject must be a willing participant. That being said, I do have several clients who like to struggle and fight against what I do, but that is a certain fetish they have. They realize that the techniques of NLP and entrainment I use will take effect regardless of the conscious mind, or ego, and they like it. So the answer is, when it comes to what I do, yes, I can effect total change without the permission of the subject’s conscious mind.

J.P.: Best career story, worst career story?

C.V.: Worst is when I have stalkers who try all kinds of tricks to avoid paying me for my work. They always fail. Also I have had an instance where another Hypnodomme was jealous and curious about my work and why I was gaining such popularity and she actually made one of her clients book a session with me and record it to try to steal some of my stuff. Pathetic if you ask me. Of course I found out about it. I always do. No-one can hide anything from me. Best case is when a person who has psychological issues as well as a bad taste as well as a feeling of shame from previous hypnosis, and who now loves it and believes it to be a beneficial thing.

J.P.: What do your relatives think of this career choice? Do you talk about clients over, say, dinner? Is it hush-hush? Do your parents know? Care?

C.V.: My vocation as a Pro Domme and Erotic Hypnotist are private. I do confide in my husband about my work but that’s it.

J.P.: It seems like, in the online world of sexual stimulation, it’d be impossible to find footing. I mean, there are endless options for endless tastes, treatments, etc. So how does one separate herself? How do you stand out from the crowd?

C.V.: I decided in the beginning to stand apart, and stick to my guns with real and actual hypnosis. Every other hypnodomme is either a glorified phone-sexer, or has men writing for them. I knew that if I threw my name in with the rest I would end up being seen in the wrong light. What they do is fine, but it’s simply not what I do, nor is it even close. There are one or two Hypnodommes who are decent but even they still do audio-porn and sexual favors for clients. I don’t do that. To me there is a world of difference between D/s and eroticism, and flat out prostitution.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 11.25.09 PM


• Rank in order (favorite to least): Garfield, Karl-Anthony Towns, granola cereal, The Bee-Gees, Gene Simmons, wood paneling, Penn State, wedding registries, Banana Republic, Aerosmith, strawberry milk: 1. Garfield. All is Garfield and Garfield is all.

• Best advice you ever received: Be yourself. I also love the litany against fear from Dune: “I must not fear, fear is the mind killer …”

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Every time I get on a plane. You are in a small vessel in the middle of the vast sky and the only thing that keeps you from being swallowed up by it, is the wall of the plane. Flying always makes me ponder my own mortality and how fragile life really is. In May of this year, I was on a flight that had some bad turbulence. Due to storms, we had to be re-routed and land in a different airport. The lights went out and the plane shook so badly it made me bump into the guy sitting next to me. We hadn’t spoken the entire trip, strangers on a plane seldom do. He smiled with a look on his face that said “we’re probably going to do die so, hi”. We started talking after that. There’s no better icebreaker than the possibility of dying next to a stranger.

• Would you rather grow a second nose or spend 12-straight days licking the handlebars in New York City’s endless supply of subway cars?: 12 days licking the handlebars. I’m a big-picture thinker. Noses are forever.

• Three memories from your senior year of high school: 1. Getting suspended; 2. Being in a musical; 3. Rollerblading and listening to Weezer.

• Why the name “Cathy Mitsuko Venus”? I am Goddess Cathy, descended from the line of Ishtar aka Venus. The nickname I sometimes borrow, Mitsuko, is a Japanese name. It’s the name of a central female character of many of Sion Sono’s films. He’s my favorite filmmaker. I had the fortunate experience to meet him at the Toronto International Film Festival a couple of years ago.

• What’s the No. 1 thing people not understand about erotic hypnosis?: That it should not just be audio porn. A subject must be willing to truly be taken deep, rather than just “get off”. That’s not hypnosis. Many subjects prefer the fantasy of it, rather than actually be tranced. I prefer true subjects who want to explore their desires rather than just to get off in the moment. One bit of advice: don’t trust your mind to amateurs and charlatans, you are only harming yourself.

• What happens after we die?: I would never presume to know. I will have to get back to you on this one after I die. I will try my best to haunt you 😉 I just presumed to know that I would be able to haunt you by saying that. All humans are hypocrites.

• What’s the strangest food you’ve ever tried? And why did you try it?: A chicken heart. Because a bossy relative made me. It was disgusting!

This is my all-time favorite song. Thoughts?: I’m familiar with this song. It’s sad and beautiful.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.07.41 PM

Roger Craig Smith

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.06.15 PM

So if there’s ever been a Quaz who’s perfectly Quaz, it’s Roger Craig Smith.

He’s insanely prolific, but you don’t know him.

You recognize his voice, but not his face.

You’ve heard him speak countless times, but from myriad heads and mouths.

In other words, Smith is one of America’s most accomplished voice actors. He’s been in a gazillion TV shows and movies; has starred as every imaginable superhero; has been in a Megan Fox film without having actually appeared in a Megan Fox film. He also lives near a Trader Joe’s and seems to dig Demi Lovato.

One can visit Roger’s website here, and follow him on Twitter here.

Roger Craig Smith, speak up! You’re the 266th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So I’m gonna jump right in here. One of my absolute all-time favorite animated films is Wreck-It Ralph. You were the voice of “Sonic the Hedgehog.” So I’ve asked tons of actors through the years about preparing for roles and getting into character—but never a voice actor. So, looking back, what was the process. How do you figure out how to be Sonic? His motivations? His linguistic patterns? Etc?

ROGER CRAIG SMITH: Well, prepare for disappointment … I honestly don’t prepare all that much for voice over roles, depending on the situation. Specific accents, or some unique physical characteristic (which could affect the vocal performance) might require certain amounts of prep, but my experience has been preparation can often work against me. If I go into a session with a whole bunch of ideas for all my lines, performance choices loaded and ready to go, it’s not unusual to have those things shot down by a director or other creative individual on the other side of the glass (in the control room). Sonic came about in this manner. I remember auditioning for the character prior to Wreck-It Ralph and working very closely with the creative team from Sega on getting his cadence and voice print down. After landing the role from Sega, it’s slowly evolved into where it is today on Sonic Boom. When we started, they wanted to “age him up a bit,” so we played around with a little different vocal register. With his appearance in the Disney film, Rich Moore (director) sat in the session with me and basically let me do my thing with regard to the voice print for the character, but he had lots of suggestions on delivery and timing. THAT was a tremendous bit of good fortune for me that they decided to incorporate Sonic into a Disney film. Pure luck I happened to be doing the voice for Sega’s games at the time Disney was in production.

When I first started out as a voice actor I was super prepared. Through a decade of doing this on a professional level I’ve learned to have an overall understanding of what’s happening in the script, make some minor choices, but show up ready for anything and be malleable. I don’t have a magical vocal warmup that I practice everyday, or a specific dietary supplement or throat spray—I just try to get as much vocal rest as possible in between sessions, so I’m at my best when they hit record.

J.P.: I usually wait to ask this—but I can’t wait. You’ve had such a unique, lengthy, impressive career as a voice guy. How the hell did this happen?

R.C.S.: Ha! Man, you tell me. Not a day goes by that I don’t find myself in some weird situation in a VO booth where I wanna pinch myself. It’s truly unreal. I’ve had a number of folks ask, “How do I get your career?” I would sometimes answer with suggestions of classes, books, training, etc … Now, I usually respond with, “You won’t.” I wait to see if they bristle at that to follow it up with, “And I won’t have YOURS.” Fact is I went about this in the way that I went about it, but it wasn’t as if I had a road map leading me to voicing Batman, or Sonic, or Captain America—I simply kept trying to get another role, and then on to the next audition. When I started out down in Orange County more than 10 years ago, I went around and knocked on local post-production studio doors and offered up my crappy VO demo CD. From there, a few folks hired me. From there, I learned and got more experience. From there, I took more classes up in LA and had an agency “discover” me. From there, I landed some bigger roles and had more casting directors hear me. From there, I landed more work and eventually had Jeff Pearlman ask me to do a Quaz. I can’t tell everyone to go out and do it the way I did it, because it wouldn’t work for them. Their way of getting started wouldn’t have worked for me. I guess it’s just a matter of trying to take one step up the ladder at a time and not worry too much if ya slip here and there. If I had any idea it would/could have led to this, I’d never have believed it. I’ve worked hard and made sacrifices for it, but I still can’t believe it’s turned into the career that it is.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.07.41 PM

J.P.: You spent years as a standup comedian—which seems like pure hell. What drew you into that world? What was the love? The buzz? And—because I always ask this—what was your lowest moment on stage?

R.C.S.: When I was a kid, I loved being a ham. I loved theater and being funny. Loved making people laugh. Also enjoyed mimicry, so started doing voices and making funny sounds at a young age. Being somewhat directionless in life after high school, it was inevitable that folks suggested standup after all my theater and silliness earlier in life. Wasn’t until my mid-20s and during college that it started to be a viable creative outlet. I went to a few open mics with a buddy who was living in LA at the time to see what it was like and found myself thinking, “Hell, I can do better than that.” So, I was introduced to the wonderful world of the LA “bringer room.” Started having my friends show up to watch me perform six minutes at a time and they all had to pay up at the door and suffer the two-drink minimum. It was indeed a pure hell in many ways (mostly for my friends), but I did enjoy the challenge. I liked the ownership of comedy. If I had a great set onstage, then that was my doing. If it sucked, well I sucked and needed to evaluate and try again. The shortness of breath and butterflies before hitting the stage, then (as experience came) the calm that washed over me as I’d take the stage, the whole notion of getting to be someone who had the guts to get up and do that—it all appealed to me. Sadly, the writing on the wall of what life as a comic could be like did not. Babysitting drunk crowds on the road and seeing some of my heroes in the standup world dealing (in the wrong ways) with dark personal issues started to have me second-guessing that career path. Thankfully the voices and characters I was doing in standup opened the doors to people suggesting VO as a career.

I think my lowest moment onstage was just the need for dealing with hecklers who were drunk. Unless someone from the club steps in and removes ‘em, it doesn’t matter how bad you shame them or put them in their place—they’re just a drunk mess and tend to ruin a fun night for everyone. I was never a mean comic, so I didn’t like the idea of slamming people from the stage. So, when ya ended up having to deal with the lowest common denominator in the room it was always a bummer.

J.P.: You’ve narrated a bunch of reality shows, including “Say Yes to the Dress.” No offense whatsoever, because it has zero to do with you. But I loathe reality television. So I wonder, how do you feel about the medium? Besides it being a paycheck?

R.C.S.: How DARE you! Reality is the last bastion of all things good in our culture, dude. Now you’ve offended me and I’ll contact your sponsors to have your livelihood taken away. Dammit I’ve been BULLIED, I tells ya!

The medium is what it is, I suppose. There are some really great shows that are in the reality genre and there are some steaming piles of soulless crap, as well. I’m mostly loathsome of the fact that many of these shows have writers and producers steering the content of the show, which, in my mind, makes them anything BUT reality. I’m actually quite proud of having been a part of Say Yes to the Dress, because I feel they’ve never strayed from focusing on the brides and the stories of the “real” people. They haven’t started focusing on the folks who work at the salon and who they’re dating, who they’ve slept with or betrayed, etc … Most reality shows stray into that BS (*cough* LA Ink) and then it becomes a soap opera with bad, unprofessional actors as they try to play up drama on their REALITY show. Bugs the hell outta me. Usually ends up killing the show, too. Thankfully, SYTTD hasn’t gone away from the focus of what people wanna see on that show, which is women making the biggest dress-decision of their lives and the process involved with that. Yes, it’s a first-world-problem subject matter kinda show and the drama of crinoline vs. silk is the kind of “tough life choice” most folks on this planet would like to have, but it is what it is. Also, it’s kept me humble having voiced superheroes and zombie-killing badasses, but also being a man with knowledge of crinoline vs silk.

J.P.: I wonder how people respond when you say, “I’m a voice actor.” … especially living out here in SoCal. Is it, “That’s awesome!” It it, “Um, what?” Both, neither?

R.C.S.: Ya know, out here, most folks follow it up with, “So, like, then what’s like, your day job and stuff dude?” Being a “working actor” seems a bit of an oxymoron for most folks in LA. And here’s the truth—I’m only as legit as anything you’ve heard of. So, when folks ask me what I do, I usually ask them about how much TV or radio they may listen to. Because the older lady on the flight sitting next to me might have no clue about shows like Regular Show (it has a dang Emmy), Avengers Assemble, Clarence or Say Yes to the Dress … So I can list off some of the higher-profile projects of which I’m a part and she’ll just give me the, “Well that sounds fun, I suppose. What do you do to pay the bills?” If she’s never heard of anything for which I’ve been involved, it’s unimpressive.  Also, folks in LA are so mired in the industry, it’s just like the days of dealing with LA comedy audiences (some of the worst, except for the Ice Room in Pasadena), because they all know someone who does what you do and they’re likely “better at it than you” or “more successful.” Here’s the other response from SoCal: “Yeah? Everyone tells me I should do the same thing. So, can you get me a job or an agent?”

J.P.: You’ve voiced Captain America repeatedly. So what goes into voicing a superhero? Is there an oomph one needs? A certain sound? Projection? And I don’t understand how Captain America hasn’t been shot to death about 5,000 times. I mean, he’s just a strong dude with a shield, no?

R.C.S.: Thank you for pointing out what I’ve asked for so many times—“Can we give Cap a gun every now and then?! Dude is working his tail off with nothing but a Vibranium Frisbee!” For the version of Cap that I’ve been lucky enough to do, Collette Sunderman, our voice director, worked on having his delivery be “fists on hips,” in terms of a posture when we first started collaborating. Think of the classic, comic book-esque, iconic image of a hero standing tall with his fists on his hips. That became our approach to voicing Cap early on in Avengers Assemble on Disney XD (shameless plug). It gave him more of that 1940’s “ahh shucks” delivery to contrast with the other voices on the show. I’m more barrel-chested in my delivery with him, as opposed to when I’m voicing the darker, more brooding Batman in Batman Unlimited (shameless plug coming to DVD Blu-ray later this year), nowhere near as nasally as when I’m voicing Sonic the Hedgehog in Sonic Boom on Cartoon Network and Hulu (shameless plug),  and he sounds nothing at all like my voices for Mouse and Moose in Amazon’s “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” available on Amazon Video (shameless plug). Oh, and Cap’s voice is different than Belson and Percy in Cartoon Network’s Clarence (shameless plug). Or the voices I do for Powerpuff Girls on Cartoon Network (no shame). Transformers: Robots in Disguise on Cartoon Network. Did that, too. Oh, and Ram trucks commercials might have a familiar voice in them, too (I’m disgusting).

J.P.: You did some voice work for “Jennifer’s Body,” a film even the stars sort of hated (but 13-year-old boys absolutely loved). How did you land the gig? What was the experience? And what did you think?

R.C.S.: That was just a straight up, regular audition I got a call for. Showed up, a bunch of us read for the radio DJ voice, I was lucky enough to land the gig and off it went. I think horror is a genre that often comes under fire for lots of reasons—but if you’re taking THAT film seriously, then you’re getting it wrong. I think it was meant to be somewhat ridiculous. I mean, I hope it was, at least. I REALLY enjoyed getting to be a part of that. Really and truly, even when you’re a part of something that isn’t well-received, as long as you can be proud of what you delivered when you were called to do so, it’s a fun job and that’s that. Hell, I voiced a goat that had his way with Forest Whitaker’s leg in Our Family Wedding. I’ll own that! I landed a gig and at the end of the day, that’s the job.

With Jennifer’s Body, I found myself thinking, I’m a very small part of a film that 20 years from now, folks that saw this when they were young might be lampooning it the way we do all things pop culture from our youth. It’s silly, sure, but maybe I’m not the demographic for it. Also, being in a film with Megan Fox wasn’t the worst thing at that time in my life. Not that I met her or anything. I mean wait, yeah, I like totally know her. We’d hang at craft services and share a smoke during production.  She’s okay, I guess. She still texts me from time to time and stuff but I’mall “babe ya gotta let this bird fly, m’kay?” Because voice actors are super glamorous and cool. Ahem.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.06.52 PM

J.P.: What’s it like to hear your voice on TV, or in a film? Is it a buzz? Boring by now? Do you remember the first time? What was that like? Where were you? Thoughts?

R.C.S.: It, to this day, does not get old. It’s a dream come true in so many ways. Sure, I don’t fully flip out when I hear a commercial or see a show I’ve voiced these days, but the magic of getting to hear something you’ve done hit the airwaves, a screen or the Internet is always pretty damn cool. It’s that aspect of voice over that does give me the same sorta buzz that standup did. Sure, VO is way more collaborative than standup, but I do get to say, “that’s MY voice—I did THAT.” I dig that part of my job. It’s very gratifying.

Can’t really remember the first time I heard my voice in a production, but I can tell you this—when the opening sequence of Planes begins, I still get goosebumps. That was such a thrill for me, being a part of a Disney feature film. And as a BAD GUY! What a rush! So, I’m glad the excitement over something coming out for the first time is still there. Once it’s gone, I think you’re doing something wrong. I hope I’m lucky enough to be in my sixties and getting excited about landing a gig in VO.

J.P.: I have a weird one here: So you’re 5-foot-5, and I’m repeatedly amazed by the relatively short stature of actors. Most of the ones I’ve met have been in that 5-4 to 5-9 range. Is this just coincidence, or is there something about performing that draws smaller guys?

R.C.S.: Ha! Seriously, I think it has to do with the fact that we gotta find a way of getting attention from the ones we wanna attract in a different way than being a tall, athletic dude. I couldn’t develop an identity as a clutch player from the 3-point line. I wasn’t very good at water polo. I’ve never known the thrill of lifting up another human male to demoralize him in front of his girlfriend the way so many tall men have done to me in my past. So, yeah, I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think short dudes are looking for a way to compete for attention/affection and being a performer, being funny, being good at something that takes guts to do—all those things don’t come with a minimum height requirement. That’s likely how a lot of us height-challenged individuals wind up here. And please use “height-challenged” going forward, Jeff. Stop bullying me with your micro aggressions and trigger words. “Smaller guys,” puhlease. I’m offended. I’ll take your livelihood now, thank you.

J.P.: You were at the first table read for “Planes,” and over three years you apparently expected to be replaced by a celebrity for the final film recording. But you never were, and wound up one of only two actors to stick the entire time. How do you explain your survival? And what did it mean to you?

R.C.S.: Wow, it meant EVERYTHING to me. I kept referring to it as a Faberge egg of opportunity that I didn’t want to handle too much. I’d enter every recording session and knock on wood in the waiting room. The production folks would often give me a hard time as we got closer to the premiere about “enjoying it and celebrating” my involvement. But, I just didn’t wanna believe it was real. After the premiere I was able to relax a bit.

There are ZERO guarantees in this industry and every single day there are decisions made that can drastically affect you—and yet you have no say in those decisions. It’s just a fact you need to be okay with if you’re going to do this job. At any moment, you can be replaced. It doesn’t mean anything, it might not be personal, but it happens. So, when you grow up as big a fan of both aviation and Disney as I did—this just seems like it’s too good to be true. And I was happy to be involved in ANY aspect of that film, let alone being the lead antagonist. To go from those animatic sessions, table reads, early voice sessions and over the course of three years…it was just one of those take-a-breath-and-chill gigs where I simply wanted to do the absolute best I could do each time I went in. After they replaced me, I figured, I could at least be proud of making it hard on the celebrity that might come in to match my performance. And then the replacement I was preparing for never happened. I was beside myself. That whole year was a blur for me. I’ll ALWAYS be proud of being a small part of such a neat film. I got to be a Disney baddie, no matter the scale.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.07.19 PM


• Rank in order (favorite to least): Anthony Mason, Eazy-E, David Price, Hoda Kotb, Reggie Miller, scallions, Demi Lovato, Ford Explorer, Great Orange Park, “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” the number 12: Scallions, Demi Lovato, the number 12, Easy-E, Mr Holland’s Opus, Hoda Kotb, Anthony Mason, Reggie Miller, Orange County Great Park, David Price, Ford Explorer

• We give Elena Della Donne a season of Division I men’s basketball. What’s her stat line?: 2,000+ pts, 1800+ rbs, 3,000+ blks, 1hb (heart broken, mine)

• Why the “Craig” in “Roger Craig Smith”?: Because “” is a hotel in New York.

• Five reasons one should make Chatsworth, Cal. his/her next vacation destination?: 1. You loathe having options for things to do nearby; 2. Lots of career opportunities in what is now the former porn capitol of the world; 3. You can catch a contact high from the Porter Ranch gas leak; 4. They filmed the original Bad News Bears at Mason Park; 5. Did we mention former porn capitol and Bad New Bears? We did? Um, we’ve got a Trader Joe’s.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Wondering if I’ve lived a full-enough life.

• Absolute best animated film ever made?: Oof. Dang. Lion King.

• What’s the kindest thing someone has ever said to you?: “You sound much taller.”

• One question you would ask Samantha Fox were she here right now?: “Could you help me with my British accent?”

• Best joke you know: Knock knock. Who’s there? Interrupting cow. Interrupti MOOOOO.

• In exactly 26 words, make a case for the Love Boat: New and exciting love! A bartender and a Gopher are expecting you. Stubing’s just the captain’s name, not something you do on the Love Boat, sadly.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 9.45.09 AM

Andrea Kremer

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 9.45.09 AM

Great on-air interviewing is an art.

You don’t often realize such at the time, because the best of the best are so seamless, so smooth, so prepared that it doesn’t appear to be work or craftsmanship. Yet it is. And if you don’t believe me, take a second and watch clunkers like this and this. Bad interviews are like gravel beneath the skin. They’re awkward and clumsy and make one feel as if he/she is watching a flaming cat.

For my money, Andrea Kremer is America’s best TV interviewer. She knows her subjects, she responds to what is said, she doesn’t check off a list of ideas as she’s speaking. Whether it’s sitting down with Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan in a studio or Michael Phelps by the side of a pool. Kremer is—no exaggeration—as good as it gets.

This week in Quaz history, the Real Sports and NFL Network correspondent explains the whys and hows, dos and don’ts of the business. She recalls coming up through the dance ranks, preferring Larry Csonka to Barbie and knowing this was the career for her.

One can follow Andrea on Twitter here, and see her on TV, well, pretty much everywhere.

Andrea Kremer, you are the 265th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Andrea, I’m a huge Real Sports fan. Love it, love it and have loved it for years. But here’s my question, and it’s something I’ve long wondered: How much do the folks we see on air, like yourself, do? What I mean is, off camera, do you report the story, research the story—or is there a staff that does most of the work? Also, how much input do you have in ideas, execution, reporting devices, etc?

ANDREA KREMER: Thanks Jeff, glad you like Real Sports. We’ll get you a Nielsen box! I am biased but I do think it’s the best show on television. To answer your question, it varies by correspondent, producer and story. The production staff is the finest I’ve ever worked with and some producers are more collaborative than others. Some correspondents are fully prepped by their producer and show up and conduct an interview with great aplomb but do little extra research, along the lines of a 60 Minutes on air personality. Then there’s the incomparable David Scott, a former producer who has seamlessly transitioned on air and does both—produces and reports some of the best, most impactful stories the show has ever aired, such as human rights abuses in Qatar, poaching in Africa and most recently, sexual assault accusations against Kevin Johnson.

As for myself, I do many of my own profile bookings such as Bill Parcells, Phil Jackson, Jim Harbaugh, Urban Meyer, Bill O’Brien, Rex Ryan, Kobe Bryant, as well as for issue oriented stories like Toradol abuse in the NFL. I always do additional reporting and research (I tend toward the OCD side of that!) but ultimately, the beauty of Real Sports is how team oriented it is. They do a “peer review” of stories in progress in which the entire production staff watches a version of the piece and offers feedback and constructive criticism. Believe me, we all want to do the memorable, great stories but I find it to be so collaborative and cooperative not competitive. And I must add one thing because it’s the most stressful (for most of us) part of the job—the in studio cross talk with Bryant Gumbel after the story airs. We never have any idea what he’s going to ask us and if we try to offer suggestions he wants no part of it. He is a child of live television and he watches the stories like any viewer and asks questions based on his own curiosity and he can go anywhere with them. And of course he is never bereft of opinions!

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 10.12.07 AM

J.P.: So as I write this, the NFL is facing a shit storm, RE: concussions and how concerned officials genuinely were. I hear more and more people compare the league to big tobacco—an enormous, all-powerful monolith that cares little for the players. Andrea, you work for the NFL Network and, therefore, work for the NFL. Plus, your title is “chief correspondent, health and safety.” Hence, I ask whether you have reservations working for the network; if there a journalistic complications. And, are people off in their takes of the league as Satan’s spawn?

A.K.: When I joined the network in 2012 as chief correspondent, player health and safety I was told unequivocally that I would have the freedom to tell stories that might raise some eyebrows at 345 Park Avenue but my bosses would have my back as long as we were fair and captured both sides of the issue, a no brainer for me since that is the root of journalism, right? We did some significant stories such as detailing a Pop Warner football team where five young children suffered concussions in one game and ultimately the league was shelved; we told the story of Laurent Robinson, the former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver who sustained four concussions in four months before he was placed on injured reserve for the season and ultimately released by the team. We also delved inside the “Culture of the Lockerroom” examining issues such as homophobia and racism and were widely quoted from the New York Times to CNN.

I feel I’ve never been asked to compromise my journalistic ethics working at NFL Media. In recent years the scope of what I cover for them has broadened (and in fact my “title” is now chief correspondent!!) so I have hosted coaches’ roundtables, news shows at the Super Bowl plus a once-in-a-career opportunity—chronicling Darrelle Revis’ year long comeback from his torn ACL. This was a first, which I’m proud to say turned into A Football Life documentary. Let’s be real, NFL Network is not Real Sports and I feel lucky that I get to work for NFLN as well as HBO in addition to co-hosting the first all female talk show, We Need to Talk on CBSSN, a troika of jobs that provides the creative and journalistic challenges and outlets that I crave.

J.P.: Until 2011 you were a sideline reporter for NBC’s Sunday Night Football. A huge complaint I’ve always had with network sports TV is, with rare exception, women are on the sideline, not in the booth. That it’s almost this forbidden land, reserved for testosterone-stuffed men. Am I right? Wrong? Do you find the roles women are offered in sports TV frustrating, and have things changed? And would you want a booth gig? Did you ever seek that?

A.K.: The role of women in sports television has certainly evolved but the sine wave is on the upswing albeit with tons of room to grown. The fact that we’re seeing Jessica Mendoza as a lead analyst on Sunday Night Baseball is thrilling for me (I did a story for Real Sports some years ago on women’s softball being eliminating from the Olympic program and worked with Jessica and Jennie Finch amongst others and found them to be as smart as they are athletically gifted … Even more reason I’m rooting for Jessica!) Doris Burke can seamlessly slide from the sidelines of the court to center court to call a basketball game and is another true role model for women.

When I was growing up I didn’t have any of these women I could look to and say, “I want to do what she does” (something I hear all the time from young women about myself now!). But I’ll share with you a little-known fact: in 1989 I was completing my fifth year as a producer at NFL Films and my second year in the dual role as on air reporter when I received three job offers: join HBO’s Inside the NFL as a correspondent (I had been producing segments for them at Films); opening ESPN’s Chicago bureau and being their first female reporter or doing play by play for NBC for their “Q game.” That’s right—the visionary then-executive producer Mike Weisman had me working with the legendary broadcast coach, the late Marty Glickman, learning the art of play by play. It was riveting and exciting and when a finally did a demo game I thought to myself, wow I think I can do this … But it was 1989 and my gut told me that the audience would view this as a gimmick and my network career would have a very short shelf life. So I accepted the ESPN job and breathed a sigh of relief when Marty told me, “Kid, you did the right thing,”—especially since Weisman got fired, Terry O’Neil replaced him and he would definitely not have been as supportive of the idea as his predecessor was. An opportunity lost? Who knows? I’m not one to look back or live with regrets plus I think my career is turning out pretty good nonetheless!
Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 9.44.10 AM

J.P.: Um, I just learned you were a dancer before a scribe; performed with the Philadelphia Civic Ballet Company. So, well, how did this happen? Why journalism? When did you realize, “Ah! This is the career for me!”

A.K.: Nice to see you doing your homework! In high school I played three sports as well as danced ballet through college with companies in Philadelphia and New York. I would sit in rehearsals and listen to events on my Walkman (how’s that for dating myself??!!) because I was crazy about sports. I loved ballet and it instilled in me the tremendous discipline that permeates my life to this day. But one must be brutally honest in self scouting as a dancer. I knew how good I was … or not so good. And I always felt that I would give it up when I found something that replaced that passion for me. My first job as a writer did that trick. Plus I must admit that I always felt, Ivy League graduates don’t become ballet dancers … but they certainly become journalists!

J.P.: The Los Angeles Times once called you “the best TV interviewer in the business of covering the NFL.” So, I ask, what’s the key to a strong interview? What are people missing?

A.K.: Well to fully answer your question I guess you’ll have to take my class, “The Art of the Interview” at Boston University’s College of Communication! It’s one of the only courses of its kind in the country that solely teaches interviewing for journalism and I love sharing my experience and knowledge with “the next generation” in an institutionalized way. I primarily teach graduate students and in the four spring semesters that I’ve taught I’ve had amazing students and I’m so proud that many of them have gone on to great jobs to launch their own careers. I also try to impart what being a professional means and the guest speakers I’ve brought in have emphasized that with their actions as well. Last year I also brought in two of my strongest producers, Real Sports’ Jordan Kronick and my former producer at NFLN, Hilary Guy (now a coordinating producer at ESPN!) for a special class I called, “Producing Prowess” to emphasize the myriad jobs that are available in the business, well beyond the on air position that people see and relate to. Bottom line though is that interviewing is communication at its highest level—listen, don’t be afraid of silence, don’t make it about you, be naturally curious, don’t back down and please … ASK a question!

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

A.K.: I truly have been blessed with so many career highlights (with more to come I hope!!) but it would be tough to top a six month period during which I worked two of the most memorable events of our generation: poolside in Beijing as Michael Phelps won eight gold medals and six months later, working the sidelines of the Pittsburgh-Arizona Super Bowl when Santonio Holmes’ tiptoe reception in the end zone sent Steeler Nation into a frenzy. I was also proud to have broken news right before kickoff on Hines Ward having undergone a then-little known procedure called PRP (platelet rich plasma) that allowed him to play despite a serious knee injury he sustained in the AFC championship game two weeks prior.

As for lowest, probably too many gaffes to mention (!!)—but one common denominator is that they were all major learning experiences and as I like to tell my students, we all make plenty of mistakes … just try not to make the same one twice!

Alongside Michael Phelps in London.

Alongside Michael Phelps in London.

J.P.: I read a quote from you, about your childhood, that I just love—”Some girls had Barbie dolls. I had Larry Csonka.” Maybe this is a weird question, but why do you think so few young girls seem to gravitate toward football? I mean, I know there are young girls who do so. But I can count on no hands the number of my daughter’s friends who loves NFL Sundays.

A.K.: Well maybe in California where you live young girls are busy doing other thing on NFL Sundays but I know plenty of my son’s friends back east who love sports, football included. I was crazy about sports, notably football, at a young age and the best thing I had going for me was that my parents didn’t think that was weird but supported my interests … bought me books on football and we went to virtually every Philadelphia Eagles home game, rain, shine, sleet or snow. And no … it wasn’t because I had brothers who liked it. My parents used to joke that I turned them onto football! What I wouldn’t doubt is that many more young girls today probably play sports than watch on TV but there are tremendous benefits to that as well!

J.P.: When Michael Jordan announced his return to basketball, he chose you as the first interviewer. Why? How? And how did you cultivate a relationship with Jordan? And what’s he like, from your dealings?

A.K.: I was based in Chicago for ESPN and covered all six of Jordan’s championships (plus Pistons and more). I spent a lot of time around the Bulls including learning from and watching film with the great, late defensive mastermind, assistant coach Johnny Bach, as well as building relationships with Phil Jackson and many players. But I covered all aspects of Jordan’s journey—from the gambling allegations to him testifying in the Slim Bouler trial in North Carolina to his father’s untimely passing to his baseball sabbatical. He always treated me with respect and yes, that first interview with him upon his return to basketball (as well as breaking the news on SportsCenter that he was coming back!) was a tremendous highlight of my career. On a personal note, in the summer of 1992 I was scheduled to sit down with him for a big pre-Olympic Dream Team interview when my mother died. He was caring and thoughtful when he first saw me upon hearing my news and re scheduled at my convenience, for which I was always appreciative.

J.P.: Totally random question, but I’m at a loss to explain Donald Trump’s political rise. You attended Penn, I attended Delaware. So how to explain it? What am I missing?

A.K.: Hey—Trump went to Wharton. That’s a tough pill to swallow in itself …

J.P.: I was watching local news a few days ago, and there was a report about a traffic death involving a young person, and the reporter went to the house to interview the mother. And I started wondering, “Why is this news?” I mean, it doesn’t affect tons of lives, doesn’t change the world. I don’t mean to sound callous. I mean, it just struck me as really intrusive for this family, and for what? Ratings? Nielsen points? Tell me why I’m wrong, or right.

A.K.: I’d have to see the report and how it was handled … sensationalized or with empathy and concern. Was there a teachable moment to be gleaned from the death … was there a vehicular homicide? Was it just a ratings boost (that’s macabre and terrible, if so). But telling and sharing a story can be cathartic for those who’ve suffered a loss as well as a reminder about the fragility of life.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 9.43.27 AM


• Five greatest 5-foot-5-and-under TV personalities of your lifetime: Exclusively sports? Women? And of course I don’t run around with a tape measure and as I’ve experienced most people don’t know how tall we are…. For me, TV doesn’t add 10 pounds it adds height! First thing I often hear from fan is, I didn’t know you were so, ahem, petite (they usually say short but c’mon, can’t we at least say vertically challenged?). So of the women I know I’d have to say Tracy Wolfson, Suzy Kolber (who probably teeters on 5-5), Lisa Salters. Can I throw Jay Glazer in or would he wrap me in an MMA chokehold if I say he’s around 5-5? And layup …  I have to say myself, right?

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Bart Simpson, Main Line Chronicle, Purim, Dr. Ben Carson, Joe Walsh, turtlenecks, Yinka Dare, Wile E. Coyote, San Antonio, the USFL, women named Laura: If I assess with career chronology in mind…. Have to start of with the Main Line Chronicle where I was sports editor in my first ever job. The USFL since the Philadelphia Stars were the first team I covered (and the first road game I worked—their championship game against the Arizona Wranglers!). Joe Walsh because I love the Eagles, musical not just sports variety. Turtlenecks because while not always fashion forward they are quite utilitarian especially on a frigid sideline. I know several Lauras and they’re all quite nice. San Antonio, as long as I don’t have to interview Gregg Popovich on camera. The late Yinka Dare. Wile E. Coyote. Bart Simpson. Purim (huh?). Dr. Ben (he should stick to patients not politics).

• Three memories from your first-ever date: With my husband: We met at a wedding … Table No. 13 and we would’ve been voted least likely couple to end up married but it was quite a lucky and fortuitous night. One of the only times he’s ever slow danced with me. He has many amazing qualities but channeling Fred Astaire isn’t one of them. Walking me to my room, putting his jacket around my shoulders and pointing out the stars and constellations.

• Fox News calls, will pay $5 million annually for you to co-host a show with Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and a screaming monkey called, “Andrea Kremer, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and a Screaming Monkey.” You in?: Cardinal rule—never do it for the money … blood money isn’t worth it however, the screaming monkey would make more sense than either of my other two co-hosts and we could get cancelled after one show but since that salary is guaranteed I’d be making an investment in my son’s college education so sure, I’ll give it a whirl. I told you I love challenges …

• What’s your ballet scouting report?: Are we talking self scouting? Well at my height I certainly wouldn’t be a candidate for the Balanchine style but my forte was more allegro than adagio. I loved jumps and leaps more so than slower, more methodical movements and steps.

• There’s a homeless man sitting near me as I write this, and he’s screaming to no one, “I met Jimi Hendrix twice!” What are the odds he actually met Jimi Hendrix twice?: Better odds that he was doing or taking was Hendrix was as well.

• This is my all-time favorite song. What do you think?: Well, I know you like Blind Melon and you are entitled to your taste. Nothing tops Springsteen in my book and my favorite is “The Fever.”

• Who are the five most intelligent athletes you’ve ever dealt with?: Yeah, this is loaded because that intimates that others aren’t intelligent. Not going there, sorry. This is the type of thing that comes back to bite you in the Twitterverse.

• On a scale of 1 to 100, how much do you fear/worry about death? Why?:  Much more so for my loved ones, particularly my son, than myself. Pretty self explanatory isn’t it? I try not to expend energy on things I cannot control. I love to take professional risks but am smart and try not to put myself in stupid, dangerous personal situations.

• Would you rather permanently change your TV name to Sandy Drawley III or spend the next two years living in Guam working at Guam’s finest Taco Bell?: Name change if necessary … don’t do fast food!!

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 5.05.11 PM

Molly Peckler

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 5.05.11 PM

If the Quaz were all about conventional guests with conventional stories, it’d be the weekly home of television anchors and authors and lawyers. In other words, it’d be super dull.

But I’ve never wanted that. Hence, the Quaz has welcomed—among others—Miss Black Iowa; my high school classmate fighting MS; an American Nazi; a prostitute; an ex-priest; Styx’ lead singer. On and on and on. It’s supposed to be like a weekly literary fortune cookie. You click on the Quaz, you never know what’s coming.

Enter: Molly Peckler.

I found Molly on Twitter. She’s a self-identified “Cannabis friendly life coach and dating expert.” That sounded quirky and cool and interesting. She starts one of her video lessons with, “Hi, I’m Molly from Highly Devoted. And today we’re gonna talk about two of my absolutely favorite things—sex and Cannabis!” Even more cool and quirky. So I reached out … and here we are. Living the Quaz dream.

One can visit Molly’s website here, and follow here on Twitter here and Instagram here. Molly Peckler, spark one up! You’re the 264th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So you’re the CEO of Highly Devoted Coaching, the—in your words—“first Cannabis Friendly Life Coach and Dating Expert.” Molly, I have no friggin’ idea what that means. Do you connect couples who love getting high? Are you high while connecting couples? Is it just two random interests merged into one, like peanut butter and patio furniture?

MOLLY PECKLER: I work with responsible cannabis consumers who defy the stoner stigma. These people are smart, successful and well respected in their communities, but rather than medicating or recreating with pharmaceuticals or alcohol, they prefer something more natural with less side effects like cannabis. Many mainstream coaches, therapists and matchmakers don’t understand just how beneficial responsible cannabis consumption can be in life or in a relationship, and I provide a safe space without judgment. Sometimes clients will light up during a session, and it allows them to feel more comfortable opening up. I’m a longtime smoker, and it’s one of the reasons my husband and I are so compatible. I respect fellow smokers, and I understand where they’re coming from.

I help my clients build confidence by disrupting self-sabotage, establishing clear goals, and implementing logical strategies to achieve said goals. Many clients I work with are ashamed of their passion for cannabis, and I help them gain confidence by realizing how much cannabis has enhanced their lives. Cannabis is a great analogy for being genuine and accepting yourself for who you are. That’s the definition of confidence.

In terms of dating, I help clients gain closure and learn lessons from past relationships, identify all the components necessary in an ideal partner, and then create online and offline dating strategies to identify compatible partners. When you’re a cannabis consumer, dating is way more complex because of the stigma and judgement you can face when meeting new people. I work to overhaul online dating profile or identify groups and organizations to become involved with offline that will expose clients to the ideal cannabis friendly partner. Once you meet someone new, it can be tricky finding the right way to bring up cannabis, and I’ve developed strategies for successfully walking that tightrope as well.

I have an ability to disarm pretty much anyone, and that allows me to do what I love, which is to help others build confidence and achieve their goals so they can truly enjoy their lives.

J.P.: So I’m 44, and I met my wife at a wedding. And—I hate to say this, because it sounds sorta dickish—but I’m pretty happy I didn’t meet her online, or via a dating service, because now I don’t have to say, “Um,” when people ask the backstory. Two things: Do people not meet at weddings, bars any longer? And B. Do you think any stigma remains to meeting online or via dating service?

M.P.: Yeah, it’s a little dickish, but I’ll forgive you! With all of the swipe apps and dating sites out there, it’s a lot easier to meet someone on online today. Swipe apps are great for hookups, but if you’re looking for a relationship, you’ll probably have better luck on a dating site like Match where you can create a detailed profile and search for a like-minded partner utilizing their preferences. I don’t think there’s any stigma left in online dating because it’s such a huge part of our culture.

When you meet someone in person, you don’t know if they’re interested in a relationship or what type of partner they’re looking for. It’s not always something you can ask about from the first conversation. You’re also limited to the people you actually meet, so online dating gives you way more options. Dating is a numbers game after all. If you end up with an ideal partner, who gives a fuck how you met?

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 10.10.58 AM

J.P.: I grew up the son of a substance abuse specialist, and my mom used to scare the shit out of me with “Pot is a gateway drug” lectures. How did you get into Cannabis? What is it about it that does it for you? And was my mom 100 percent wrong? Is the gateway drug thing just pure nonsense?

M.P.: Unfortunately your mom was completely wrong, because the gateway drug talking point came from biased studies that mistook correlation for causation. Alcohol is by far the most powerful gateway drug, and when it comes to hard drugs like heroin, pharmaceutical opiates are the leading cause of overdoses. Cannabis has recently been found to help opiate addicts recover, and in states where medical cannabis has been legalized, opiate overdoses have been reduced on average by 25 percent. Cannabis has hundreds of medical benefits,especially when it comes to killing cancer cells, stopping seizures, reducing PTSD and so many others. The compassionate choice is full adult-use legalization. The drug war is an excuse to disenfranchise minorities, and now the United States has the highest incarcerated population in the world.

I’ve been a regular smoker for over a decade, and I love how cannabis gives me perspective, helps me focus, reduces stress and anxiety, and enhances connections with people I care about. I have a small appetite and it allows me to enjoy the food that I love. When I’m in pain, or recovering from a tough workout, it hits the spot better than any pharmaceutical. It helps me sleep without feeling groggy or hungover in the morning, and it makes experiences more entertaining and enjoyable. It’s also an excellent addition to my sex life.

J.P.: Under your experience you have “Utilized scientific research on developing confidence” listed. So, Molly, what can you tell me about self-confidence? How does one develop it? And what if a person just doesn’t have confidence? Like, he/she simply doesn’t believe in himself/herself? Do you need to fake confidence? Can you? Can it be developed?

M.P.: We’re all born with the ability to be confident, but we let toxic thought patterns and other obstacles like fear get in the way. The most powerful tool to gaining confidence is having a healthy relationship with your thoughts and emotions. You can achieve that in many ways, but I’ve found mindfulness meditation to be the most efficient method.If you’re present in the moment and you’re not worried about the past or the future, confidence automatically manifests.

Anxiety and lack of direction are toxic to confidence, so I help clients get everything down on paper instead of letting the constant ping pong game in their head stress them out. Once we know what we’re looking at, we prioritize and start checking off goals one at a time. That incremental progress builds quickly, and with that comes confidence. I’ve modeled this after the scrum methodology for project development. Once you know you’re in control, you can make your life what you want it to be, without letting fear get in the way.

J.P.: I’m gonna say something sorta horrible, but it’s honest: When I see an obese person in a beautiful dress or tuxedo, I see an obese person. I mean, THAT’S what I see. The weight. It’s not nice, it’s not cool—but I think it’s pretty common for most people. So my question, Molly, is can love truly be blind? Can I come to fall in love with a 500-pound woman with an amazing personality? Can a racist white woman come to love an African-American man? Or are we these surface beings with limited ranges of emotional compassion and extensions?

M.P.: When you’re trying to find the ideal partner, you’re really looking for two things; a best friend who you also want to have sex with. Love is not blind, and you have to be attracted to your partner if you want the relationship to last. Instead of looking for specific physical requirements, look for a benchmark of attractiveness. Are they attractive enough for you to be interested? Keep in mind that attraction isn’t limited to physical characteristics. You could meet a 6 and after getting to know her, she’s now a 9 in your eyes. On the flip side, you come across a 10 who also happens to be a huge asshole, and she’ll look more like a 3.

The best friend part of the equation breaks down to shared values, passions, and sensibilities. Do you care about the same things, do you respect this person, do you want the same things out of life, do you laugh at the same things? Think of what’s most important to you and look for someone who’s on the same page.

The idea of a single soulmate is total bullshit. There are plenty of people out there who would be great for you. Now you just need to go out there and find them. If you want some help, that’s why I’m here.

J.P.: You have a video that begins with, “Hi, I’m Molly from Highly Devoted. And today we’re gonna talk about two of my absolutely favorite things—sex and Cannabis. If you’ve ever had sex chances are you’ve done it with alcohol in your system. Sober sex is great, but have you ever thought about bringing marijuana into the bedroom.” Molly, I sat cracking up watching this, because I pictured your Midwestern parents, sitting in their home, the smell of roasted chicken coming from the kitchen, DVR set to record “The Good Wife,”—saying, “Honey, let’s see what Molly’s put on her site …” So, seriously, how do your folks feel about this whole thing? Are there awkward Peckler family gatherings?

M.P.: Ha! For the most part, that’s a pretty solid representation of my parents. Luckily they went to college in the 60’s so the cannabis stuff doesn’t bother them too much. I’ve been with my husband for almost 11 years and we’ve been married for five, so the sex stuff isn’t really an issue, since my parents are hungry for grandchildren.

The fact that I’m an entrepreneur is more of a sticking point than my unique niche. I’m a nice Jewish girl from the Midwest, so my mom wants me to move to the suburbs and have a baby, like yesterday. My dad loves my entrepreneurial spirit and the fact that I’ve helped so many people, so he’s been helpful in getting my mom onboard.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 9.16.42 AM

J.P.: How did this happen for you? I know you’re an Illinois graduate, I know you’ve enjoyed burritos as big as your head? But what’s been your path, birth to here?

I’ve always had the ability to make people comfortable and open up to me, and my curiosity for why people do the things they do lead me to get a degree in Psychology. Four years ago I became an executive matchmaker, and that’s when I began to see how important it was to coach my clients to confidence.

I’m a woman who gets men. I know how they think and communicate, and I can help both men and women bridge the gap between the sexes. I had a lot of success and changed many lives, but I had an opportunity to jump over to a cannabis consulting firm and I had to take it. It’s always been a passion, and I’ve been personally touched by the importance of medical cannabis through a family member. I fell in love with the cannabis industry and decided to stake my own claim by utilizing my unique talents.

There is huge market of sophisticated cannabis consumers who are being ignored by the mainstream, and that group will keep growing because of changing laws, regulations and scientific research. I decided I had to combine my passions of helping people build confidence and find love, and disrupting the stigma of cannabis, and create Highly Devoted Coaching. My goal is to have Highly Devoted become a household name in the cannabis industry, and the coaching services are just the beginning.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your life? Lowest?

M.P.: Greatest moment is definitely skydiving in Kauai on my honeymoon. It had always been a dream, and my husband completely surprised me. It was exhilarating and relaxing at the same time. I’m agnostic, but it was the most spiritual moment of my life.

Lowest is harder for me. My older brother Scott died last month, and that day was definitely my worst. He had always battled demons, and in the end, they overtook him. We had an incredibly special bond, and he shaped so many of my passions and values. There’s no chance in hell I would have created Highly Devoted if he didn’t help me embrace cannabis culture or take pleasure in bucking authority. My brother let his fears and insecurities take control of his decisions, and I’m now dedicated more than ever to help people move past their fears and make the most of the time they have.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 9.21.44 AM

J.P.: What are the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to dating? And what’s the biggest mistake you made in dating?

M.P.: They don’t give enough thought to the type of person they’re looking for. When you know what you want and you establish boundaries and deal breakers, it’s much easier to find the right partner. Once you realize someone isn’t a fit, onto the next. Too many people waste years in a relationship that doesn’t  make them happy.

Another huge issue is settling, and that always relates back to a lack of confidence. If you think “this is the best I can get” or “I don’t like myself, so why would a great partner like me?”, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we’re not confident, we make decisions for the wrong reasons, and the decisions we make are the only things in life we’re completely in control of.

I see so many people jump into relationships with people they know aren’t a good fit because everyone else they know is pairing off, getting married and having babies. Do what makes you happy, not just what other people think you should be doing.

Finally, don’t get emotionally involved until you’ve done your due diligence, otherwise your life will be filled with emotional roller coasters . Your initial focus should be learning whether or not they are looking for the same type of relationship, they have integrity, they’re emotionally available, and you’re on the same page when it comes major life events.

My biggest dating mistake was not communicating when I was unhappy about something and then having it build and build until I exploded at my now husband. He helped me to open up my lines of communication and nip problems in the bud before resentment took over.

J.P.: A few months ago I read an article about Ted Cruz, and how he once sponsored a bill to make the sale of vibrators and such illegal. Then his college roommate chimed in with a Tweet noting that Ted used to masturbate all the time at Harvard. Why do you think so many conservative people go out of their way to demonize sex, drugs, behavior they deem “immoral”?

M.P.: Conservatives are worried about living up to other people’s completely unrealistic expectations. They demonize others to make themselves feel better, but it never really works because they’re always living a lie. We’re human, and we’re hardwired to want sex, and we use certain substances to blow off steam. That’s it, and as long as it doesn’t hurt people, you shouldn’t give a fuck. Conservatives never want to accept reality, and they ruin many lives in the process. This is the perfect example of fear and insecurity shaping our choices and actions.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 9.22.50 AM


• Five keys to great sex: Self-confidence, trust, emotional connection, generosity, an open mind.

• The next president of the United States will be?: Hillary, although I would prefer Bernie. As long as it’s not Trump, I’m satisfied.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): iPhone 6, Carson Wentz, raspberry scones, New Edition, bird feeders, Queen Elizabeth, Chris Brown, “The Fault in Our Stars,” HBO, Nolan Ryan, crying, your left ear: HBO, my left ear, Raspberry Scones, iPhone 6 (don’t think less of me), crying, Nolan Ryan, bird feeders, Queen Elizabeth, New Edition, The Fault in Our Stars, Carson Wentz, Chris Brown.

You’re married. How’d you meet your husband?: We lived in the same apartment building our senior year in college and fell in love over a bowl of weed. While falling in love over said bowl, we realized we were in the same first grade class, but he moved away to Minnesota in the middle of the school year. He was the first crush I can ever remember, so I’ve always had excellent taste.

• Death scares the shit out of me. You? Why or why not?: It really doesn’t. I’m married to my best friend, I’m following my passion and helping people find happiness around the world, and I recently moved from from the endless winter of Chicago to Southern California. I love my life, and I don’t have any major regrets. No matter when I go, I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ll have left a positive legacy. I just hope my husband and I kick the bucket around the same time.

• Four reasons one should make Chicago his/her next vacation destination: You’re visiting  mid July-mid September. Otherwise, be prepared for miserable weather. 1. The food is excellent, encompassing cheap eats like deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s to a 20-course tasting menu at Alinea. Bring your appetite and don’t even think about counting calories. 2. The sports. Unfortunately the Hawks got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but the Cubs and White Sox are two of the best teams in baseball. Could 2016 finally be the year the Cubs break the curse? 3. The Midwestern hospitality. For the most part, people are really warm and down to earth. 4. It’s gorgeous. Lake Michigan and the beach are beautiful, and the architecture is stunning. Take it all in on an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River.

• I never liked the Yankees adding Ken Griffey, Sr. and Dave Collins to replace Reggie Jackson. You?: Absolutely not. Despite Reggie’s constant feud with Billy Martin, he was and will always be Mr October.

• Three all-time favorite books: When I was growing up, The Catcher in the Rye really did it for me, but my favorite always tends to be what I’m currently reading. Right now, that’s Presence, by Amy Cuddy. I was also hugely inspired by Michael Neill’s Supercoach.

• Stinky farting by a guy during sex—understandable or an automatic ending to the evening?: Farts are funny, and I love laughing during sex. Not a deal breaker at all, but I’m a pretty weird chick.

• In exactly 16 words, make a case for orange pens: According to Color Psychology, the color orange conveys cheerful confidence. Highlight your confidence with orange pens.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 8.29.52 PM

Jon Moscow

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 8.29.52 PM

Today’s Q&A is why—263 and five years in—I still love doing the Quaz.

Jon Moscow is not famous. He is not a household name. There have been precious few stories written of his plight; no mentions in history books; in chronicles of higher education; in Bob Dylan songs. Put different, upon first glance he is merely a guy.

And yet, that’s a false impression. Along with being the father of David Moscow, an actor and Quaz No 224, Jon Moscow is a man who has devoted much of his life to fighting sociological injustices. Back in the 1960s and ’70s he was heavily involved with the Black Panther Party, opening a health clinic in Portland to provide services for overlooked African-Americans. He has been arrested multiple times, including during a 1999 protest after Amadou Diallo was shot by the New York City Police Department. He burned his draft card in Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention, compares Donald Trump’s rise to that of Hitler and Mussolini and believes climate change is worth screaming about.

In short, he’s a guy who gives a shit—and does something about it.

Jon Moscow, fight on. You’re Quaz No. 263 …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Jon, in the late 1960s/early 1970s you were heavily involved with the Black Panther Party in Portland, ultimately opening up the Fred Hampton Memorial People’s Health Clinic to provide medical services to the region’s underserved African-American population. You also protested the Vietnam War, were arrested, etc … etc. I’ve never asked this of someone with such experiences, but I wonder: When you look around today, and you see the earth melting, you see millions of people staring down at glowing screens, seemingly concerned more about Kim Kardashian’s bare ass than, say, Trump-Clinton, do you ever feel like the efforts of you and yours were for naught?

JON MOSCOW: No. I think of the amazing things we—a multifarious, multi-faceted we—accomplished (and are continuing to accomplish). I love time-travel stories—Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book and Blackout/All Clear—but when I think of going back to the 1950s or early 60s I get claustrophobic. Racial segregation of everything from bathrooms to marriage; lynchings; male/female help wanted columns; homophobia so pervasive that the word didn’t exist; wife beating and pinching women’s butts topics for TV jokes. Child abuse invisible; vegetarians weird, and healthy food practically unavailable. Cigarette smoke everywhere. No environmental movement. The list goes on.

Everyone knows these things, but think of (or remember) living with them as the givens of daily life. I tried to watch Mad Men but couldn’t make it through the first episode. Of course, it’s only the time-traveler who sees it this way; when it’s happening, it’s just the way things are.

And that’s without mentioning the Vietnam War.

We changed or helped change all these things. We didn’t end the Vietnam War; the Vietnamese did. But we helped. And we changed ourselves at the same time, as day-to-day time travelers.

So there’s no way that any of it has been for naught. The idea of naught doesn’t even make any sense.

As far as comparing then and now, things are dialectical. When you solve one problem, the solution (or partial resolution) always generates other problems that then have to be confronted. I don’t think it’s working toward some definite end and, in the bargain, things rarely work out the way you think they will. We are always in “the best of times and the worst of times.” You just have to “keep on keepin’ on” to improve things and to stave off the worst. And I was so struck by Rabbi Michael Lerner’s eulogy at Muhammed Ali’s funeral, where he said, “the way to honor Muhammed Ali is to be Muhammed Ali.” You do what you need to do for your sense of integrity even when there is a price.

And lots of people are always going to be more concerned with the celebrity of the month, or, more importantly, with making the rent and feeding the kids so they don’t have time or energy to do other things.

Harrier days ...

Harrier days …

J.P.: Through the years the very words, “Black Panthers” have come to mean, among certain white (and Fox News-loving) circles, violence, disobedience, wrongheadedness, viciousness, racism, etc. But you were not only in Portland when the local chapter began—you were a (white) part of it. What has history misunderstood about the Black Panthers? What do people misunderstand?

J.M.: I wasn’t actually a member of the Portland chapter of the Black Panther Party. I was in Health-RAP (Health Research and Action Project), a white group that was an ally of the Panthers. Health-RAP worked to make health care more accessible. At the time, the only public medical clinic in Portland was at the county hospital, up Sam Jackson Hill, which was hard to get to, and people had to be there at 8 am and sometimes wait all day to be seen. We successfully kept Buckman Clinic, Portland’s only public dental clinic, open. We also tried to get the non-profit hospitals such as Emanuel and Good Samaritan to serve the communities around them and to stop expanding and expanding at their expense. We were influenced a lot by Health-PAC, a really cool policy center with a national focus.

We collaborated with the Panthers to help start the Fred Hampton People’s Free Health Clinic and the Malcolm X People’s Free Dental Clinic. We named the health clinic for Fred Hampton the month after he was murdered in his sleep by the Chicago police. I was the treasurer of the clinics. The clinics were in the black community, Albina, but we welcomed everyone. The county social service offices even referred people, black and white, to us because there weren’t other places to refer them. It definitely was a trip to think of the welfare office referring people to a clinic with Emory’s Panther posters on the walls. When some of the volunteer doctors asked why we had the posters up, we pointed out that Good Samaritan had crosses on its walls and nobody asked why they had them.

Like Panther chapters elsewhere, the Panthers in Portland also started a free breakfast program for children. The government started school breakfast programs because it was embarrassing to have the Panthers being the only people providing them. In Portland, kids continued to come to the Panther breakfast program even after the schools had them because the food was better and the atmosphere was loving.

There’ve been a lot of lies and distortions about the Panthers because they were black revolutionaries. There are lies about anybody who tries to make change, especially anyone who challenges racism because of how deep it is in American history and society. To treat the Panthers with the respect they deserve is to have to look at the system they were fighting and to take responsibility for it. And that is scary. It’s scary as a country and it’s scary in Portland.

Portland’s history—and Oregon’s history—as far as black people is concerned, is ugly. Oregon banned black people when it was founded. It had a Klan governor in the 1920s. Oregon Public Broadcasting did a documentary (Lift Ev’ry Voice) that shows a lot of the history, including talking about the Panthers, and Ron Herndon, and other black activists and movements in Portland. There’s a really good book that just came out. It’s The Portland Black Panthers: Empowering Albina and Remaking a City, by Lucas N. N. Burke and Judson L. Jeffries. It puts the Panthers in the context of Portland’s history and gives them the credit they deserve. If you want to know what the Panthers stood for, read their 10-point platform. The Panther concept of “revolutionary intercommunalism” was a very exciting way of approaching how people can build their own communities, but work collaboratively with other communities—it is the antithesis of racism or of “narrow nationalism,” which the Panthers opposed.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 5.16.14 PM

J.P.: You were a kid from Long Island, living your young life. You could have surely ended up like your peers. Who, I imagine, largely stayed in the bubble, attended college, got jobs at banks, law firms, schools, etc. But when you were 13 you read a story in Newsday about a group of people arrested while demonstrating against school segregation, then joined the Congress of Racial Equality. What was it about you that stirred the empathy? The emotion? The desire to help those of different races at a time when many stayed within their ethnic lane?

J.M.: It just seemed like the thing to do. First of all, it was 1962 and a lot of other teenagers were going through the same thing. Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin’” came out in 1964, but they were changin’ in 1962 as well. In retrospect, I can think of a number of things. An important one, in both positive and negative ways, was my parents. My parents had been socialists in the ‘30s and went to rallies to support the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War. My father was a founder of the Newspaper Guild in New York City and was active trying to get the U.S. to fight the Nazis. He argued his way into the army in World War II at age 38 because he wanted to fight, even though he could easily have been exempted. My parents told me that the only way Jews would ever be safe was if everyone was and the only Jewish holiday we really celebrated was Passover, as a holiday of liberation. We had Paul Robeson records, including “Songs of Free Men,” with an album jacket of a dagger slashing a Nazi snake. I read Emma Goldman’s Living My Life when I was about 11 or 12 because it was on a lower shelf of my parents’ library and I was fascinated by the idea that it was a first edition.

On the other hand, my father, whom I admired in many ways, had no idea of how to deal with children, which he apologized to me for many years later. He expected obedience from my sister and me and didn’t know what to do when he didn’t get it. Today, I would be considered a physically abused child. At the time, there was no such concept. When I tried calling the police once when I was about 9 or 10, they told me, “Son, whatever your father does is right.” When my sister’s older boyfriend took us to our family doctor’s office in the middle of the night so he could look to see if my finger was broken, the doctor never asked any questions. I decided early that family is the root of all evils and that I would never get married, much less have kids. Of course, I’ve now been very happily married to Pat for 42 years and have two sons—David and Lev—who I’m very close to, but it took a long time and a lot of changes to get there. The experience with the police made me cynical about the police and official versions of reality. I think all these things helped contribute to me becoming a radical and an activist.

J.P.: How do you explain the rise of Donald Trump? How does it make you feel?

J.M.: A lot of people wonder how Hitler and Mussolini and lots of other demagogues get into power. Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here in the 1930’s to show that it could. Trump’s rise shows how it could happen now. Trump’s rise is scary. Also scary is that the Republican establishment’s disagreements with him were that he wasn’t right-wing enough. They were torn between crawling into his camp and keeping their particular set of super-right wing tax cuts for the wealthy, gut-social security, put-women’s- and-gay-and- trans people’s-bodies back-under-their-control, die-quickly-if-you-get-sick policies intact.

Now it looks like you’re getting a convergence. They’ve mostly crawled in, while keeping their policies intact. So you’ve got North Carolina doubling down on the imaginary dangers of trans folks in bathrooms. Even after Orlando, you have Rick Scott refusing to say “LGBT.” And the Republican leaders who are ambivalent about Trump at this point are mostly simply trying to decide if he’s become too toxic—too out front in what they’ve been doing through their racist dog-whistles all these years– for them to keep their seats.

What’s also scary and often overlooked is that while Trump is getting a lot of the attention, a lot of the things he’s advocating are already in place with very little attention. For example, just in the last month the New York Police Department restated in Federal court in the Handschu Guidelines Fair Hearing their intention to keep doing broad, suspicion-less surveillance of Muslim communities if they want to. And in a Freedom of Information Law case in New York State, an appeals court ruled that the NYPD could refuse to either confirm or deny whether they had records on someone having been under surveillance—rejecting the idea that, at least, they should have to make a case to a judge in the judge’s chambers.

With Pat Sterner.

With Pat Sterner.

J.P.: You turned 18 in 1966, you burned your draft card in Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention, then sent the ashes to the draft board. So … what happened next? And why were you so bothered by Vietnam?

J.M.: I was lucky. Nothing more happened with my draft board, Selective Service Board #6, the most reactionary board in the country, when I sent the ashes. I had applied for conscientious objector status on grounds that I was a pacifist but that I wouldn’t go even if I weren’t because the war was immoral, but they rejected that. I refused to apply for a student deferment, so I was 1-A. Because I failed my physical, I didn’t have to refuse induction, and stayed out of jail.

How could anyone not be “bothered” or more accurately, horrified, by what the U.S. government was doing in Vietnam? As Martin Luther King said in his Riverside Church speech in 1967, our government was the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” They can name a holiday for him and put him on the back of $10 bills, but they have to hope that few people today read that speech. Unfortunately, it’s as applicable today as it was then.

J.P.: You were arrested. I’ve never been arrested. What happened? What was it like? Even though I’m guessing you expected it to happen, were you terrified? Satisfied? And what do you remember of your time in jail?

J.M.: I’ve been arrested a number of times, sometimes planned and sometimes unplanned. Unlike friends who were in Parchman jail in Mississippi during the Freedom Rides or in federal prison for draft resistance, my longest stay has been overnight. The one with the best outcome was when I was arrested during the Fry Roofing strike in the summer of 1969 in Portland. The leftist political community and the beginnings of the environmental movement joined in supporting the workers at a factory that combined bad labor practices with terrible pollution. We had a big demonstration that caught the police off guard—surprisingly, because we’d put flyers all over the city. So people stopped scabs from going in and tore down the company fence. Wally Priestley, a distinctly atypical state legislator, drove his car onto the assembly line and shut it down. The next day there weren’t many of us and there were lots of cops. The company had gotten an injunction against blocking the entrance and a police lieutenant delivered it to the union trailer. But we weren’t part of the union, so I shouted, “I haven’t even seen your fucking injunction.” They arrested me for disorderly conduct—this was 6:30 am in the industrial area of Portland, so I’m sure everyone was shocked at hearing the f-word. The arresting cop punched me in the stomach in the cop car to let me know what he would do if “you were my kid.”

Anyway, I had to find witnesses and someone said, “The Sterner girls were there.” So, I met Pat and her sister, Arla. Pat had seen the arrest and said she’d testify but she needed a subpoena to get off work. It turns out she thought I was cute.

The cop never showed up in court, but I still have the subpoena over my desk. It makes a good story when people ask how Pat and I met.

Another time I got arrested on a picket line going to help a friend who was legally blind who had gotten in a fight with someone who was harassing the picket line. Of course, I discovered later that my friend had actually started that fight …

The most recent time was when Amadou Diallo was shot by the NYPD in 1999. That one was a planned arrest with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, blocking the entrance to One Police Plaza. We organized something like 125 Jews, including 15 rabbis, to get arrested, on one day in a series of planned arrests by different groups. It made the front page of the Times because it signaled to Mayor Giuliani that he had lost that battle.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 5.16.01 PM

J.P.: Greatest moment of your life? Lowest?

J.M.: Don’t know yet. Ask me in 30 years if I’m still around. Actually, I don’t think so much about the “greatest” moment as just feeling OK that Pat and I have been able to live our lives the way we’ve wanted to. We were really determined that we wouldn’t stop being activists and taking necessary risks when we had kids and had to worry about schools, and rent or mortgages. And we’ve been able to integrate our politics into our lives on an ongoing basis. I am really happy that my kids turned out to be mensches. I’ve gotten to work with both of them on work-related projects. David and I have worked for almost five years now on “Brown,” a feature screenplay about John Brown, which has been optioned, and with luck may become “a major motion picture coming to a theater near you.”

Lowest moments are those middle-of-the-night times when I think of all the really stupid and silly things I’ve done. Mostly, I’m able to just say, “There’s nothing I can do about them now” and let them go, but sometimes …

J.P.: This might sound like as odd question, but how did you feel about your son going into acting? I mean, here you are, a guy who lived his life fighting, protesting, struggling for change. And your child enters a visual medium with, some could argue, the fleeting impact of temporary enjoyment.

J.M.: I’m much more concerned with what kind of person he’s become. And like I said, he’s a mensch. Entertainment and culture are super-important. As Emma Goldman said, “I don’t want your revolution if I can’t dance.” Working with David on “Brown” has been very exciting. I can imagine a tag line: “Before there was Lincoln, there was Brown.”

Also, there are lots of similarities between being an actor and being an activist. Demonstrations and rallies are true-life performances designed to make a point and both educate and sway people’s emotions.

J.P.: I live in California, and I’m at a loss with the drought. I truly am. It’s the worst in state history, yet nobody seems to care. Sprinklers run, pools are filled, etc … etc. I feel helpless; like I’m screaming into the wind. So what’s a guy to do?

J.M.: Whether it’s the drought or Miami Beach going under water or all the other “climate weirding” things that are happening, you just have to keep screaming. It may feel like your voice is getting carried away by the wind, but if “two and two and fifty make a million” people screaming, there’s an impact. We just have to hope that it’s fast enough.

J.P.: You turn 68 this year. I’m wondering how you feel about aging and the inevitability of death. Does it keep you up nights? Not bother you at all? Do you think, once a final breath is taken you’re simply gone forever, food for the worms? And are you comfortable with that?

J.M.: I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I love reading about the ways it’s been imagined. Two of my favorites are Mark Twain’s “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven” and I.L. Peretz’s “Bontsha The Silent.” I’ll be fine with being worm food, ashes under a tree, but it will also be nice if there’s something totally different from anything we’ve imagined. I’ve gone through the dying process with my parents and with a number of older friends and I’ve seen that a lot of times there comes a point when they say, “I’m tired. I’m ready to go.” And that’s sort of comforting. I definitely believe in a right to die—to pick the time and manner of your death.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 8.31.51 PM


• Five greatest leaders of your lifetime: “Don’t follow leaders/watch your parking meters.” So here are some non-leaders, and as long as I’m disregarding your instructions, here are more than five. The members of SNCC and CORE in the South collectively; Fannie Lou Hamer, Bob Moses, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party; Ella Baker; Dick Gregory; Eleanor Roosevelt; Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Kurt Vonnegut.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Mike Pagliarulo, Bobby Seale, “Dances with Wolves,” Oakland, spray tanning, Robert Loggia, Donna Summer, the smell of mashed potato, Bernie Sanders, Food Network, NFL cheerleaders: I hate rank orders, especially since US News and World Report started doing their stupid rankings of schools and everything else. So (in no particular order) I love the smell of mashed potatoes, feel the Bern, and admire Bobby Seale for starting the Panthers and not falling apart like Huey did. I’m glad the NFL cheerleaders are doing a class action for better pay and workplace rights; Robert Loggia was great in “Big” (and other things). I enjoyed “Dances with Wolves,” until Kevin Kostner ruined it for me a few years later by messing with Lakota land to get even richer. I just don’t understand the compulsion to get rich once you have enough to be comfortable and not to have to worry about not having any money. Don’t know much about Mike Pagliarulo, but can (on some days) recite the 1961 Yankee lineup from memory.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Every time I take off and every time there’s turbulence. I just watch to see when the wing is going to break off and wonder what it will feel like if it actually does.

• What’s the impact on your life of sharing a last name with the Russian capital?: When I was a kid in the early ‘50s, other kids knew the Russians were “bad” and they knew the Nazis were “bad” but they sometimes got them confused, so they would come up and say “Heil Hitler” and laugh. Lots of people seem to think Moscow must be short for Moscowitz, which it isn’t. It’s easy for people to spell once you tell them it’s “the same as the city in Russia.” No one ever spells Jon right even when you tell them.

• Three memories from your first-ever date?: I remember the girl well; I thought it was amazing that she used beer on her hair; and I was totally focused on whether we would kiss good night because that is what was supposed to happen.

• Best advice you ever received?: “Facts don’t speak for themselves.” “Never compare your own insides to someone else’s outside.” “We’re never getting divorced so we might as well make up as soon as possible.”

• Five reasons one should make Portland his/her next vacation destination?: The coast, the Gorge, Mt. Hood, Forest Park, The Lathe of Heaven, Trask, “Roll On, Columbia, Roll On.”

• You wrote, “The Supervisory Selection Process in New York City: A Parent Activist Perspective.” I’m thinking the movie stars Brad Pitt and Emily Watson. You game?: More like a seven-year HBO series. Maybe like “The Sopranos” in a school setting.

• You have a six-page resume. My college journalism professor always told me to keep the resume to one page. Think you can get that to me in a few hours?: Which resume do you want? I’ve got several, all accurate, all different.

• In exactly 22 words, what are your thoughts on Common Core?: Experts developed Common Core in isolation, rushed its introduction, and tied it into destructive testing. Things never turn out how you expect.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.58.48 PM

Peter Gleick

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.58.48 PM

Although I am 100-percent certain man-impacted climate change is one of the great threats facing humanity, I’m often ineloquent in its defense. That’s the problem with having no scientific background—you can digest what’s said, and form your own opinions. But when you’re asked to stand up and make your case, well … eh, it ain’t easy.

Enter: Peter Gleick.

The founder of the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank that provides science-based thought leadership with active outreach to influence efforts in developing sustainable water policies, Dr. Gleick is:

A. The smartest dude to do a Quaz.

B. The perfect person to go deep on the environment.

C. Cool as shit.

I’m particularly happy because Dr. Gleick took the time to answer three questions (all below) submitted by King Wenclas, a huge Donald Trump supporter who seems to believe much (if not all) of the climate talk is hooey (he won’t agree, because deniers rarely agree—but he was pretty much smacked around by ol’ Gleick).

Anyhow, here Peter explains in very detailed-yet-digestible why climate change is real, why listening to Donald Trump is wrong and why he prefers Todd Gurley to Marco Rubio. One can follow Dr. Gleick on Twitter here and read some of his work here and here. Oh, and check out his website here.

Dr. Peter Gleick, yes, the world is melting. But you’re Quaz No. 262!

JEFF PEARLMAN: Peter, I want to start with some seemingly basic, yet somehow not basic at all. Namely, I feel like—at some point in our modern history—it became OK for political leaders to reject science, and then followers would, well, follow. It’s certainly that way with the GOP and climate change. Why do you think this is? Or, put different, why are people so willing to ignore science?

PETER GLEICK: Gee, couldn’t we start with something easy? Like, what’s my favorite color? Wait, I don’t have an easy answer to that one either.

People reject science for different reasons. And while some high-profile scientific findings, like climate change science, are almost exclusively rejected by some Republican leaders and followers, I would note that science denial is not exclusively a problem with the GOP. There are examples where left-leaning politicians and individuals also reject well-understood science. Having said that, the worst science denial certainly has come from the right-wing in recent years. The reasons are varied:

• Sometimes a scientific finding conflicts with a deeply held religious belief. Evolution is an example of this.

• Sometimes it is based solely on ignorance about the extent of knowledge. Not everyone has scientific training, or learns how to evaluate scientific information.

• Sometimes it may conflict with another core belief (“I simply cannot believe that humans can affect something as big as the planet’s climate.”)

• Sometimes there are purely venal economic reasons for rejecting a scientific finding. There is a classic statement attributed to Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Given the massive economic interests that will be affected if we have to stop burning fossil fuels, this is a major driver of climate denial. A lot of money rides on what actions we take to tackle climate change. (Though I’d note that a lot more money rides on our failing to do so.)

• Finally, sometimes people reject science because they fear that if they accept a scientific finding, it will lead to something else they fear worse: stronger government action or higher taxes or a bad outcome over which they have no control.

The science of climate change is incredibly strong. Ninety-seven percent of scientists with any training in climate sciences support the conclusion that human-caused climate change is underway. Every single national academy of sciences on the planet, and every single professional scientific society in the geosciences supports this conclusion as well. The vocal climate denial we see today comes from a tiny number of very well supported and funded interests, and it comes from people who fall into all of the examples above.

J.P.: No one seems willing to flat-out say this, but are we fucked? In other words, is the world doomed to be uninhabitable sooner than later? Or can this possible work itself out?

P.G.: Well, sooner or (really, much later) the sun is going to explode, so, yes, eventually we’re fucked. But that’s not really what you’re asking, is it?  No, I don’t think there is any evidence that the world is doomed to be uninhabitable soon—i.e., for many, many centuries or far longer. It is true, however, that if no action is taken to slow the rate of climate change, things would go off the rails much sooner, for a larger and larger part of our population. The real issue is not the end of the human race; the real issue is misery and poverty for more and more people, dislocation of populations as seas and temperatures rise and force people to move, destruction of natural ecosystems … unfortunately, things can get pretty miserable and dystopian long before the earth is actually uninhabitable.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.01.11 PM

J.P.: So there’s a guy on Twitter, his name is King Wenclas, and he’s the author of a pro-Trump book and a guy who insists man-induced climate change is nonsense. We were having some heated back and forths, and I finally said, “There are people who know much more than I do. I’m having an expert as a Quaz, what do you want me to ask him. So, here’s one: “With credible weather & CO2 records going back less than 200 years, an instant in geological time, isn’t it impossible to say recent warming is NOT natural or cyclical?”

P.G.: So, there’s an old joke: a guy walks into a bar and a bunch of old guys are sitting around drinking. Every now and then, one of them says a number and everyone laughs. Then someone else says a number, and everyone laughs. “What’s going on,” asks the newcomer. “Well, we’re old, long-time friends here and we’ve heard each other’s jokes for so long, we just gave them numbers to make it easier.” (There’s a second funny punchline too, but it’s not relevant to my answer.)

There are so many classic, uninformed, or misleading arguments against the science of climate change that have been repeated so often, that climate scientists have given them numbers. Check out this incredibly useful website, Skeptical Science, that has 193 of the common and esoteric climate misunderstandings and distortions, numbered and summarized, with short and long detailed reasons why they are wrong.

In this case, Wenclas’s argument is addressed by numbers 57 and 58.

There are three fundamental reasons his basic claim about weather and CO2 records is wrong and why the scientific community has clearly ruled out natural or cyclical climate changes:

First, there is an entire field of science called paleoclimatology—basically, the science of ancient climates. We have learning a fantastic amount about ancient climates and how and why they have varied, based on ice cores, fossil records, pollen layers in soils, tree rings, and much more. For example, there is an 800,000-year long highly accurate record of atmospheric temperature and CO2 concentrations taken from ancient ice cores from Antarctica (See the figure). A pretty remarkable thing: it shows the ups and downs from natural changes, but it also shows the explosion in CO2 in the atmosphere from human activities in the past century. And this evidence shows that the current changes are outside of natural variability.

Second, we understand the physics and the theory of how gases in the atmosphere behave, and we understand very well the factors that caused past, natural climate changes. That understanding lets us test what more CO2 and other gases will and are doing. And these past natural factors simply cannot explain current changes, while rising human-emitted gases DO explain them.

Finally, we have extensive observation that support the theory. It isn’t just rising temperatures, it’s everything else we see happening too: rising sea level, disappearing Arctic ice, changes in how birds migrate, moving plant populations, earlier springs, and on and on.

For fun, here is an incredibly cool graphic that shows the warming we’ve seen in the past century or so, and the influences of natural cycles, the sun, and other factors, compared to human influences. It shows beautifully that ONLY human factors fully explain what we see.

J.P.: And here’s another: “As life on earth is completely dependent on the sun, isn’t sun the most likely suspect in any global warming?”

P.G.: 2, 89, 111, 144, 182 (apropos my number joke above, here are the numbers assigned to this by Skeptical Science).

Sure, the sun is a very likely suspect; so likely that scientists have spent great effort looking into this question—and it has been debunked over, and over, and over again. Indeed, “Isn’t it the sun?” is such an old argument that it was given No. 2 on the Skeptical Science website, along with a few other related arguments (the numbers I list above). I won’t summarize them here, but seriously, do skeptics think that scientists haven’t thought of the sun and pretty much every single other possible factor, tested those ideas, and ruled them out? That’s what scientists do.

Look it would be great if humans weren’t responsible—we’d be off the hook and wouldn’t have to change what we’re doing. But once we learn something is bad and it’s our fault, we have an obligation not to bury our heads in the sand and ignore it.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.01.55 PM

J.P.: And lastly, I’ll give him this one: “Computers can’t predict who’ll win the Super Bowl or a horse race or an MMA fight with a minimum of variables. How can they accurately predict climate, with a thousand times more variables?”

P.G.: This is another classic misunderstanding: the confusion between “climate” and “weather.”

It is absolutely true that no computer model can predict the precise weather more than a few days into the future. But “climate” is the long-term average of weather, and climate models can do an excellent job of forecasting future climatic conditions. This is the difference between saying, “There will be a high of 95 degrees and half an inch of rain on February 5, 2083”—which we cannot do, and never will be able to do, versus saying “In the 2080s, the average temperature is going to be around 5 degrees hotter than it is now, seas are going to be around a meter higher, and the Sierra Nevada mountains will have a lot less snow”—which we absolutely can do. And our climate models are getting better every day.

This is, however, a reasonable question in another way. There is a really important “human” component to climate modeling. Just as the “human factor” makes it impossible to accurately predict precise outcomes of sporting events, the human factor limits the ability of climate models. We are getting the physics and climate science down very well in these models (and better all the time), but what happens to future climate also depends on what humans chose to do about it: how much fossil fuel are we going to burn and how fast; how many greenhouse gases are we going to put into the atmosphere; will the countries of the world act to slow emissions, and how soon? These are human/economic/political factors we cannot predict and they will ultimately determine how fast climate changes and how severe the impacts will be.

J.P.: Peter, what’s your life path? I mean, I know you attended Yale to study engineering; know you went to Berkeley for master’s and doctorate; know you are the president and co-founder of Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security. But … when did you know this was what you wanted? How did you know? And when were you first aware of the true peril of climate change?

P.G.: Well, I guess I meander along life’s way, like most people, but I have a basic passion for the environment and science. I had an enlightening conversation with my father when I was young: one day I naively asked him if he could live his life over, what would he do differently, thinking the answer was that he’d not change a thing: he was a lawyer in New York, a good one, with a strong and comfortable family life. Without hesitating, he said he’d be a park ranger in the national parks in the west. This was a huge surprise to me, but what stuck with me was his unspoken message to do what excited me, rather than what anyone else might expect or want.

That has led me to work on climate and water issues from back when I was in graduate school. When I co-founded the Institute, which tackles these issues, I had no idea how long it would last, or whether others would find the idea of doing research and policy work on these difficult problems worthwhile. But here we are, 28 years later, and there is still plenty of interest and plenty to do. I’ve been aware of the threat of climate change since the early 1980s—even then the science was pretty strong and it’s only gotten stronger since then.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.02.32 PM

J.P.: You’ve been pretty outspoken against Donald Trump as the potential president. Why?

P.G.: On a professional level, I judge his positions (to the extent one can even figure out what his positions are) to be completely antithetical to the realities of science, the threats to our environment and planet, and the best interests of the United States.

On a personal level, I find his positions (again, to the extent one can figure them out) on issues like women’s rights, ethnic diversity and immigration, racism, international security, basic economics and basic decency to be despicable.

In short, I find the risks of a Trump presidency to be so grave that I intend to keep speaking out against it.

J.P.: Recently coal has been a pretty hot topic, with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump seeming to pander to miners. But it strikes me that, in 2016, we just need coal to go away. My questions: A. How awful is coal for air quality? B. Do you feel like its eradication as an energy source is inevitable? C. What can we tell miners who are going to lose their jobs? Sources of income?

P.G.: Ha, ha, good pun (hot topic). Yes, coal is a really, really bad fuel—the dirtiest. It’s bad when we dig it out, it’s bad when we burn it, and it’s bad when we dispose of the ash and waste. I do think that the era of coal is ending. There are far better, cleaner, and safer alternatives. But we have a lot of existing coal plants, and many parts of the world depend on them. The challenge is to phase them out as fast as possible and to do so in a way that supports workers in the coal industry. That means retraining and redevelopment in coal mining regions.

It is true, and difficult, when an industry fails and the people who work in that industry lose jobs, but this is not sufficient reason to keep a failing industry going. What did we tell people who manufactured steam locomotives, or telegraphs, or VCRs, or tape decks, or any other industry that became obsolete? This is the free market at work, and if Donald Trump or the GOP truly believed in the free market, they would accept that markets and industries change. Oddly, it seems that Trump would have his government interfere with the market that tells us that coal is on its way out, but would refuse to have his government provide assistance to its workers.

But again, here is some good news: the incredibly rapid expansion of renewable energy: solar and wind in particular, has led to a massive number of new jobs. There are now more people in the United States working in the solar industry than in the coal industry, and this trend will continue.

J.P.: In 1999 you wrote a paper, “The Human Right to Water,” that argued all people deserve safe, clean drinking water. That was 17 years ago. How has the situation changed?

P.G.: This is another area where there is good news! First, though it took years, in 2010 the United Nations formally declared a legal human right to safe water and sanitation. This is a fantastic step forward. The other good news is that while far too many people worldwide still do not have access to safe water, we’re moving in the right direction and the UN has set a goal (one of the “Sustainable Development Goals”) of providing everyone with safe water by 2030.

J.P.: Being serious—how do you sleep? What I mean is, I look around the world and I see soooooo much awfulness and indifference. And I just don’t know what to do; how to enjoy a milkshake when Glacier National Park is disintegrating. Are you able to separate work harshness from personal satisfaction?

P.G.: There is plenty of awfulness and indifference. But there are also so many people committed to trying to do the right thing and make a difference, and I get work satisfaction from tackling difficult problems and seeing progress in the right direction. I’m actually an optimist in the sense that I think we’ll eventually solve these problems of climate change, water scarcity, and environmental injustice. We just have to work as hard as possible so these solutions come sooner rather than later. In the end, we do what we can and we make peace with ourselves. Enjoy your milkshake! (But you’d better go visit Glacier National Park while it still has glaciers.)

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.03.58 PM


• In exactly 23 words, make an argument for scented candles: Scented candles are an abomination, fouling air, assaulting the senses, and probably causing all sorts of horrid diseases. Oh, you meant “for” them?

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Ronald McDonald, Rafael Nadal, Todd Gurley, Poland Springs, “The Breakfast Club,” Marco Rubio, Grateful Dead, corn on the cob, Costco: Grateful Dead, corn on the cob, Rafael Nadal, Todd Gurley, Costco, The Breakfast Club, Ronald McDonald, Poland Springs, Marco Rubio [Rubio might have been ranked higher, except for his endorsement of Donald Trump. I mean, has he no self-respect?]

Donald Trump says there is no drought in California. Why would he say such a thing?: Really, who knows why anything in particular comes out of Trump’s mouth? In this case, it appears he was pandering to some conservative farmers. Oh, and here is the official drought monitor map for California, from the University of Nebraska’s drought center, updated weekly. California’s drought is its worst in 1,200 years, and on top of it, we have nearly 40 million people dependent on the water we have.

• Five all-time favorite scientists?: 1. Eratosthenes (a mathematician, poet, musician and inventor of geography. Also, he was the first person to accurately measure the circumference of the round earth, and he basically did it with a stick.); 2 Albert Einstein (for, well, everything in modern physics. Also that hair.); 3. Charles Darwin (because, evolution.); 4. Galileo Galilei (for speaking scientific truth to religious dogmatism.); 5. Leonardo da Vinci (oh, come on. Have you seen everything he did? I figure he invented a time machine in the future, went back to the past, and got stuck.)

• The world needs to know: How crazy are those US National Academy of Science holiday parties?: The first rule of US National Academy of Science holiday parties is you do not talk about US National Academy of Science holiday parties. The second rule …

• One question you would ask 50 Cent were he here right now: This one stumps me. I met Jay-Z once at a UN event working to solve global water problems and I didn’t know what to ask him either.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No, never.

• Three memories from your high school gym class: Watching Paul beat up Brendon, two years after Brendon picked on him, once Paul reached puberty and grew; watching the girl’s gymnastics team, because, well, girls and gymnastics; lettering in varsity soccer even though my greatest contribution was warming the bench.

• Would you rather permanently change your name to Celine Dion-Analcavity or spend a year listening to Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” seven hours every day on audio?: Can I gouge my eyes out with sharp sticks? Is that a third choice?

• Do you think the Padres made a mistake trading Ozzie Smith for Garry Templeton?: Channeling my late father, who was a die-hard Cardinal fans, the answer to that would have to be a yes, ha, ha, suck it up, Padres.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 4.18.32 PM

Jeff Passan

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 4.18.32 PM

This is the 261st Quaz, and I’ve never had a harder time tracking down pictures of a subject.

I asked Jeff Passan. Asked twice. But in the age of look-at-me journalism, Passan is a strange bird. He doesn’t take selfies. His Twitter stream is loaded with images … of other things. He barely exists on Facebook, and isn’t itching to land his own ESPN show.

In short, the dude is a writer. Period.

Which, truly, is why he’s here. Yes, Jeff’s new book, “The Arm,” is earning rave reviews. And yes, he’s a guy who can speak on life at both a newspaper and a website; who can confidently stroll through Major League clubhouses with one of the medium’s best reputations. But the coolest thing (for my limited money) about Jeff Passan is he brings a high level of craftsmanship to profession that needs it. Words matter to the man. As do transitions, phrases, ledes. He’s a writer’s writer, which makes him my type of guy.

One can order “The Arm” on Amazon, and follow Jeff on Twitter here.

Jeff Passan, welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Jeff, I’m gonna start with a weird one. I think I first became aware of your writing back in the early-to-mid 2000s, when you were covering baseball for the Kansas City Star. You were in your early 20s, had a rep as a writer to keep an eye on, etc. Then you were hired by Yahoo!—big move. So you had this moment where you were an up-and-coming star in the sportswriting world, and now you’re coming on 36, you’ve done this for a good spell. And I wonder, has the reality of the career matched the early hope and dreams and excitement you surely had? In other words, has it all lived up to what you wanted?

JEFF PASSAN: On the contrary, I’d say it has exceeded it. Not a day goes by that I don’t recognize how lucky I’ve been and am. It’s not just the classic I-get-to-write-about-sports-for-a-living answer. Nor simply surviving a business that can eat people up, as it has done to friends and, frankly, to my father toward the end of his 42 years with The Plain Dealer. When I got hired by Yahoo a decade ago, I was a few months from being engaged. Now I’ve got a wife and two kids, and though the job can be terribly demanding, I don’t feel like I miss a lot at home, mainly due to the evolution of the work allowing much of it over the phone. I was hired in 2006 to seek out stories; today I’m expected to break news and render cogent, insightful, informed opinion. At first, I hated it, mainly because I was no good at it, but then I recognized that fighting the business usually ends in unemployment, and this was an opportunity to challenge myself and grow. And I’m so very much better for it.

JEFF PEARLMAN.: Earlier this year you released a book, “The Arm,” that focuses on the mechanics, makeup and importance of a pitcher’s arm. And you clearly busted ass, and the reviews have been outstanding. But you also expressed to be some exasperation over sales; the very familiar, “What more can I do?” author exhale. So I’m curious what the promoting process has been like for you? Do you at all understand what moves books v. what doesn’t? Are you satisfied? Pissed? Grateful? Itchy?

JEFF PASSAN: Satisfied, definitely, because I feel like the content was good. My nonfiction narrative muscles had atrophied because of how the job changed, and I didn’t know whether I was capable of writing 120,000 good words. Once or twice a year I might drop a 5,000-word story, but this — immersing yourself in the lives of two people while drilling into this labyrinthine world around them — helped pull me out of the daily grind that occasionally runs the risk of growing myopic.

Confused, actually, is probably the best word to describe the business aspect. The empathy of those who’ve felt the same should help, but it really doesn’t, because you want yours to be different. You want to be the exception. And when you realize it’s not, it dawns on you: It’s probably because the work wasn’t good enough for it to be the outlier. And then I tell myself to stop being an egomaniacal asshole and understand that this book has a chance to be important to a lot of people, especially kids, and that if its impact extends beyond sales, it’s something worth being proud of.

Oh, and I have no idea what sells books and promotion is cool when you’re on Fresh Air and SportsCenter and madness when you’re talking with radio hosts who haven’t bothered to read even one page and are working off the publicist’s bullet points.

JEFF PEARLMAN: I love the idea behind “The Arm,” because it seems so tight and narrow. Yet it also seems like it could have been a tough sell, convincing publishers, “You know what I wanna write a book on—pitching arms.” So was it? How hard/easy was landing a deal? And how did you go about it?

JEFF PASSAN: I procrastinated my way into a deal. I started reporting the book in May 2012. I didn’t sell it until September 2014. I wanted two really good sample chapters and a super-thorough proposal since this was my first solo book. Todd Coffey surgery in July 2012, which I thought was going to be Chapter 3 but ended up being Chapter 1, was a gimme. I happened to be there when Daniel Hudson blew out his elbow for the second time in June 2013, and after that, I knew I had my second great chapter. Between my job at Yahoo and continuing to report the book, though, I didn’t feel all that compelled to sell the book. I ran the risk that someone tries to jump the market, but I’d been working on it long enough that I knew it wasn’t something you could crash. So I spent a good portion of the next year honing it, got always-sage advice from my agent, Jay Mandel, met with nine publishers in New York, received six offers and ended up, funny enough, at HarperCollins, with whom I hadn’t even met.

JEFF PEARLMAN: What’s your writing process? You’re working on a story, or a column, or some chapters. Where do you write? When? Music? Food? Details?

JEFF PASSAN: I like, to my editors’ chagrin, writing at night. Often late. As the timestamp on this email will affirm. I’m often on my couch. Sometimes at my kitchen table. My wife bought a beautiful mid-century desk, where I did a lot of The Arm, but I always tend to gravitate back toward the main hub of our house, much to her discontent. I almost always listen to music. I’ll play the same song on loop. It almost turns into white noise. Sometimes it’s whole albums, like Explosions in the Sky’s “The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place” or Alice in Chains’ “Jar of Flies” or Beck’s “Morning Phase.” I’ve listened to “Optimistic” by Radiohead for 44 hours, 51 minutes and “Everlong” by Foo Fighters for 38 hours, 49 minutes, according to iTunes. Apparently I’ve spent nearly a week of my life listening to the Explosions in the Sky record on this computer alone, which frightens me. I like eating high-protein snacks (beef jerky, spoonfuls of peanut butter). I drink too much Coke Zero. It’s my vice and salvation.

JEFF PEARLMAN: You attended Syracuse, I attended Delaware. I wanted to attend Syracuse for journalism, but didn’t get in the program. So I wound up a Blue Hen, and always considered it a blessing, because the journalism program was small and I was quickly covering DI basketball and a football program that produced a ton of NFL players. And there was little wait, little paying my dues. I didn’t have to beat out 100 other aspirants. But I’ve always also felt that, perhaps, I missed out. So what was the Syracuse experience for you? Is it what it’s hyped up to be?

JEFF PASSAN: The school itself? Nah. I mean, I was an idiot. George Saunders taught at Syracuse and I didn’t have any idea who he was. I scheduled my classes so a) I had Fridays off and b) I didn’t have to wake up before 10. The newspaper? Let’s put it this way: When I was sports editor in fall 2000, our staff included Greg Bishop, Eli Saslow, Chico Harlan, Darryl Slater, Mike Rothstein, Pete Iorizzo, Chris Carlson and two tremendous ex-sportswriters, Chris Snow and Dave Curtis. Pete Thamel was my first editor. Adam Kilgore arrived the year after I graduated. No greater education exists for a wannabe journalist than daily newspapering, and The Daily Orange taught me more than my father, my classes or anything since.

I don’t know that’s unique to Syracuse, though. Where we differed, I think, was that we rarely let our self-interest get in the way of our shared goals. I still consider everyone on that staff a friend and am so proud to see their successes.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 11.33.30 PM

JEFF PEARLMAN: I’m working on a book about the USFL, and I keep asking players, “Did you know the league was dying?” You worked at a newspaper before Yahoo! So I ask, did you know newspapers were dying? And if so, how?

JEFF PASSAN: When I went to Yahoo, I fully expected to spend two years there and end up back at a newspaper as a columnist. Because, in my mid-20s, I was still an idiot. (Sense a theme here?) Know who saw the future? Dan Wetzel and Adrian Wojnarowski. Wetz is the smartest person in the business simply in terms of understanding readers and story. And Woj changed the business by legitimizing the insider role on the web and leveraging social media for its greatest use. I remain in awe of their work and their work ethic, and I curse them for setting the standard at Yahoo so high that the rest of us can be at our very best and still look mediocre by comparison.

JEFF PEARLMAN: This might sound weird, but we’re in the midst of a hellish presidential election. The climate is doing some crazy shit. Police hostilities are on the rise. We’re a violent people with guns and more guns. And yet, you and I write about sports. I’ve gone through many phases where I’ve thought, “Why am I doing something so … trivial and socially meaningless?” They don’t last, but the ponderings definitely come and go. How about you? Are you ever midway through, oh, Astros-Brewers thinking, “What the fuck am I doing here?”

JEFF PASSAN: Sports is going to be covered. I think I cover it well. People seem to derive satisfaction from my work. I’m ultimately a pragmatist, and the combination of the enjoyment I get from my job, the quality people with whom I work, the flexibility and the compensation make it best for me right now. I’d be lying, though, if I said I didn’t sometimes think about what’s going on in Kansas, where I live, and wonder why I don’t at very least lend my voice to oppose the clown show in Topeka. My kids might not have schools to go to in August, and it’s because Sam Brownback, the miserable excuse for a governor Kansans somehow elected twice, turned the state into the living embodiment of Republican policy run amok.

The truth is, I don’t know that I’m smart enough to wade in those waters, so I tend to avoid them even though the platform my job affords me would allow me to have a voice. I fear I’d be a zealot, and the last think politics needs is more zealotry.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 4.18.47 PM

JEFF PEARLMAN: Do you ever feel guilty slamming or dogging people? And how much/how hard do you debate whether a tone is too harsh?

JEFF PASSAN: No, because I think I’ve found the right tenor for most subjects, and having written baseball for 13 years now, there’s almost a trust with readers where they understand if I’m going off on someone, it’s not half-cocked. For example, I’m reporting a column right now that is going to be pretty righteously indignant. I tend to save those only for the cases that warrant it, though, whereas when I was finding my voice early on at Yahoo, I might empty both barrels at a subject that probably deserved an Airsoft pellet.

JEFF PEARLMAN: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

JEFF PASSAN: Like I said earlier, I’m really lucky. My lowest moment wasn’t even low. It happened when I was 21 and The Washington Post said it didn’t want to hire me after my internship there. I’ve worked at great papers in Fresno and Kansas City. I’ve been fortunate enough to be at Yahoo for coming up on 11 years. The greatest moment, I think, was when I typed the last words of “The Arm.” I did it. I actually did it. Holy shit. I did it.

JEFF PEARLMAN: I always find the book-writing process to be a weird merging of pleasure pain. Joy-frustration-joy-frustration. I scream, curse, cry, scream, eat. What was it like for you, soup to nuts?

JEFF PASSAN: I don’t do well with stress, and roller-coastering emotions stress me out, so I do everything I can to avoid it, and I usually succeed. I won’t write another book with a full-time job again. That was pretty stupid and unfair to my poor wife. The smartest thing I did was bring aboard two wonderful college kids, Blake Schuster and Mike Vernon, who transcribed every tape for me and saved me hundreds of hours I could devote to outlining and writing. (And watching YouTube videos of old wrestling matches and wasting time countless other ways. Sorry, guys.) I’d say about 65,000 words were finished two weeks before my deadline over a 10-day period in Phoenix, where I went to stay at my parents’ house when they were on vacation so I could get some peace and quiet away from the kids and spend 18 hours writing and six sleeping every day.

This is a disjointed mind dump, which I suppose is as good a metaphor for the first draft of a book as any.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 4.19.59 PMQUAZ EXPRESS WITH JEFF PASSAN:

• Five most talented athletes you’ve ever seen?: Bo Jackson, Usain Bolt, Brock Lesnar, LeBron James, Tiger Woods.

• How do you feel about your first name?: I’m glad it’s not Geoff.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Ryan Howard, Olaf the Snowman, Orange County Register, fudge, AC/DC, Vince McMahon, lacrosse, Kenny Landreaux, Frank “Ponch” Poncherello, San Diego Zoo: Fudge, Vince McMahonAC/DClacrosse, San Diego Zoo, Ryan Howard, Orange County Register, Kenny Landreaux, Frank “Ponch” Poncherello, Olaf the Snowman.

• One question you would ask Michele Bachmann were she here right now?: What is wrong with you?

• We give you one series at quarterback, right now, with the San Diego Chargers. Can you complete a pass?: If I’m being honest with myself, probably not. I can throw a perfectly fine 15-yard out. I just have that much respect for the speed of the defensive linemen and the quality of cornerbacks. Plus I’m only 5-foot-9.

Bud Selig—great commissioner or awful commissioner?: Good commissioner.

• I’m freaking out about the drought? Tell me why I’m overreacting (or not): You’re not. The environment is our single greatest crisis, by far, and we’re willfully blind to it.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Nope.

• Three memories from your Bar Mitzvah: Crushing my torah and haftarah portions, dancing with Mary Lamancusa, buying my first computer with the money from presents.

• The next president of the United States will be?: Hillary Clinton. And not because I’m particularly enamored of her as a candidate or person. Just beats the alternative.