Jeff Pearlman

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Category Archives: QUAZ

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Bill May

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 1.41.04 AMI’ve long been a fan of Bill May—one of the best athletes many readers have likely never heard of.

Back in the late 1990s, when I was an up-and-comer at Sports Illustrated, Bill made for great copy. He was a young athlete who competed in synchronized swimming—a sport normally reserved for women. And he was extraordinary. Bill was named the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Athlete of the Year in 1998 and 1999. However, he also battled and battled and battled for respect and admittance into events. Sometimes he won these fights (he was allowed to participate in the Goodwill Games). Often (like his efforts to compete in the 2004 Summer Olympics) he lost. However, throughout his career, he carried himself with remarkable dignity and grace.

Plus, he was an absolutely amazing jock.

These days, Bill lives in Las Vegas, where he performs in Cirque du Soleil‘s spectacular water-based show, O.

Bill May, to hell with Olympic glory. You’ve been Quazed …

JEFF PEARLMAN: You’re the best male synchronized swimmer I ever covered. You’re the only male synchronized swimmer I ever covered. I’m wondering, a decade removed from the hubbub and fuss and craziness over your involvement in the sport, can you understand the arguments and concerns of those against your participation in an otherwise all-female sport? Or are you more dumbfounded?

BILL MAY: I think being removed from competition and having even a broader spectrum of life in general makes me question even more the limitations of men in synchronized swimming. Synchronized swimming often gets a bad reputation for being all beauty and no athleticism. Some people still have the vision of Esther Williams’ movies in their head. (However, if  you watch the Esther Williams movies, she is always accompanied by a male partner). I think limiting any sport’s growth, limits awareness and numbers, and without growth the sport will die. Men add a certain partnership and masculinity to the sport that cannot be achieved with two women. “If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got.”

J.P.: How did this happen? How does a guy become a synchronized swimmer? What was your path from womb to pool?

B.M.: I never chose to make an uproar in synchronized swimming. I, like every kid who starts out doing a sport, was drawn to this particular sport for the pure love of it. It just happened, on accident, that it was a female dominated sport. The first day Michael Phelps began swimming, he didn’t do so with the knowledge or even the coherence  that he would one day be the most recognized athlete of all time … he loved to swim and that’s what made him who he is.

I was a gymnast and thought I would, one day, go to the Olympics for that. I would do anything to go. However …

One day my sister wanted to try this strange sport of synchronized swimming. I knew nothing about it, but I thought I would give it a try. It was a recreational program at a community poo . From the time I was 9-weeks old I was in the pool, so I already knew I loved the water. Also, there were other guys doing it, so instead of sitting and watching, I thought I would give it a try. I thought It would be just for the summer and I would go back to gymnastics and soon the Olympics. At the end of the summer a local coach asked if any of us would like to join her competitive team. I agreed, even though I was the worst of the bunch, but still wasn’t too serious. I was only 10 and I didn’t realize there were not guys all over doing it, but I enjoyed it and could still do that and gymnastics at the same time. It was a win win situation.  Over time I just became more and more serious about the sport and eventually had to choose between synchronized swimming and gymnastics, and I chose to swim.

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J.P.: Why would it have been fair to let a man swim against women in the Olympics? Aren’t there physical advantages you’d have?

B.M.: I think it is fair, at the present time, because there is not another category for men to compete separately in the Olympics, or other major international competitions. Synchronized swimming consists of a lot of physical strength and endurance, but also combines other aspects that one could argue would be an advantage to women—such as flexibility or floatability. I believe that people’s energy would be better spent not worrying about their own prejudice and misconceptions, but rather be proactive in creating an atmosphere for the growth of the sport.

J.P.: What is the joy of synchronized swimming? What I mean is—what’s the appeal? The jolt? The buzz? What did it do for you?

B.M.: Synchronized swimming is about pushing every single muscle in your body to its limits. It combines so many aspects of multiple sports that it’s a constant challenge. You have to have the grace and flexibility of a dancer, the agility of a gymnast, the aerobic capacity of a runner, and the efficiency of a swimmer. These must all be combined to perfection with out air and in an unstable, ever changing medium of water.

I also love the creation and performance aspects. You are constantly creating athletic performances to transform yourself into whatever you can imagine, to share your visions with your spectators. I have been a spider, a deconstructed human body, a storm, an exploration in the psychiatric mind, an angel and demon, and the list goes on. It’s a constant exploration of your own imagination and actually lets you show off the countless hours of hard work you have been doing.

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J.P.: You’ve worked with Cirque du Soleil since Jan. 1, 2005. This fascinates me—how’d you hear of the gig? Land the gig? And does it fill the void left when you stopped competitive swimming?

B.M.: I was actually contacted by Cirque. I work for Cirque Du Soleil’s O, which is a water show in Las Vegas. The show was created with two of the few male synchronized swimmers at the time, so when a spot opened I was fortunate enough to fit the requirements. That was actually an advantage of being a male in synchronized swimming. Due to the fact that there weren’t many male synchronized swimmers, it was gave me an amazing opportunity to be the only male in one of the most renowned shows in the world.

However, oddly enough, I only do two synchronized swimming routines in the show. The rest of the show, I spend my time moving about the stage as what could be described as a moving shoulder contortionist character called the “Waiter.” Each Cirque Du Soleil show has a core of characters that appear throughout the show and oddly bind the show together. One of them is me.

J.P.: You perform 476 shows per year—which seems the equivalent of Hall and Oates playing Maneater 476 times per year. How does it not ultimately bore the shit out of you? Doesn’t it get dull and painfully repetitive?

B.M.: At first glance, 476 shows a year seems overwhelming, but considering all the variables changes the entire outlook. Each night there is just as much of a show back stage as there is on stage. Everyone is talking about their daily life, which in the circus, is very entertaining. Also each and every show has a different audience with creates a different show or energy. We are like snowflakes … from a distance the show may look the same, but in reality, each and every show is beautiful and unique from the one before.

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J.P.: You’re approaching age 35. I’m wondering how, as a swimmer, this impacts you. Where do you feel age the most, physically? Emotionally? Does aging bother you at all? The inevitability of gray and wrinkles and card games at the senior living facility?

B.M.: I think the older I get the more experienced I get. I’m training just as hard as I ever have.  Presently, along with training for the shows, I am training for a 10K swim race, so some days I will swim more than 10k in one workout. The last 10k race I did, I became the USMS National Champion. So there is no slowing down for me.

Age doesn’t bother me, nor do I think there is an age cap for anything. I may have a few more wrinkles, but those come from sun damage, doing what I love to do … spending my days training in a pool! I train every day in flexibility, core strength, technique and physical conditioning. I believe if you continue a regime, there is no stopping the momentum, no matter your age.

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

B.M.: I have so many incredible moments from my career, but I think one very special moment was my opportunity to compete at the last Goodwill Games that involved synchronized swimming. It was the only international competition on the Olympic level in which I could compete. I did a duet with one of the best synchronized swimmers of all time, Kristina Lum. It was the first time a “Mixed Pair” performed and competed on the world’s stage.

Another moment happened at a competition in Germany. There was a federation from a different country who petitioned against me swimming. The organizing committee simply told them that I was welcomed to compete, and if they didn’t like that, they could leave. It was a powerful moment because I truly felt welcomed as an athlete, rather than a “man in a women’s sport”, and that there is respect for male synchronized swimmers. This gave me hope for the future of the involvement of men in synchronized swimming.

One of the lowest moments of my career was the opportunity to go to the Pan American Games, which are like the Olympics of North, Central and South America. There was a voting whether or not to allow me (men) to compete, because there were no prior limitations, and they voted against it. There were not many men competing at that level at the time, so it was a very personal decision against my career that could have easily been voted in favor of my involvement.

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J.P.: I have to ask—gimme the grossest pool story of your lifetime …

B.M.: One of the grossest stories of all time was a day at training in Southern California. I was at the side of the pool at one moment and I saw something on the bottom. I wasn’t doing anything at the time and thought it was a rock and I would pick it up and throw it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a rock, but a “floater,” a “chocolate log,” a “snickers bar” … yup, a big piece of poop. We all had to clear the pool, and they had to shock the pool to sanitize it with enough chemicals to burn the hair off our head. However, unfortunately we had an exhibition of routines that night so we had to swim because it was also a fundraiser. We also had a road trip planned to Vegas that night after the show. Our eyes were in so much pain and so bloodshot and clouded over, I think we were driving Braile. We couldn’t see anything for two days!

J.P.: Can anyone be great at swimming? Being serious—my daughter, for example, is pretty unathletic, with limited endurance. Does she have a shot in the pool? What about overweight kids? Etc …

B.M.: I am a complete optimist, so I think if anyone works hard enough they can achieve anything. If you’re overweight or underweight, swimming is a good source of exercise to tone and or add muscle in a very healthy form of physical fitness.

I work hours a day on my flexibility. If I were slow, I would work more to increase my speed. If I didn’t move well or fluidly, I would take a dance class to improve. I look at shortcomings as a challenge that people overcome.

There is no guarantee that anyone who begins a sport will be Olympic champion, but until you give your all, you will never know. There are athletes everywhere who begin their career for the love of the sport with no guarantees. The love and hard work is what creates champions, not an Olympic Gold Medal. People become great at something because they choose to be great and work hard at achieving greatness.  So yes, I believe anyone can be amazing, at any sport.

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• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? What do you recall?: Nah … not really. For some reason, the second I sit in my seat, I fall asleep. I would be in Heaven, or the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory before I realized we crashed

• Who wins in a hold-your-breath-underwater battle between you and Michael Phelps? And how long can you last?: I already know I would win. Synchronized swimmers could rock any swimmer. The longest I have held my breath was 3:30, but if it was a win or lose situation, I’m not coming up!

• Explain how Aquaman could possibly beat Superman in a fight?: Well, Superman is pretty incredible, so Aquaman would have to drag him to the bottom of the ocean and strap him down with Kryptonite. Or he could challenge him to a synchronized swimming routine.

• Rank in order (favorite to least):  Donna Summer, Mark Spitz, High School Musical II, lava lamps, Darth Vader, Burt Reynolds, Pete Rose, elephants, Denzel Washington, Jim Boeheim, steak: Mark Spitz, Donna Summer, Jim Boeheim, Elephants, Lava Lamps, Darth Vader, Steak, Denzel Washington, Burt Reynolds, High School Musical II, Pete Rose.

• Dry, heat, gambling, middle of nowhere—Las Vegas seems like a brutally awful place to live. Tell me why I’m wrong (or right): Cirque Du Soleil’s “O.”  Duh….

• Celine Dion calls. She offers you $20 million next year to move onto her estate and teach her pet guinea pig to swim. The catch—You sleep in a dog house and eat everything out of a dog dish. You in?: Heck yes!!! I have done way worse for way less!

• Five favorite movies: Titanic, Lion King, Frozen, Breakfast Club, Legend. Oops… and No. 6 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—Gene Wilder’s version.

• Your name is pretty boring. If you could change “Bill May” to anything, what would you take?: My “porn” name: Aaron Torchwood

• What happens when we die?: We go to Heaven/Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory

• One question you would ask James Garfield were he here right now?: Shouldn’t you be in Heaven/ Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory????

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Joseph Nicolosi

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 6.46.44 PMWhat I love most about the Quaz is the chance to understand those I don’t understand.

Yeah, I dig having the sagas of journalists fill this space. But I get journalism, just as I get baseball players and sports agents. The best Quazes tend to be folks I neither grasp nor appreciate. People like Rocky Suhayda and Linda Ensor. I want to understand who they are; what serves as motivation; how and when certain ideas entered their heads.

The same goes for this week’s Quaz, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi—a man who tries to help homosexuals become straight.

I want to make this clear—I disagree, strongly, with Dr. Nicolosi’s beliefs. I don’t think homosexuality is a choice, I don’t think homosexuality is sinful and I certainly don’t think it’s curable. However, as I watched various YouTube clips of Dr. Nicolosi’s appearances, I found myself cringing. Instead of trying to understand the dude, most reporters seem to go after him with bullshit questions and underhanded motives. They were more interested in landing a jab than comprehending a perspective.

That’s not what the Quaz is about. Hence, I promised Dr. Nicolosi an open ear, if not a fully open mind. It’s important to give folks a chance to speak—even folks we don’t agree with. So, with that, I welcome Dr. Joseph Nicolosi to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So I’m reading through your website, and I’ve come to an interesting realization. It doesn’t seem like you’re saying, “If you’re gay, you need to stop being gay.” You’re saying, “If you’re gay, and you don’t want to be gay, maybe I can help.” Am I wrong on that distinction? And do you feel like people often accuse you of promoting something you don’t actually promote?

JOSEPH NICOLOSI: I certainly do not say, “If you’re gay, stop being gay,” But I do say more than, “If you’re gay, and you don’t want to be gay, maybe I can help.” What I actually say is this:

On a deeper level, here is no such thing as “gay” … “gay” is a popular cultural mythology. Except in very rare medical cases, our bodies have been designed for the opposite sex. This means everyone is designed for heterosexuality. But some heterosexuals have a homosexual problem. Given the fact that you are a heterosexual with a homosexual problem, it’s your choice if you want to participate in the popular cultural myth that you are “gay.” If that’s your wish, I wouldn’t interfere with your lifestyle, nor would I be disrespectful of your right to your own view.  But here, I would remind people who disagree with what I say: “Diversity includes me.”

J.P.: The opening question being said, there are many, many, many people who believe one is born gay, and that you can change that when you start changing a person’s skin color, or nation of origin. They believe gay isn’t a choice–it’s who a person is. To be honest, I agree with this. Tell me why I’m wrong.

J.N.: You’re wrong because scientists know that as complex a behavioral pattern as sexual preference cannot be explained by just a gene. A gene explains one’s characteristics like hair color or height. But claiming that there is a gay gene would be like saying there is a “violin virtuoso gene.” To be a great violin player requires many genes, some for eye-hand coordination, finger dexterity, pitch discrimination, rhythm and discipline to study; and it requires a certain kind of environment and life experiences that foster this skill, as well as a whole cascade of personal attitudes and choices along the way. You believe it is solely a matter of genetics, not because you studied the evidence, but because were told this myth repeatedly by the popular media. Gay-activist groups have conducted many studies that show the general public is more accepting of homosexuality if they believe it is biologically determined.

I don’t believe people choose to have homosexual feelings. It is, instead, something they gradually discover within themselves. But some people can choose to reduce their unwanted homosexuality and develop their heterosexual potential. And so, while the gay gene myth serves the purpose of social acceptance, it censors information for those who want to work toward some degree of change. The ex-gay movement attempts to convey the message that people can and do change; one such network of ministries, which are Christian-based, is Restored Hope Network.

There is a strong body of evidence—dating back many years, because it is not politically acceptable to do such research any more—leading to the conclusion that male homosexuality is strongly rooted in the family environment. Over and over we see an intrusive mother and an emotionally distant, uninvolved father who, as a couple, interfere (of course, quite unintentially) with the boy’s masculine identity development. There are varying versions of this scenario, of course. But if people were born with a gay gene, and that’s the end of that—“done!”–then why do they have such similar family dynamics? We are not supposed to talk about such things.

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J.P.: In 2002 you wrote a book titled, “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.” The thesis, in a sense, seems to be: “We are gay because of disruptions in relationships with our same-sex parent, which causes a gender dysphoria and incomplete sense of maleness/femaleness.” I have two young children. Should I so desire, what are the beginning steps I can take to make sure they’re not gay.

J.N.: If you believe, as you say, that people are born gay, then there is nothing you can do. Kick back and watch what happens. But evidence shows that the parent-child relationship is the primary determinant of the child’s gender identity, and gender identity greatly influences adult sexual orientation. A meta-analyis, which is a statistical average of all studies, shows about a 75% correlation between gender identity disorder and adulthood homosexuality, bisexuality or transgenderism. Parents are not being told this sort of information because of the powerful gay activist agenda.

To assure your son becomes straight, be sure you establish and maintain a secure emotional bond with him, from which he will identify with your masculinity. As we say, a bit simplistically of course, but with a lot of truth: “Hug your son, or another man will.” If your child is a girl, you will want your wife to bond firmly with your daughter but not to interfere with her individuation, as some narcissistic mothers unintentionally do; this can lead to lesbianism . You want your daughter to internalize a secure sense of her femininity.

J.P.: Why wouldn’t I want my kids to be gay? Serious question that fascinates me. Is it because being gay is a more difficult existence? Because it’s sinful? Both? Neither? Because, to be totally honest, I don’t care if they’re gay or straight. Literally doesn’t concern me.

J.N.: Assuming you don’t believe we were designed for heterosexuality and you have no traditional religious beliefs (what you are saying implies this is true), then I would speak to you from a practical point of view. The fact is that this is a heterosexual world. Most parents would rather have their children grow up to live a heterosexual lifestyle. These parents are not “homophobic,” but they know that it is easier to be with 98 percent of the population versus being part of 2 percent of the population. (The percentage of homosexuality is not 10 percent, as gays have been telling America for 50 years. ) As one father said to me: “Living as a heterosexual is hard enough.”

And there are significantly higher levels of mental-health disturbance and addiction in the gay population. Many studies show that there is greater stress and dysfunction among homosexuals compared to heterosexuals including greater drug and alcohol abuse, more depression, suicide attempts, promiscuity (mainly among gay males), failed relationships, sado-masochism and other “exotic” sexual practices, etc.

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J.P.: I know you graduated from the New School for Social Research (M.A.) and received your Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology, Los Angeles. But how did this path happen for you? As in, womb to now, how did you become a therapist, and one who assists gays become un-gay?

J.N.: I never thought much about the subject. During my eight years of training toward a Ph.D. in clinical psychology there was never a word spoken about the causes and treatment of homosexuality. It was not P.C. to even ask the question in graduate training. So I was unprepared, as I began my private practice, to help some clients with unwanted same sex attraction. So like any good therapist, I just listened and empathized. But as I listened to their stories, I began to hear common themes of childhood hurtful relations. For the male clients, it was a deep disappointment with an emotionally detached father and an excessively close but frustrating relationship with an intrusive mother. If there was an older brother, it was a feared, hostile relationship. That is exactly what Freud observed, over 100 years ago, but no one was talking about it. As I began to look in to the old psychoanalytic literature, this family pattern was repeatedly reported up until the gay rights movement of the 70’s. Then suddenly all psychological investigation stopped. Suddenly everyone was told it was a gay gene and you were a hating homophobe is you dared question the gay gene myth. If you were an unhappy homosexual, you were told, “You have no choice, celebrate your gayness.” Fortunately today there is greater visibility of the ex-gay movement.

J.P.: How do you know when someone is cured? Is there a moment? A breakthrough? Are there many relapses? Like alcoholism, do you view this as a lifelong battle?

J.N.: Treatment is a slow and difficult process, and there is a certain degree of lifelong maintenance necessary, as with treatment for any deep-seated condition (drug, alcohol and eating disorders fall into the same category). I’ll not pretend there is any “quick fix.” But some unhappy homosexually oriented people are willing to do the hard work and they should be allowed to do so. Unfortunately, some clients will be unsuccessful in changing no matter how hard they try, but most will experience a significant reduction in their same-sex attractions and some will experience an increase in their opposite-sex attraction. In most cases, some same-sex attractions recur under periods of stress, but they will be manageable. In a few cases there will be absolutely no homosexual attractions remaining at all.

J.P.: I think you’d agree that the gay rights movement has moved at a pretty phenomenal pace the past decade or so. Legally, socially. How has this impacted your work? Your practice?

J.N.: There continues to be a population of men and woman who feel a deep dissatisfaction with their homosexual behavior, not just out of religious guilt or social pressure, but because it just doesn’t feel right for themselves. A gay lifestyle doesn’t work for them. No amount of gay-pride rhetoric will change their deepest desire for conventional marriage and family.

J.P.: You’ve been branded a homophobe myriad times. What do you say to people who think, “This guy clearly hates gays”?

J.N.: Accusations of “hate” shut down discussion. Today, facts and philosophical discussion mean nothing. Identity politics and personal stories trump science. So whoever is the most offended wins the argument. The consequence is that people are deprived of making an informed choice about how they can live their lives.

By the way, get ready for the nasty letters. You too will be called a “hating homophobe” just for allowing this interview.

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J.P.: What is an early therapy session like? What I mean is—I’m gay, I don’t want to be gay, I make an appointment. How does it go from there? What’s the process?

J.N.: Each session begins with the therapist asking: “What do you want to work on today?” and each session should end with: “What did you learn about yourself today?” What happens in-between is the outcome of a collaborative relationship. The therapeutic alliance, which is the foundation of treatment, is when the therapist and client work together toward goals and objectives defined by the client. The client must always feel in control of the session. The therapist asks questions and offers interpretation for the client to consider.

As treatment progresses, the client and the therapist find links between childhood shame events—what we call “shame trauma”—and present-day same-sex attractions.  For the male, these “shame traumas” typically involve painful rejection from father, brothers or peers and include emotional, physical or sexual abuse. The result of these shame traumas is the client’s taking upon himself negative self-labels communicated to him in those moments. These negative self-labels typically involving male identity: “I am not male enough.” “I am not good enough to be accepted by other males.”

The client begins to see the connection between these moments of rejection and his present-day desire for what we call “The Three A’s”—attention, affection and approval, which are the emotional foundations of sexual attractions. He begins to understand that sexual contact is a substitute for authentic male affirmation.

Along with this we encourage close male friendships with straight guys. The client will often discover that if he becomes friends with a guy he is attracted to, the sexual attraction disappears. If the client reports sexual feelings for another guy, I will encourage him to make friends with him. He will often discover that friendship cancels out sexual feelings. I remember a teenage boy in his first session reporting that he was sexually attracted to a guy on the football team. I suggested he make friends with him. “No,” he said, “if I do, then I’ll lose the attraction.” He never read Freud, but he knew.

This might explain why gay male relationships don’t last, or if they do, they almost inevitably become open relationships. The familiarity diminishes the mystique. There is no heterosexual equivalent, since the opposite sex is always mysterious.

J.P.: It seems like there’s a very close tie between the anti-homosexuality movement and devout Christianity. How much of your work is based upon your own religious upbringing? And what role does faith play in your therapy? Can an agnostic Satan worshiper come to you for assistance?

J.N.: While I am a Catholic and cannot deny how my faith has shaped my worldview, the therapy is science-based. Here, theology and psychology are compatible. The therapy is psychodynamic and while the majority of our clients are religious, quite a few are not. Besides, this therapy is not anti-anything. It’s about choice.

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• You’ve appeared on Dr. Drew’s Show. My wife and I talk about him all the time. How can you diagnose a celebrity’s problem with a TV studio 2,000 miles away? Doesn’t that violate some professional code?: Actually, I found Dr. Drew to be very fair and open minded. He respectfully gave me the opportunity to express my views. He seemed particularly interested in the idea that homosexuality is trauma-based. I wish I could say the same for other TV hosts.

• Five reasons one should make Encino, California his/her next vacation destination?: Encino has a wonderful cultural mix. Where else can you find so many sushi-deli’s?

• Rank in order (favorite to least): chai tea latte, Disney Land, Rock Hudson, Jimmy Fallon, Alonzo Mourning, Batman, Ice Cube, Saved By the Bell, Michele Bachmann, The Rock, John Stamos: I don’t recognize most of these names. I’m totally out of the popular culture. I don’t listen to any music written after 1924, the year Puccini died. Maybe Sinatra, if I’m feeling edgy.

• Five all-time favorite movies: Anything directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne.

• Thoughts on Michael Sam as an openly gay NFL player? OK with it? Should he not be allowed?: Much ado about nothing. It’s his life, let him live it. But he may want to consider looking at his childhood traumas.

• Why do you think pay phones still exist?: It’s the only place where you can pretend to be talking to someone as an excuse to have a little time alone.

• Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me. What do you think of him?: You must be desperate for questions.

• The best advice you ever received was …: If you are not sure what to do as a therapist, listen to your client.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Dr. Phil? What’s the result?: He actually was very gracious when I was on his show. My mother loves Dr. Phil and watches him every day. She once said to me: “Joseph, you should watch Dr. Phil, you could learn a lot.”

• I met a guy yesterday who said he doesn’t drink soda because of the health risks—but then went out to smoke a cigarette. Am I morally allowed to punch him in the head?: The down side of a democracy is that people are allowed to self-destruct.

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Amanda Lucci

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 5.46.56 PMI hate celebrity.

I hate, hate, hate, hate it. I hate red carpets, I hate big event gift bags, I hate autograph hounds and sunglasses indoors and bodyguards for the sake of bodyguards.

I. Fucking. Hate. It.

But I love discussing this hate, and why we—as a people—are all about the famous who lord above us. Hence, I sought out the lovely Amanda Lucci for this week’s Quaz. Amanda covers famous folks for the Daily Mail, and her Tweets are often fired off like rounds from a Glock. Bieber—BAM! Gaga—BAM! Kardashian—BAM! Pitt—BAM! On the one hand, I wonder how her brain hasn’t melted. On the other hand, well, she’s damn good at her job. One can follow Amanda on Twitter here, and catch her website here.

Amanda Lucci, welcome to the magical land of Quaziwood …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Amanda, your job is to cover celebrity. My question is—why do we give a shit? I don’t mean that snidely, or as some holier-than-thou ordinance. But, really, why do we give a shit who Jared Lito is dating, or what Taylor Swift did with her hair? Are we that bored? Are our lives lame? Is there something more?

AMANDA LUCCI: An interest in something trivial doesn’t always mean that we’re bored or lame. I think a lot of people read celebrity gossip because it’s an escape from whatever is going on in their probably very fulfilling if sometimes complicated lives. It’s the same reason people binge watch stuff on Netflix. I mean you might be bored, or lame, but you also gotta give your brain a break sometimes.

I think people also care, at least today, because celebrities are so accessible now. Even for casual fans, something as simple as following an actor or musician you like on social media gives you a completely different insight into who they are that you never used to get. So if it comes out that that person broke up with the girl they were posting selfies with every day, you want to know why.

Anyways, there’s a million more scientific reasons why people are drawn to celebrity but I think most of us just like celebrity gossip because it’s a guilty pleasure. It’s fun, easy to understand, and basic knowledge of pop culture and common interests in the world of entertainment helps us connect with other people.

With Wiz Khalifa. He's the one in the hat.

With Wiz Khalifa. He’s the one in the hat.

J.P.: I’m looking at your website, and the entry that greets me is a photo of Kendall Jenner with a pimple, beneath the headline KENDALL JENNER HAS A PIMPLE. The kid is 18. I know it’s just tongue and cheek and blah, blah, blah, but do you ever think, “This might be somewhat mean?” Or is celebrity celebrity, and this is what comes with it?

A.L.: You know that ‘Kendall Jenner has a pimple’ was trending on Twitter like all day on Saturday? I definitely think that as a celebrity (and especially as a Kardashian), when you put your life out there and sometimes are quite literally asking people to show up and photograph you doing everyday mundane things, you subject yourself to that kind of scrutiny. At the same time, I think it’s nice that a Kardashian/Jenner was photographed with a giant pimple on her face. There’s so many stories from the Kardashian PR machine about Kendall Jenner modeling for Chanel at Paris Fashion Week and drinking champagne at the Cannes Film Festival and running around Coachella with Will Smith’s kids that sometimes you forget that Kendall Jenner is still a teen and even teens who walk in Fashion Week get pimples. It humanizes them a little. That’s not to say I don’t think celebrity gossip can be overly brutal and mean sometimes, but I also don’t have a problem with calling someone out for being normal.

J.P.: Would you want to be famous? Why or why not?

A.L.: No way. I mean it sounds fun in theory, but it has to get old. Like every time Taylor Swift leaves her apartment in New York City there’s photos of it, and she always looks impeccable with high heels on and red lips and a smile. It’s like she never has an off day. I read a story literally five minutes ago where she was wearing a dress and heels just to walk to the car to go to the gym. It honestly sounds horrible. Sometimes I just want to go next door to the bodega to get toilet paper and I want to wear my pajamas and not brush my hair. When celebrities do that the headlines are like, ‘Everyone Come See This Person Not Wearing Makeup!!!!’ So yeah I am very content being the unknown person that draws attention to all the famous people.

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J.P.: I know you’re from Pittsburgh, I know you’re an Ohio University journalism school grad. But what’s your path? How did you get from womb to here? And what’s the ultimate goal?

A.L.: Well, I was the kid with 900 Harriet the Spy notebooks pretending to be a reporter. When I finally got to J-school I went to the student paper and tried everything, and I ended up writing about art and music a lot because it was more creative and fun for me than breaking news. I eventually got to interview all the bands that would come to town and stuff like that, and I was going backstage and meeting some of my favorite artists and having the MOST fun and I wanted to do it forever. Then I moved to New York City three days after graduating and learned that that was not so easy to do in the real world. So I went to work for a group of trade magazines and manage all the digital stuff for them, which is where I discovered how much I like working with social media. I was lucky enough to get this job at the Daily Mail where I get to combine my interests in social media and entertainment, so it couldn’t have worked out any better.

As for ultimate goal, that’s TBD. I’m still learning and trying to grow with the industry. I don’t think I’m going to be a ‘social media editor’ forever but I’m also enjoying where I’m at right now. I have a lot of fun things I want to accomplish here first.

J.P.: I don’t understand the Kardashians. Put differently, how the fuck are they still here? In the spotlight? Didn’t their 15 minutes expire three years ago?

A.L.: The Kardashians don’t really have jobs other than to stay relevant, and they’re really good at it. Nothing they do is an accident. Every time you think, ‘Hey, I haven’t heard about a Kardashian in three hours,’ there’s a baby, divorce, wedding, scandal, half-naked Instagram, sideboob, pimple etc. ready to go. Hardcore Kardashian truthers will tell you that pretty much every story you see about them has been manipulated by Kris Jenner in some way to benefit their show’s ratings. They took one sex tape and turned it into an empire worth millions and millions, that is kind of incredible. And I love it. I find it easier to embrace their shamelessness than hate them for it.

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J.P.: You attended journalism school, presumably, to be a journalist. I’m 42, so maybe I have an old man’s view, but when I think of “journalism,” I think of covering elections, or wars, or the World Series. Not Justin Bieber’s pants and whether Jay-Z is cheating on B. Again, I DON’T mean this as even remotely snarky. But do you consider what you do in this endeavor to be journalism? Is it a form of new journalism? Entertainment writing?

A.L.: I’m not going to sit here and tell you that reporting on Bieber is the most important journalism in the world, but it’s news to some people. In my current job, Bieber getting arrested is considered breaking news. When I worked for trade magazines, if the president of a major organization within one of those trades stepped down, that was breaking news. When I was in fifth grade and I was the editor of our class newsletter, pizza day in the cafeteria was breaking news. But I would still consider all the work I’ve done journalism. It’s getting the information out to the people who care about it, regardless of what or who it is.

J.P.: Do you believe celebrities actually have (as a whole) more interesting lives than the rest of us? Why or why not?

A.L.: This question was kind of hard for me to answer because it’s all relative. I don’t necessarily think their lives are more interesting than ours, but the idea of it is. They have the money and opportunity to do a lot of exciting things, but that doesn’t mean they always do or that they enjoy it. You always hear, for example, celebs who say they’re said they missed their prom because they were on tour or at an audition or whatever, or how they wish they could be home for more than a week at a time instead of traveling from city to city and being away from their family. The jetset celebrity life sounds interesting in theory but for them it’s just, you know, traveling a lot for work and maybe occasionally wishing they had more of a routine.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 5.46.07 PMJ.P.: Weird question. On May 16 you Tweeted: “I shouldn’t admit this but I honestly didn’t know minnie driver was british until about 5 minutes ago.” Um, how the heck is that possible? She’s been in 100 movies and she speaks with a British accent in 98 of them?

A.L.: See I knew I shouldn’t have admitted that. But I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a Minnie Driver movie. I’ve never seen ‘Good Will Hunting.’ How messed is that? But you’ll see below where I tell you my favorite movies why this is, probably.

J.P.: You seemed particularly horrified by the Michael Jackson hologram at the recent Billboard Music Awards. I actually thought the Tupac hologram was pretty cool and original. So what’s your beef?

A.L.: I just thought it looked real creepy. It was like if you made a Michael Jackson character on the Sims. But I get why they did it, because if you have real people doing a tribute, you’ll have fans with torches and pitchforks saying that so-and-so can’t sing or dance like Michael (which is always going to be true). And also Justin Timberlake is on tour and was therefore unavailable. So as unnatural as it seemed to me I get it. It says a lot that you can put a computer projection with a backing track on a music show and it’s the most talked-about performance of the night, but really the only person who can do a proper Michael Jackson tribute is Michael Jackson, in any form.

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

A.L.: I’m only 25, so I’m holding out hope that I haven’t had my greatest moment yet. Lowest is probably the beginning, when I was job hunting my senior year of college. It’s really easy to feel like your career is over before it even starts.

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• Five famous people who aren’t celebrities?: Carter, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, Obama. Does that count?

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Cleveland Browns, pulled pork, Raisin Bran Crunch, J-14 Magazine, Lea Michele, John Smoltz, George Michael, public bathrooms, crutches, math: Andrew Carnegie. Raisin Bran Crunch (actually my favorite cereal), Andrew Carnegie, J-14 Magazine, George Michael, Lea Michele, John Smoltz, crutches, math, public bathrooms, Cleveland Browns

• Who’s a bigger celebrity: Paulina Gretzky or Wayne Gretzky?: Wayne. Paulina wishes

• Three memories of your senior prom?: 1. There was so much hairspray in my hair. SO MUCH. 2. My friends and I emptied our piggy banks to rent a Hummer limo and thought we were so badass. 3. My prom went until 5 a.m. and they made you stay the whole time so you couldn’t leave and go drink in someone’s basement or something. This was horrible BUT there was a breakfast buffet.

• Celine Dion calls. She’ll pay you $15.8 million next year to be her personal publicist. However, you have to work 365 days, get a tattoo of her face on your left butt cheek and eat one nugget of dog feces per week. You in?: Celine Dion is worth like $400 million so I’d probably ask her to pay me more than that. And I would demand unlimited access to the private waterpark at her house.

• Can Nickelback make a comeback?: Nickelback has sold something like 50 million albums so I am fully confident in their triumphant return. The question is should they, and they should not.

• Do you ever actually meet celebs? Or is it all from afar?: It’s mostly from afar now but I got to interview a lot of really cool people when I was a reporter.

• My lower back is absolutely killing me. What should I do?: Heat and like a handful of ibuprofen.

• This is kind of awkward, but my friend Greg Orlando is single, and a really nice guy. He’s 20 years your senior and is really into video games. You up for a date?: I have a boyfriend who will definitely be reading this so I’m going to have to say no.

• Five favorite films?: Airplane!, Meet the Parents, Anchorman, The Jerk, Eurotrip. I have a type.

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Jasha Balcom

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.25.28 AMAlthough there’s, oh, a 96.5 percent chance you’ve never heard of Jasha Balcom, there’s a 95 percent chance you’ve seen him—either in the film, 42, or in a commercial for the film, 42.

That’s because Balcom, a 32-year-old Georgia native, is Jackie Robinson.

OK … OK—Jasha didn’t play the legendary Brooklyn Dodger. But he was the stunt double for actor Chadwick Boseman. Which means whenever you saw a hard slide into second, a charge up the first base line, a mighty swing, a dive into the gap—well, that was almost always Balcom. Which makes perfect sense, considering Jasha’s background as a minor league ballplayer who reached Class A with the Chicago Cubs before spending a fascinating year with Wally Backman and the independent South Georgia Peanuts.

Here, Jasha explains how he went from 42 (the round he was selected in the 2000 June amateur draft) to 42. He talks baseball dreams and baseball nightmares, the art of hitting and why he probably won’t emerge again as Celine Dion’s cinematic understudy.

Jasha Balcom, step up to the plate. You’ve been Quazed …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Jasha, so your modern-day claim to fame comes in having played the stunt double as Jackie Robinson in the film “42.” I’ll ask two things: 1. How did this come to be? 2. Why did Chadwick Boseman need a stunt double? What were the complexities and difficulties that came with being the physical reincarnation of Jackie Robinson?

JASHA BALCOM: It came about from a phone call one day from a buddy from the Cubs I played with. He was tasked with assisting the second unit director in finding local baseball talent. So he called me originally asking if I would be interested in appearing in the Negro Leagues scenes from the first part the movie. I said, “Of course! Man, are you kidding me? Absolutely.” I sent him my information, baseball pictures etc. … and I ended up getting called immediately by Alan Graf, the stunt director. He said that I resembled and had a similar build as Chad and asked if I could come and try out for the part. I went to the training camp, and performed the athletic plays for the audition and won the spot.

Chad had the mannerisms of Jackie down. But for some of real action athletic baseball scenes—fielding, diving and catching—I had to help him out. He did well, though. He worked with a baseball coach for several months before filming. But I can tell you it was hard enough for me with those 1942 two-and-three finger pancake gloves those guys used in that time period. Baseball is a tough sport with regular equipment. Also you can’t have your star getting too many strawberry burns on his ass from sliding take after take.

Some of the challenges were really trying to bring out the power and quickness of Jackie. His running style was very unique. I watched lots of footage of him before we started shooting. That helped me out a ton.

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J.P.: You were selected by the Cubs out of the University of Georgia in the 33rd round of the 2003 Draft, reached Class A Peoria but left in 2005. I’m sure it all began with Major League dreams—so what happened? Why did you stop? And what was the difference—physically, mentally, whatever—between you and a Major Leaguer? What did you lack?

J.B.: Yes, I started my career after Georgia with the Cubs and after putting up great numbers with them I was released and quickly picked up by the Cardinals. In 2005 I walked away to cope with a personal tragedy. I lost my father Charles Balcom to cancer. At that time I simply asked for my release and I wanted to worry about baseball later.

There wasn’t much difference, talent-wise, I played in Big League spring training games. I was young but needed the at-bats. Now, being older and more mature, I know there definitely is a mental difference between the Major Leagues and the minors. Major Leaguers don’t make a lot of mistakes fundamentally. They’re very consistent. Mentally, those guys know what their job is and how to get it done every day. Since I have been teaching hitting for so long I know what adjustments have to be made.

I lacked a little bit of size, I guess. Teams are more interested if you have projectable numbers and a body type that gets you a little bit more time on the farm.

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J.P.: You played briefly for the South Georgia Peanuts of the South Coast League. I saw a fascinating documentary about the team (managed by Wally Backman) and the league. What was that experience like? How unstable were things? What sort of crowds came?

J.B.: That experience was a fun time in my life. After being out of baseball for two years, working in a corporate 9-to-5 desk job, putting on the uniform again was truly a freeing and happy time in my life. It was good to be back in the clubhouse again. Wally Backman is one of the best managers I have every played for. It was wild. Every day brought something different.

Things were normal according to pro baseball life, clubhouse pranks and not-safe-for-work locker-room conversations. Wally’s personality and his eruptions on the umps made it fun coming to the park every day. You had no idea what was going to happen.

As a Peanut.

As a Peanut in 2007.

J.P.: What’s it like when you play baseball your whole life, and you realize, “This isn’t going to happen?” When was that moment for you? How did you handle it? Accept it?

J.B.: Jeff, man, to be honest man It really sucked. My entire self identity was as a professional player. I had no clue what I was supposed to do or what I was good at. I felt I belonged on the diamond.

I still haven’t accepted it yet Jeff. I’m going to be in the Majors one day. I’m still living the dream, possibly as Big League hitting coach. Mark my words! I’m not done yet.

J.P.: I know you’re from Dublin, Georgia, I know you played at the University of Georgia. But what was your path from womb to baseball? Like, who got you into the game? Where did the love come from? Was there a moment when you realized, “I’m pretty special at this?”

J.B.: My path started in the Dublin County Rec Department at Springdale Park. My father worked maintenance for the park, so thanks to some fees being cut I got to start organized baseball when I was 4. That’s very early.

Growing up in a small town, sports were all there was to do. That was my outlet. I didn’t really want to be like “Mike”—I wanted to be like Ken Griffey, Jr. So much so that, when I was 7, I taught myself to hit left handed just like he did. I actually forgot how to hit righty later on in my career.

That love was always there, from hitting rocks with my bat outside, learning how to throw by drilling our mailbox with rocks. I got pretty consistent with the ol’ rocks. My mom could tell you that. There were no training facilities, no coaches to help me. All I had was visualization and a dream.

J.P.: I hope this isn’t awkward, but I didn’t love-love-love 42. I thought it was good, but a little too Disney, if that makes sense. What’s your take on the film? And could you tell, while working on it, how it would turn out?

J.B.: No, definitely. I think 42 could have shed some more light on his life. I think many of the true historians and people who grew up watching him play probably came away wanting more. There were a lot of scenes cut out that did show some more of Jackie’s personality and more of the tension in his life.

As we were shooting I was unsure at first until I saw how Chad nailed the emotional broken bat dugout scene. When I watched that I I felt, “OK, this is going to be something. It’s going to have an impact.”

J.P.: You started and run HittersBox, a player development and baseball training service. This fascinates me on two levels: A. How frustrating is it dealing with the parents who think their kids are the next Griffeys. B. It seems like the best baseball teachers aren’t the Tony Gwynns and Wade Boggs, but guys who struggled, chipped away, fought to survive. Agree? Disagree? And why?

J.B.: I consider myself as a professional swing coach and part-time baseball family counselor. Haha. Parents just want the best for their kids and want to give them the best opportunities.

One of challenges is how much do you push a kid. It can be a problem when parents go overboard projecting images of their own personal desire for what “they” want their kid to be like or perform and sometimes the kid doesn’t view himself in the same manner. Maybe he doesn’t even like baseball. I have to work with the parents to understand sometimes how their behaviors can be negative toward development. You don’t want that ride in the car home to mean death.

I think being a professional player alone doesn’t make you a great hitting coach. It’s taking your experiences from playing, other approaches that you’ve learned and developing a proper method to teaching. Really, it’s the the ability to transfer knowledge. Dealing with professionals all the way down to kids you first have develop a rapport, get them the trust and understand the art of the swing and how to process information. Fundamentals are the same, but you have to adapt.

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J.P.: You played Jackie Robinson, you played professional baseball. We recently had Michael Sam come out of the closet in football. How ready do you think baseball would be for an openly gay player? How would you, personally, feel about/deal with it?

J.B.: I personally would have no issue with it. Being in the Big Leagues is a dream! Everybody should go for his/her dream and have an opportunity. I think Major League Baseball could have an openly gay player without issue. Baseball is a mental game, and you have to make it through the minors first by proving yourself. So if you are good and you have paid your dues on the buses, put up numbers and you earn a 25-man roster spot, you belong. Nobody cares what you do in your private life. Everybody cares how you perform over 162 games. That’s what matters.

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

J.B.: The greatest was witnessing the birth of my beautiful daughter. The lowest was when my father passed.

J.P.: When you quit baseball, you worked for a spell as a stockbroker. This sounds absolutely awful. Was it? What’s your best story from the experience?

J.B.: It was fun, and stressful. I Loved learning about the markets and placing trades for clients.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Budweiser Clydesdales, the smell of rosin, Captain Kirk, John Steinbeck, Ichiro, Big Daddy Kane, rye bread, “Silence of the Lambs,” Howie Mandel, Fleetwood Mac: Ichiro, Budweiser Clydesdales, Howie Mandel, Fleetwood Mac, “Silence of the Lambs,” rye bread, the smell of rosin, Captain Kirk, Big Daddy Kane, John Steinbeck.

• The world needs to know: What was it like playing for manager Tom Beyers on the 2004 Boise Hawks?: Tom Beyers was an  easy-going player’s manager. We all respected Tom. We won the championship that year. He was one of the coaches who knew how to pull you over to the side and tell what you did wrong, and how to fix. I really enjoyed playing for Tommy

• Five reasons to make Dublin, Georgia one’s next vacation destination?: Great hunting and fishing; Great Saint Patrick’s Day festivals.

• Celine Dion calls—she offers you $5 million to play her stunt double in the made-for-TV movie, “Celine: I’m Amazing and You Smell Like Festering Oysters.” You have to work every day for a year, change your first name to Celino and eat six worms per day. You in?: Totally out!

• We give you 500 Major League at-bats right now. What’s your statistical line?: What did Andrew McCutchen hit?

• I’m pretty fearful that climate change is going to destroy earth and give my kids no future. Do you think I’m exaggerating this? Do I need to chill?: Common sense says, man, something is going here. You put stuff that is not supposed to be in the air.

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

• Four best baseball-related films of all time?: Major League, 42, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham

• Why is Batman a superhero? Has no superior powers, not immortal. What the hell?: He is rich and good looking! Closet thing we have to superpowers.

Ray in front of an iceberg in coastal waters of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Raymond Najjar

Ray in front of an iceberg in coastal waters of the Antarctic Peninsula.

It’s taken me 165 Quazes to finally delve into climate change. Which is sort of strange, in that climate change—and the future of our planet as a sustainable living place—consumes me. Simply put, I want my kid and their kids and their kids to be as happy and comfortable as I am. If the earth is 97 percent water, this seems unlikely.

Hence, today’s guest is Dr. Raymond Najjar, a professor of oceanography at Penn State University who focuses upon the impact of climate change on coastal regions. Here, Dr. Najjar explains his optimism in the face of mounting bad news, as well as his thoughts on what humanity must do to survive and thrive.

Dr. Najjar, welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Dr. Najjar, first question is one I’ve been wanting to ask an expert on climate change for a long time. In short, how are you not curled up in a ball right now, depressed over the seemingly inevitable decline of our planet? I’m sort of being serious—whenever I read about climate change, and another thing melting, another record high temperature, I feel like all’s lost and my kids are (to be blunt) fucked. Am I wrong to feel so hopeless? Do you feel this way?

R.N.: I am optimistic because we have faced imminent environmental catastrophes before and overcome them. The crazy thing is how fast we forget how much progress we have made on a whole slew of environmental problems, such as smog, acid rain, spectacularly polluted rivers and lakes, and the ozone hole, to name a few. How’d we do it? We had good science and people (including politicians) who really cared and were willing to fight against industry and other groups philosophically opposed to regulation of any kind.

What’s remarkable is that in the end we came out on top economically, so even without the ethical arguments—which should be enough to carry the day—it makes sense to clean up the environment. The Clean Air Act is a shining example: we reduced emissions of nitrogen and sulfur oxides, the acidity of rain declined, electricity rates were stable, the economy grew, and we ended up saving money as a result of fewer sick days and hospital visits.

The other thing to keep in mind is how fast public opinion can shift. Take our views on gay marriage, for example. This gives me hope that people want to do the right thing and will ultimately come around if we keep talking and listening to each other.

J.P.: Most of your work, in regards to climate, details the impact of climate change on coastal regions. So let me ask bluntly, and plainly: What is—and will be—the impact of climate change on coastal regions?

R.N.: More flooding is going to be the main impact to humans and ecosystems along the coast. Sea level is rising now on average by more than an inch per decade and the rate is increasing. It doesn’t sound like much but by the end of this century we are looking at an additional few feet, which will have a big effect, especially on low-lying areas. Direct effects of warming are also a concern. If we continue the current trend in greenhouse gas emissions, a coastal region like the New York City Tri-State area will experience summers by the end of this century similar to summers now in southern South Carolina. That’s a huge change for people and ecosystems to handle.

J.P.: There are shitloads of people in this country who insist either: A. Climate change has nothing to do with man’s activities; B. Climate change is a liberal hoax. Is there anything you can say to these folks to prove them wrong? Because they seem pretty insistent.

R.N.: I don’t waste my time with the 5 percent on the lunatic fringe. There are others who are genuinely skeptical about the science because the media tends to weigh opposing views evenly and because it challenges their world view (see below); with those, I am patient but persistent, and have seen some minds changed. We all ultimately care about the same thing, which is providing a better future for our children.

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J.P.: You’re a professor of oceanography at Penn State. You have a BE in Mechanical Engineering, an MA and PhD from Princeton. But, womb to now, what has been your path? Where were you born? When did you first find yourself fascinated by oceanography? Why are you here?

R.N.: I was born and grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. My folks would say I was drawn to the seashore as young boy vacationing on Cape Cod, but I fell into oceanography by accident. In engineering school, I enjoyed classes on fluid mechanics, but I also wanted to save the world so I looked for graduate programs in environmental fluids, which meant meteorology and oceanography. I was a homebody, Princeton was nearby, I made the cut, and the rest fell into place. I worked hard but I also was lucky to find really great people to work with and interesting problems to work on.

J.P.: Serious question: Is there any hope for us? I mean this. Like, is there a chance the earth will naturally even itself out? Is there a chance science, engineering … something can fix our problems?

R.N.: I love the book “Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think,” by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. People are problem solvers. Our ingenuity is breathtaking. We are faced with the wonders of technology and improved lifestyle daily even though we get mostly bad news from the media. Yes, there is a lot of misery in the world, but there is less than there used to be, in part as a result of technological progress and the desire for people to make things better.

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J.P.: In your opinion, if we continue on this path, what does the world look like in 50 years? In 100 years?

R.N.: It will be hotter and there will be more floods and droughts. It’s going to be rough, particularly for the poor, and we will have to adapt. How much more severe the climate gets depends on much more carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere. We are likely to a rise of at least 3 degrees F, but maybe as much as 10 degrees F if we stay on the current path.

J.P.: What is it that we—the average, non-scientific Americans—don’t grasp about carbon dioxide, oxygen, carbon monoxide, carbonyl sulfide and dimethyl sulfide and their roles in the sustainability of the earth?

R.N.: Okay, you plunked that off my web site. I like studying gases in seawater.

Carbon dioxide gets a bad rap. It’s natural and without it the earth would probably be ice-covered. The problem is that we now have too much of a good thing. It’s not only causing the rapid warming we are experiencing but is also responsible for making the oceans more acidic, which has mostly negative ecological consequences.

Oxygen in seawater is important because fish and other fauna need it to breath. One of the big water pollution problems we have is hypoxia (really low oxygen), which is caused by dumping too much sewage and fertilizer into our waterways. Hypoxic regions, also called dead zones, are present throughout many of the world’s developed coasts. We’ve made huge progress on this problem by cleaning up our sewage treatment plants, which has benefitted many estuaries, including the Delaware Bay and Hudson River. We still need to reduce the amount of agricultural fertilizers getting into our natural waters so we can eliminate other dead zones, like those in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Dimethyl sulfide is cool because that’s what you smell when you are getting a breeze off the ocean. It’s made in seawater by phytoplankton, gets released into the air, and forms particles that cloud droplets grow on. So, in pristine areas of the ocean, phytoplankton may regulate cloudiness.

Carbon monoxide and carbonyl sulfide are quite esoteric. I don’t think we fully understand their function in seawater and the rest of the earth system, but we study them because they are there!

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J.P.: I’m almost certainly not as intelligent as you, yet I often think to myself, “Jesus Christ, we are so fucking stupid. We have this problem, but—because it’s not 100-percent, black-and-white right in front of us, we do nothing.” Has your work in climate change at all impacted your opinion on the intellect of America?

R.N.: I don’t like the way you started off your question. I’ll grant you that my scientific intelligence is higher than yours but there are so many types of intelligence (artistic, emotional, social, literary, etc.) that a simple ranking is not tenable. Anyhow, it’s a good question and what I have learned so very clearly over the last few years is how much an individual’s world view colors their interpretation of the facts. It’s really disheartening and somewhat puzzling that, for example, Republicans and Democrats can look at the same data on just about anything and come to vastly different conclusions. What’s even more remarkable is that the more educated those two groups are, the more their views diverge. So it’s like the “smarter” we are, the more we are able to find arguments to fit our world view. It’s depressing and not obvious on how one deals with this.

J.P.: I feel helpless. I drive a Prius, I try and unplug things, etc … etc. But, honestly, is there anything I can do to impact climate change? People like to say, “One person can make a difference …” but I’m really starting to not believe it.

R.N.: Global warming is a tougher problem than most environmental problems because it is truly a global problem. Because carbon dioxide lasts so long in the atmosphere, it doesn’t matter where it is emitted from. So everybody—the whole world, not just those in your community, state, or country—has to be on board with emissions reductions for them to be effective. This is the really tough aspect of the problem. But the ozone hole was similar (because chlorofluorcarbons last long in the atmosphere, too), so I think we can do it. But everyone has to do their share, which is what you are doing by being more thoughtful about your energy usage, and it’s what Obama and the EPA are proposing by curbing emissions from power plants.

In 2012 Wei-Jun Cai (University of Georgia) Marjy Friedrichs (Virginia Institute of Marine Science), and Najjar organized the US East Coast Carbon Cycle Synthesis Workshop.

In 2012 Wei-Jun Cai (University of Georgia) Marjy Friedrichs (Virginia Institute of Marine Science), and Najjar organized the US East Coast Carbon Cycle Synthesis Workshop.

J.P.: A lot of climate change doubters I know say the warming of the earth is cyclical, and this is merely another cycle. Any truth to that idea?

R.N.: No. While there are natural cycles, like the ice ages coming and going, we can’t explain the current warming based on them. In fact, if anything, we would be going through a cooling period right now if it weren’t for increases in greenhouse gases. Prior to 1800, we were on a long-term cooling trend for thousands of years, but as soon as carbon dioxide started to rise due to industrialization and forest clearing, the earth began to warm. The amount of warming that’s occurred since then is about what we expect from the amount of carbon dioxide released.

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• Joe Paterno statue—should it have remained on campus, or was the school right to remove?: I don’t know. Good arguments either way. Joe said it best: I wish I had done more.

• Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?: Practice.

• Five reasons one should make State College, Pa. his/her home?: Nice people, low stress, beautiful, safe, Penn State.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Mike Holmgren, your high school yearbook, Shakira, skiing, Kansas City, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art & Science, Diet Sprite, mud wrestling, peanut butter, The Black Crowes, elephants: Elephants, peanut butter, Cooper Union, Kansas City, skiing, yearbook, mud wrestling, Diet Sprite. Others: no rating

• What happens when we die?: We go to live on another planet as an alien life form. In this way, two great mysteries are solved at once when we die: The question you asked and “Are we alone?”

• Sean Hannity calls. He wants you to appear on his show to debate climate change. You in?: No—there’s nothing to debate. Would be happy to answer his questions, however.

• Out of 100 times, how often does someone leave a J out of your last name?: One.

• Three memories from your first date?: I can’t even remember who my first date was with, never mind what happened on it.

• If someone said you can put an end to climate change right now, but you’d have to take off 20 years from the end of your life, would you do so?: Yes, if it was done in some benign way. There are some crazy geoengineering solutions that I would not be in favor of.

• One question you would ask Huey Lewis were he here right now?: I love that chromatic horn line during the outro of “The Heart of Rock and Roll.” How did you come up with it?

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Kel Mitchell


George Washington is dead.

Mike Darr is dead.

Edward Koch is dead.

Tupac Shakur, James Madison, Shannon Hoon, Manute Bol, Charlton Heston, the girl from Poltergeist, Spuds McKenzie, Len Bias, my great grandmother—all dead.

Kel Mitchell, however, is not dead. Even though, back in 2006, an Internet hoax convinced many people of his passing. Nope. Mitchell—the former star of Nickelodeon’s “All That” and the shockingly wonderful 1997 flick, “Good Burger”—continues to work as an actor, comedian and voice guy, as well as one who believes strongly in spreading the Gospel.

Here, Kel speaks to death rumors, proposal rumors and Bieber rumors. You can visit his website here, and follow him on Twitter here.

Kel Mitchell, welcome to Quazland, home of the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Kel, you’re a guy who had this huge run on TV, starred in a 1990s kid movie staple (Good Burger)—and is now the subject of a lot of “What the heck ever happened to …” Internet posts. It strikes me that people take a certain Sadistic pleasure in this; an odd enjoyment in seeing celebrities fade from the spotlight, then mocking the fade (or, in your case, spreading death rumors). Do you think I’m off on this? On? And how do you explain it?

KEL MITCHELL: I continued to work. I feel that people all watch different types of entertainment on television. I got into voice-over work on cartoons and guest-starred on many different live action television shows, but you have to understand that everyone does not watch the same shows. So it’s just about letting people know what you are doing to make them aware. When the death rumor started I was like, “I’m alive and well and since we are talking about me let me tell you what I am working on now.”

J.P.: I know a lot about your career, but little about your journey. Like, I know you’re from Chicago, I know you nailed an audition, I know you starred in the series Kenan & Kel from 1996–2000, but, well, how did this happen? What’s your life path from birth to show business? Were you pushed into it? Did you seek it out? What was The Breakthrough Moment all performers seem to have?

K.M.: I grew up in Chicago. I love my city—a lot of good people. I was a bit of a class clown growing up and my parents did not want me following the wrong crowd. We had good kids in my neighborhood and we also had gang violence in my neighborhood so my parents kept me in programs that were positive. They enrolled me in a summer course at a community theater and I fell in love with the art of acting. I did not look at it as a way onto television. At the time it was just something to keep me on a good path. I later started acting in plays that showcased in downtown Chicago and got discovered by a local model and talent agency. Actually, my first big gig was I got to model on the back of the Cap’n Crunch box. I remember being chased by girls in my neighborhood.

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J.P.: My kids are 10 and 7, and they recently saw Good Burger for the first time. They absolutely loved it, and I kept wondering—as a performer—how in the world were you able to maintain that character for so long? I mean, the voice, the antics, the dialogue—how did you not lose your mind? And, looking back, how do you feel about the film?

K.M.: The blessing of being on a sketch comedy show like All That—which is where Good Burger was created—is that you get to play so many different characters all different and fun to play. I was never stuck playing the same role over again and even when I had to play one of the characters for a long period of time I never looked at it as I am going to lose my mind playing this role because I understood who I am off camera is not this character. It’s a job and I am thankful to have it and that people embrace it.  If you are a doctor and have to get in a lab coat every day you don’t say, “I am so tired of getting in this lab coat and scrubs.” You are thinking about how happy you are that you are saving lives and making people feel better. It’s about the blessing to be able to do what you love. Complaining would be silly.

J.P.: You’re a devout Christian, which fascinates me. As we speak, the world is heating at an abnormal rate, and it looks more and more like this planet’s future is imperiled. There’s conflict everywhere. War. Famine. Murder. Slaughter. Cancer. Heart disease. Another season of the Kardashians. How do you continue to believe, when so many signs say, “We’re all completely screwed?”

K.M.: The earth has always had its conflicts but we need not stress about the problems that are going on in this world. No matter what happens your faith will keep you strong, You cannot allow fear to control you. Believing the “signs” of this world is not living in faith. I follow the word of God and what he says about me and his children. Not what the headlines say.

J.P.: You were a young star. Is show business a worthwhile pursuit? What I mean is, so many parents push their kids toward a career on stage, in film, etc. But is it a gateway to happiness? Or do the perils outweigh the bliss?

K.M.: You have to let your child know that this is a job and when they have to get their own home and have their own bills (if they continue in this profession) this job will pay for that. So stay away from wrong choices because what they do now can help or hinder this job. Look at the long run of it all. Also let them know that this is a talent that they have been blessed with by God and to not allow negative behavior to block that talent. Also, never push your child if you see that this is something they do not want to do any longer. Pray with them to help them find what other job or talents they have that they can pursue. God has blessed us all with many talents and the ability to learn new and exciting things. He is the one who knows the plans for our lives. So seek him first. A good, prayer-filled life makes every job a gateway to happiness.

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J.P.: I touched on this, but in 2006 you were the subject of a death hoax that spread all over MySpace. What was your initial reaction to this? How did it impact you? Did your family receive actual sympathy calls?

K.M.: It was a shock for the first 45 minutes. I was like, “It’s sad that someone would get a kick out of spreading a rumor like that.” I did get a few phone calls from family members. It did not bother me or upset me because I am alive and well and, like I said, when people asked it was a way to promote what I was working on currently. I was not the only one this has happened to—you see Twitter feeds of hoaxes played on actors all the time and, like me, they are blessed and alive. I just pray for haters. Its all love.

J.P.: According to several Internet reports, you apparently own and operate several Wendy’s franchises outside of Biloxi, Mississippi. How the heck did that happen? Why fast food as a business endeavor? And have you ever stepped behind the counter and said, “Welcome to Wendy’s, home of Wendy’s, may I take your order?”

K.M.: I would do that if it were true but it is not. This is yet another rumor. I do not own any Wendy’s, but maybe I should look into it …

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

K.M.: I learn from low moments which makes them great moments. So with that being said—every moment has been great! I am thankful foreach moment and to still be doing this after all these years and still have a fan base I think that is awesome. God is good.

J.P.: How hard is it for a guy known for comedy to be taken seriously? For example, have there been roles you’ve wanted to audition for where someone will say, “Um, no, no, no” based solely on your background? Are you pigeonholed?

K.M.: No, I am not pigeonholed. Of course you have casting directors who see you in a certain way but you have to be the one to change their perception of you. Put yourself on tape and send the audition even if they do not want to see you in person. Create roles for yourself by writing, filming or producing something on your own that will show them that you are multifaceted. The only person that can put yourself in a box is you.

J.P.: As we speak, Justin Bieber seems to be imploding. Why do so many young stars struggle with life, and the adjustment to adulthood? What makes it so difficult?

K.M.: He is a teenager. Every teen or young adult has made mistakes and done things that they are not proud of. In his case it is broadcast in media but we can not judge him. We need to pray for him that he makes better choices.

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• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I pray about calming the winds and God getting me home safely and it works every time. He takes away the fear.

• You’re married to the rapper Asia Lee. How did you propose?: I took her out to a romantic breakfast. Then we drove to a drive-in theater to see a double feature (something we both had been wanting to do for a while). We enjoyed watching the movie and eating in the car—we saw Bridesmaids and Hangover II. We we got home. She turned on the lights but they would not work because before we left I secretly turned off the power switch to our home. She walked around going, “Why are the lights not working?” I got on bended knee in the dark and opened up the ring box that had a light in the inside of it. I said, “I found some light” and then asked her to marry me. She said yes. One of the happiest days of my life.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Jason Bateman, James Worthty, the 405, Topeka, Netflix, Willie Stargell, the Big Mac, Winter Olympics, Def Leppard, Eddie Murphy: Netflix, Eddie Murphy, Jason Bateman, Big Mac, James Worthy, Willie Stargell, Winter Olympics, Topeka, 405, Def Leppard.

• Your full name is Kel Johari Rice Mitchell. Where did that all come from?: Kel means yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Johari means Jewl in Swahili. Rice is a family name and Mitchell is my family name.

• I’m a horrible dancer. What can I do to improve?: Practice what style you love the best then jump in dance battle circles. When you win one … congratulations! You have improved.

• One question you’d ask Natalie Wood were she here right now?: What was your favorite film that you starred in.

• In 1997 you won a Cable Ace Award. Where’s the trophy right now?: When I got a divorce from my first marriage it was left by accident at the home I no longer stay at.

• Five greatest actors of your lifetime?: Kermit the Frog, Fozzie the Bear, Ms. Piggy, Gonzo, Grover.

• Who wins in a fight between you and Elvis Costello? How many rounds does it go?: A draw. LOL—I can dream, right?

• In exactly 19 words, make a case for tomato soup: Tastes like warm ketchup in a bowl. Campbell’s creamy tomato soup on the go is only $4.99. Great value!

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Katie Nolan

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 1.18.11 AMWorking in TV isn’t as easy as one would think. Sure, there’s fame and attention and glamor and (at many levels) money. But there’s also stuff like this. And, well, show cancellations.

Just ask Katie Nolan.

Until a couple of months ago, Katie was one of the hosts of Crowd Goes Wild, FS1′s attempt to reincarnate the spirit of the old Best Damned Sports Show. And you know what? It was good. Flawed? Sure. Inconsistent? A bit. But, more often than not, the program featured an intriguing panel (One word: Regis) and some cool guests (One word: Nas). I appeared on Crowd Goes Wild while promoting Showtime, and the experience was terrific. Again, did it need some tinkering? Yes. But what new endeavor doesn’t?

Then, before FS1 gave it a real chance to succeed, the program was killed.

What didn’t die (I’m convinced) is the rise of Nolan, a smart, savvy, informed personality who knows her stuff. I brought Katie into Quazland because her rise fascinates me—how does someone in her mid-20s jump from obscurity to minor web fame to major web fame to a pretty sweet TV gig? The answers follow.

Still under contract with Fox, Katie hosts a regular web series, No Filter, that’s one of my favorites. She’s also a prolific Tweeter and one helluva interview.

Katie Nolan, welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Katie, two seconds ago I Googled your name—and the fourth listed etry was something from, listing you as No. 3 on its hot 50. I wonder how—as an up-and-coming sports media personality—that makes you feel? Annoyed? Flattered? Pissed? Do you think women on sports television can ever escape having looks be part of the overall judging pattern?

KATIE NOLAN: “Pissed” would be irrational, right? At the end of the day, being the “hottest” is a compliment. Is it what I want people to take away from what I do? Not at all. But I can’t be angry if someone wants to tell me they think I’m pretty. I guess I’d say I’m flattered and then I move on from it. The real danger in that stuff is when you start to believe it defines your worth.

I think women are always going to be judged, at least in part, by the way we look. Is it annoying that there aren’t lists that rank male sports personalities by their hotness? Sure. But it would be a waste of energy to crusade against people who want to talk about “hotness.” Sports media is an industry that predominantly caters to a male audience, and when you put a woman in front of a group of men, it’s instinctual for them to ask “would I procreate with her?” That’s human-nature-caveman stuff; you can’t control that. But if that’s where their thought process stops, then I pity them. There are a lot of women in sports media doing some incredible things right now. If all you see is a hot chick, then you’re that little kid from ‘The Polar Express’ who thinks his bell is broken.

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J.P.: You were on a FS1 show—Crowd Goes Wild—that recently got cancelled. Maybe this is an obvious question, but how did you feel when word officially came down? Who told you? And what do you think went wrong?

K.N.: We (the panel) found out after our last show of the week. We walked off set and our three producers were sitting in our dressing rooms, and we just knew. It had been talked about for a few weeks that it was a possibility, so no one fell to their knees and cursed the television gods, but it was sad. Mainly because it meant we only had two weeks left together instead of the two months until the end of the season that we thought we had. That was the toughest part.

I think we all went into CGW with the mindset that we were trying something crazy and it could either go well or go horribly. We were a brand new concept on a brand new network, and where we could have benefited from some wiggle room or time to grow, there just wasn’t any. It felt like going through puberty with a shot clock—”Here are all these new and crazy things that don’t make any sense to you yet, and if you don’t figure them out RIGHT NOW you’ll lose your chance forever.” There were days we wrapped and looked at each other like, “Wow … What was that?” But there were others where we felt like we made something really unique.

We also had every possible variable present, which made it hard some days. Sports meets entertainment, with a legendary host in his 80s, plus five panelists from all over the place (three of whom have no TV experience), with a live studio audience, and games, and humor, but also sometimes a news agenda, and you’re on at 5 pm (2 pm pacific). Change or remove any one of those challenges and you’ve still got a tough task on your hands. But ultimately, just when we started to figure out what was working and what wasn’t, it was too late.

Crowd Goes Wild may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but I still strongly believe there’s a need for a show like it. People might not realize it yet, but they will when they see it. We’re getting so caught up in taking sports so seriously. People call anything happening in an athlete’s life other than their sport a “distraction.” A distraction? Like life is interfering with a game they play for money. Sports are fun. Yes, they’re intense and we love them for that, but let’s not forget that fell in love with them because of the fun.

J.P.: I hope this doesn’t offend you, but I feel like the phrasing “overnight sensation” sort of applies here—in a very good way. You were recording YouTube clips for Guyism one minute, you’re working for Fox Sports 1 the next. Katie, how did this happen? Or, put different, what was your path from womb to here? Is this always what you wanted to do?

K.N.: Consciously? No. I had no idea I could do this, so I sort of ruled that out really early. But when I got the gig, everyone close to me said “this is what you were meant to do.”

I went to school to study public relations. People always ask me why, and the sad truth is that I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I took a “What Should I Major In?” quiz on and that’s what it said. I never even considered anything else. How stupid is that? I went and I got my degree and I worked internship after internship and I graduated Cum Laude and I tried to get a job … and nothing. No one was hiring. And if they were, the job was in New York City and paid $25,000 a year and I wasn’t that confident in my ability to live in a cardboard box.

So I moved back home and started bartending at a place close to BU, and after a few months of dealing with drunk college kids I swear I could feel my brain cells packing up their shit to leave. So I started a blog with one of my friends to keep myself (and my brain) occupied during the day. I took it way too seriously. I updated it 12 times a day even when only three people were reading it, and eventually one of those people ended up being someone in a position to help me. One of the founders of asked me to write for them, so I did that for a while, and then they came to me with this idea of doing a daily video of news headlines and jokes. Originally I told them absolutely not because I was so uncomfortable on camera and had a tendency to over act and I knew I’d be awful. But they had me do it anyway … and found out I was right. But then I just worked and worked at it, and the show evolved from a shoddy little thing on a web cam with awful jokes and no comedic timing to a full-fledged green screen production with pictures and lower thirds and awful jokes and a little bit of comedic timing. And after two years of that, someone at Fox Sports Digital contacted my boss to let them know they were launching a new network and thought I’d be a good fit, and the rest is history.

The timing of it all was incredibly lucky and I will always feel a little guilty when someone tells me I didn’t “pay my dues.” But then I remember waking up at 5 am to research, write, film, edit and produce a show, all alone, five days a week for two years, and I tell people who say I had this opportunity “handed to me” to lock it up.

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J.P.: Your Twitter battle with (and, ultimately, takedown of) Kevin Connolly was dazzling, awesome, fantastic, killer. I’m fascinated—what in your brain said, “I’m not just letting this shit go”? What do you think of the guy now? And why does celebrity have such a warping impact on so many?

K.N.: I cringe a little when I talk about this story, mainly because I was young and stupid when it happened, and I know I’m not completely devoid of guilt in the situation. I can see now why posting a private message he sent me to an audience of people was a pretty dick move. I was starstruck that a celebrity had contacted me, and thought my “fans” (I think my fan page had less than 1,000 likes at the time of the post) would think I was cooler because of it. That being said, he has actually apologized since. I’ll still drop a Kevin Connolly joke into something I’m doing every now and then as a sort of wink at the fans who were around for all of that, but we have laid the issue to rest. He said he was out of line and asked for forgiveness, and I respect that.

As for why I didn’t just let it go at the time, I’m a protective person. I have this small group of fans that have been with me since day one, and I felt responsible for them. I wanted them to know I wouldn’t let someone attack them just because he was famous. It felt like the right thing to do.

I’m starting to see the other side of things now, even just as a person on a show that barely anyone watched. You get poked and prodded a lot when you’re a “public figure.” I’ve lashed out at some people on Twitter before. It’s hard to constantly grin and bear it on the internet, when any sane human would defend themselves in real life. “Don’t feed the trolls” goes against our instincts.

I’ve met some people during CGW’s short life who taught me how dangerous it is to become accustomed to the star treatment. You see it with athletes sometimes; they’re worshiped by so many for so long, and it’s hard to adapt to a life where someone tells you no. Celebrity is scary and does awful things to people. I still have so much to learn, but right now the way I see it is if you treat it like part of the job, you’re much better off than treating it like the reason for the job.

J.P.: I worked with Rick Reilly at SI for many years. I can’t say we’re friends, but we’re certainly friendly colleagues—so I found your epic beatdown of him both painful and invigorating. It got me thinking about something, and that is—in 2014, with media the way it is—how do people like Rick (fuck, and me) survive and thrive? You’re young, you’re multi-media, you’re relatable. But what if you’re an aging writer with a receding hairline? What are we supposed to do now?

K.N.: I’m going to be honest, here: I had never really put that much thought into how scary that must be, to watch a profession you mastered change into something you don’t know much about, until you just asked that question. Obviously everyone talks about journalism as a “dying industry” (which is bullshit, btw) and the “constantly evolving blogosphere” and all those awful buzzwords, but to actually put myself in the shoes of someone who is amazing at their job and then awful at what their job becomes, by no fault of their own, is really eye-opening. And I think that’s the case with Rick Reilly. I used to be a huge fan of his. I think a lot of people were. And a lot of times you see someone’s popularity reach a tipping point and people turn on them, but I don’t think that’s what happened. He just doesn’t appear to have a willingness to adapt. But that explains so much when you look at it that way. Like when he ordered Stuart Scott to credit him for having it first on Twitter. That’s a journalist projecting old-school journalism on a new-school medium instead of actually trying to understand the new-school medium.

I’m in no position to provide any kind of advice for incredibly talented writers and journalists on how to adapt to the insanity of this new era of media. I actually wish I could, so they wouldn’t disdain my existence. The only thing I know you can’t do is ignore that changes are happening around you and keep doing what you’re doing and expect people to listen.

J.P.: When Fox Sports 1 started, there was tons of talk about directly fighting ESPN. Am I wrong in thinking that’s never really going to happen? Why or why not?

K.N.: I may be hopelessly optimistic here, but I can’t give up yet on the fact that it will happen. I think it’s obviously going to take some time; ESPN has been doing this relatively unchallenged for years. They’ve worked out the kinks and can pretty much churn out content like a machine. It isn’t a bad thing; it’s impressive. But no one benefits from a lack of competition, especially not the people consuming your product. Was it a little premature to come out of the gate boasting that FS1 would go head to head with The Mothership? Maybe. But I kinda love that. I think a network that embraces the fact that it probably doesn’t have a chance in hell but takes it anyway will eventually win people over. There’s a market out there for something other than ESPN. It exists. People want an alternative. I think Fox Sports 1 needs to put its head down and focus on being the best Fox Sports 1 it can be, and by the time it looks up it’ll be that much closer to competing with the worldwide leader. And really, who loves an underdog more than sports fans?

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J.P.: I’ve been on television a lot over the years, and while I enjoy it, I don’t love it. What do you love about the medium? Is it the rush? The buzz? And how do the time constraints (“We’ve gotta wrap this in 30 seconds!”) not drive you crazy?

K.N.: To answer that last part first … yes. I have no other type of TV to compare it to, but live TV is hard. Sometimes on the show we’d be in the middle of a heated conversation, and I’d be ready to make a point, and we’d have to go to commercial. Or I’d spend the day working on a segment that ends up getting cut because our guest gave a couple long-winded answers in the C block and now we’re running heavy on time. That took a lot of getting used to. For me, it helped to put the integrity of the show before my own desire to contribute. If you focus on the fact that the guest is telling an incredibly interesting story and everyone watching is enthralled, you feel silly being frustrated with the fact that the audience won’t get to hear that joke you wrote about Richie Incognito.

As for what I love about TV, I’d say it’s the opportunity to make people laugh. You can tell a joke at a bar with your friends and make four people laugh. You can tell a joke at a comedy club and make 20 people laugh (I can’t, but maybe you can). But on TV, you can tell that joke once and people hear it across the country. For that reason I would actually say I don’t love TV as much as I love TV paired with the internet. I can’t imagine back in Regis’ day, when you could say something on TV and go home and make yourself a nice steak and go to bed. Unless it was something incredibly newsworthy or offensive enough to make people pick up their phones, you never had to hear about it or think about it again. Some days I think that would be awesome. But I also think it’s awesome that I can go on Twitter after a show and see that people laughed. I can see on the blogs that people enjoyed something we did. We aren’t just submitting things into a void; we can tell pretty much right away if we entertained people. It’s a blessing and a curse, but it certainly keeps you on your toes.

J.P.: Do you feel like—knowledge-wise—male sports fans have low expectations for women? Do they think you’ll only know surface material? Or is that generational?

K.N.: Yes and no. I feel like, overall, fans have irrationally high standards for all sports reporters. Look, if you’re a baseball reporter on NESN and you don’t know the Red Sox starting lineup, you should probably be fired. But if you’re on a national sports show that covers every sport and you screw up the year that the Pirates drafted Andrew McCutchen, it’s OK. Sports fans are amazing in that they’re fiercely loyal to their teams and they know every stat and every piece of history, but I wish sometimes they’d put down the pitchforks and remember that, beside their team, there are 29 other teams in major league baseball, three other “major” sports in the country, and two producers yelling in our earpiece about buying time because the guest is late.

To do a better job of answering your original question, I’d say I don’t notice or mind peoples’ expectations for my sports knowledge. I think we, as humans, try to simplify everything we experience into categories that are easier for our brains to process. When a woman is categorized as attractive, most people won’t expect her to also be knowledgeable. So a person’s expectations for me don’t bother me so much as when a person confuses their expectations with the truth. Take, for example, a comment on one of my YouTube videos that Fox Sports shared on Facebook: “Fox Sports hires ANOTHER dumb bimbo. No thanks, I won’t be watching!!” Makes sense; he won’t watch because I’m dumb, and he knows I’m dumb because … oh wait, that actually makes no sense. Double exclamation points!!

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J.P.: You Tweet A LOT about hockey—a sport that interests me as much as senior golf. Question: Why do you think the NHL has never gained the mass appeal of the three big team sports? Is the league doing something wrong? Are we just lame?

K.N.: Blaming people who don’t take an interest your sport is not an effective way to prove your sport is worth taking an interest in (right, soccer fans?). So no, you aren’t lame. For me, hockey was the sport I grew up around. My brother played, and was pretty good at it, so I spent a lot of time in hockey rinks. Actually, I’d say most hockey fans I know either played when they were younger or grew up with someone who did. And, coming from a family that would have had two hockey players in it if we could afford it, I can tell you it’s pretty expensive to play. I’m not saying youth participation is entirely responsible for adult fandom, but it’s certainly a factor worth considering.

It’s also worth considering that Americans tend to love things that belong to them. Baseball is our nation’s pastime. NASCAR is actually more American than apple pie at this point. The sport we call “football” is called “American Football” everywhere else because we changed the sport into something completely different but couldn’t be bothered to change the name. Hockey, though, is still perceived as Canadian. Canadian hockey players have never comprised less than 50 percent of the NHL, and most Americans just don’t feel that national connection to the athletes or the sport. That’s why I think Olympic hockey is so important to the growth of the NHL’s appeal; it’s hockey that America can feel comfortable getting behind. (Which is why I think it’s a huge mistake that some NHL owners are starting to talk about banning their players from participating in the Olympics, but that’s eight more paragraphs I won’t bore you with.)

I honestly do think people are starting to come around to it. Last month I heard multiple people say, on SportsCenter of all places, that the NHL playoffs are the best postseason in sport. The secret is out. Plenty of room for you on the bandwagon, Jeff! At least until the next lockout.

J.P.: You worked with Regis on Crowd Goes Wild. I heard mixed things—nice guy, not so dedicated to the show, giving, big ego. What was your experience like? What do we need to know about the man?

K.N.: My grandmother is 87-years old. She lives in my old room at my parents’ house and my mother’s full-time job is taking care of her. If my nana, a kind and loving woman, was on live television for an hour every day, people who work with her might say she’s “not so dedicated to the show.” And they would have every right to say that because they have to be on set hours before her, and they have to help her when she forgets things, and it’s their job to make sure she doesn’t look bad. But at the end of the day, she’s 80-FUCKING-7, and the fact that she got out of bed and put on real shoes is downright commendable.

Now imagine my grandmother is a television legend who has earned the right to do whatever she damn well pleases, and you’ll see how it’s hard to actually complain about working with Regis Philbin.

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Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I was 10 and flying to Georgia for the Junior Olympics with my rhythmic gymnastics team, and they told us there was a problem with the wing so we had to make an emergency landing, and we were in no actual danger but I was 10 and dramatic so I told all my friends we almost died.

• Would you rather eat 200 living maggots or have the nails on both your thumbs torn off?: Have the nails on both my thumbs torn off, any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I don’t trust that all those maggots are gonna die and not eat me from the inside out unless I chew each and every one, and that isn’t happening.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Mark Messier, Slam Magazine, blueberry pie, cursing, Ed Sheeran, Bobby Jindal, Rocky II, Austin Mahone, Sha Na Na, Ron Howard, Hangover II: Cursing, Mark Messier, blueberry pie, Rocky II, Ron Howard, Slam Magazine, Ed Sheeran, Sha Na Na, Hangover II, Austin Mahone, Bobby Jindal.

• I sorta love Demi Lovato’s music. I’m 42. How weird does that make me?: The “‘s music” makes it not weird at all. I’m 27 and listen to “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch on my way to work every morning.

• Celine Dion calls. She wants you to MC her next show. She’ll pay $5 million for five hours of work, but you have to shave off your hair, get a nose ring, call yourself “Motherfucker Motherfucker IV” the entire time (without laughing) and, at night’s end, lick the entire 200’x300’ floor. You in? You seriously had me right up until that part about licking the floor. The $5 million will barely cover those medical bills and you know it.

• Three memories from your senior prom? 1. It 2. Was 3. Boring

• Five all-time favorite athletes: Kong Linghui, Sergey Morozov, Peter Gade, Rune Kristiansen, Bobby Fischer

• In your mind, what are the odds of some sort of afterlife?: High enough that it’s possible, low enough that I’m gonna enjoy the one life I’m sure of right now just in case.

• Climate change–hoax or scary-as-shit problem?: Problem. People who think climate change is a hoax? Scary-as-shit problem.

• One question you would ask Carrot Top were he here right now?: Celine Dion calls. She wants you to MC her next show. She’ll pay $5 million for 5 hours of work, but you have to shave off all your hair, get a nose ring, call yourself “Motherfucker Motherfucker IV” the entire time (without laughing) and, at night’s end, like the entire 200′x300′ floor. How much of your $5 million will you spend on your face?

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Scott Melker

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 1.50.57 AMA couple of months ago someone e-mailed me this: “You need to hear Ballin’ Oates right now.”

So I Googled “Ballin’ Oates”—and found this amazing, dazzling, mind-blowing creation of five Hall & Oates-mixed-with-hip hop jams.

The music—insane.

The creativity—remarkable.

The genius—Scott Melker.

Wait. You probably know him as The Melker Project. Whatever the case, the Penn-educated, New York City-based DJ is a superstar in a medium that’s finally being fully appreciated. He’s remixed some of the most unlikely song pairings in modern music history, and has played gigs alongside a wide-ranging list of artists that includes Kanye West, Sheryl Crow, Gloria Estefan and Q-Tip. One can visit Scott’s site here and follow him on Twitter here. Oh, and his SoundCloud page is a must visit.

Scott Melker, welcome to the Qua-Qua-Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: I’m a huge hip-hop guy, and an even huger Hall and Oates guy—and Ballin’ Oates truly, truly, truly rocked my world. So I have to ask: How did this idea pop into your head? What was the process? Why Hall and Oates? And did you ever hear from Daryl or John afterward?

SCOTT MELKER: Ballin’ Oates was my third EP in a series of similar projects (Skeetwood Mac, The Skeetles). H&O are arguably my favorite duo of all time, and the name (which I came up with while baking in the Turkish Sauna in New York City) was just too brilliant not to build around. The process was tedious, to say the least. I narrowed down their catalogue to around 10 songs, and began replaying all of the individual instruments on my keyboard. I used different sounds than in the originals for each part, and created entirely new drum tracks to modernize the songs. When that was finished, I went to work figuring out vocal tracks that would sound great on each song, which helped narrow it down to the five tracks that I released.

Oates and I were actually interviewed together in Billboard in advance of their induction to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. He had positive things to say about Ballin’ Oates, which was absolutely mind blowing and humbling.

J.P.: It seems like, for most of modern music history, the DJ was the dude in the background, sort of like the drummer. We knew he existed, and appreciated his contributions. But, well, he was also sort of invisible. That, clearly, has changed. My question, Scott, is how and why? And am I even right on this theory?

S.M.: This theory is only partially correct. I think it is true to the average person, but DJs have been celebrities in club and hip hop culture since the 1980s. Now it is mainstream, and much bigger than ever before.

There are a few reasons. First, technology has made “DJing” far more accessible to the masses. I put “DJing” in quotes, because basically any jackass with a laptop can now be a “DJ.” The simplicity of the technology, paired with the rise of EDM in the United States, has created the “perfect storm” for DJ culture. Almost every pop record is now basically an innocuous EDM song—and the DJs are the ones who are creating that type of music. The result is a lot of producers making a ton of money “DJing” by pushing play and watching the pretty lasers. There are, however, a ton of incredibly talented DJs who are finally getting their due.

J.P.: I know you’re from Torrance, California, know you were raised in Gainesville, Florida, know you attended Penn and know you DJed a lot in Philly while in college. But, musically speaking, what’s your life path, from womb to here? Put differently: How did this happen?

S.M.: Music has always been the centerpiece of my life. It started on the piano at 5, progressed into singing, than the saxophone, followed by the harmonica and guitar. By the time I hit college, DJing was a cooler way to play music, and subsequently flirt with girls. I fell in love with the craft, started producing, and ended up where I am today.

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J.P.: I’m fascinated by your remixes and, specifically, the thought process. I mean, how does a guy think to himself, “You know what’ll be great? Nas and Phil Collins!”? or “Let’s mash up Twista and Hall and Oates!”? Where do the ideas come from? What makes two songs compatible for one another? If I say, randomly, Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” and “Exhibit C” by Jay Electronica, could you make it work? Or are there certain timing, style, lyrical elements that have to mesh?

S.M.: I have ADD, which pretty much sums up my musical approach. My bank of ideas is endless, but only a small percentage of them make it to market. At the most basic level, the two songs have to be in the same key, at roughly the same tempo. More importantly, they just have to “feel right,” which is something that is up to the individual producer to determine. Sometimes this is a result of trial and error, but most often I search my mental music library for songs that I believe will fit—and they usually do.

I have done “commissioned” mashups for people before and made them work. Recently a client asked me to put Happy together with Mr. Blue Sky and it worked out quite well … as for Gloria, well, I would have to try. I heard she has voices in her head, calling Gloriaaaaaa.

J.P.: Along those lines, how do you do it? I’ve listened to your stuff over and over, and the technical process itself seems really … daunting. I’m naïve, admittedly, but how do you extract old verses from a song that wasn’t recorded digitally? Does everything start clunkily, and you smooth it out?

S.M.: I generally replay the instrumentals from scratch, unless I am lucky enough to dig up the stems from the original recording. If I have the stems, I usually use them as the base, and build from there with the live instrumentation. For vocals, you really have to have the separated a cappella track to be able to use a song. You can make DIY versions, but they usually sound awful—and to do it you need the instrumental track, which is usually unavailable as well.

For example, on Ballin’ Oates, I completely replayed Out Of Touch in midi, and then toyed with new sounds for each instrument. I created a fresh drum track. I was able to isolate the vocal of one line—”You’re Out Of Touch, I’m Out Of Time,” which is the only “sample” from the original H&O song on the entire track.

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J.P.: I remember, years ago, Coolio wanting to Kill Weird Al when he turned “Gangsta’s Paradise” into a parody. Have you run into any problems with artists? Do you ever get people saying, “Don’t touch my shit”?

S.M.: Coolio is buggin’. I would kill to have Weird Al parody one of my songs. I have run into problems, but never with the actual artists. More often it is the label that complains and sends a cease and desist. I have had a lot of my work removed from the internet, which is a death sentence for a project. I post everything to Legitmix, which is an innovative platform that allows producer to legally share and sell derivative and sampled content. So even if things get taken down elsewhere, they generally stay live there.

J.P.: Is there a such thing, factually, as great music and shit music? For example, my daughter is pretty big into Z100 lately—and it melts my brain. If I have to hear one more Ke$sha song, I literally think I’ll vomit into my eyeballs. But then I play, say, old Sam Cooke or even A Tribe Called Quest, and she wants to run away. Do you have standards in this regard? Are there any?

S.M.: This is completely subjective. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That said, A Tribe Called Quest and Sam Cooke are pretty much better than everything else. I do hold certain standards, but I believe that I can pretty much take anything and turn into something I like. I’m not a Carly Rae Jepsen fan, but I had fun chopping and screwing her vocals to make her sound like Cher had a baby with the lead singer of Nickelback.

Side note: I would pay to see someone vomit into their eyeballs.

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J.P.: As a DJ, what does it feel like when you’re doing an event and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is clicking? The crowd’s going crazy, the acoustics are perfect, the music is flowing. Explain the high …

S.M.: You know sex? Drugs? Skydiving? All of the other rushes that people think are the “best?” Those are half as amazing as what you are describing. There is nothing better, period. Well, maybe playing the perfect gig while skydiving and having sex.

J.P.: You started playing piano at age 5—just like my daughter. Sometimes I have to drag her, she hates practicing, etc … etc. Is it worthwhile? What did playing an instrument do for you?

S.M.: You can’t force feed a child music, unfortunately. They will just end up quitting, getting a tattoo and resenting you forever. No big deal. I loved playing the piano from day one, so it was never a “chore.” It was something I wanted to do every day. I owe my career to two things—my childhood piano teacher, and my parents, who played amazing music every day in our house. I have their entire record collection, and still dip into it every day.

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J.P.: Throughout your career you’ve worked as a DJ with some genuinely high-profile and disparate acts—Public Enemy and Wu Tang to Sheryl Crow and Crosby Stills and Nash. Explain to me the philosophy and approach that comes from doing, say, a hip-hop gig vs. a country-rock or folk one?

S.M.: You have to play to the crowd, but still maintain your integrity as an artist. I like to push the limits and see what I can get away with. I mean, playing Van Morrison at a hip hop concert, or Three Six Mafia at a Crosby, Stills and Nash concert are risky propositions. But it works when mixed with something that makes sense to the audience. Or you crash and burn—so there’s that possibility.

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• Your name is Scott Melker, which isn’t particlarly sexy. Have you ever considered, a la Chad Ochocinco, a name change to DJ Motherfucker or DJ Bring the House Down? Something like that?: Technically, I now go by The Melker Project, which is equally unsexy. I never really considered a name change, because I have never been confident enough in a nickname that I would want it to stick. Kind of like a tattoo … I mean, my first DJ moniker was “Pookie,” which was my fraternity pledge name, after Chris Rock’s crackhead character in New Jack City (one of the best movies ever). I’m glad that didn’t stick.

• Top five 90s hip-hop songs that would still work magic in a club filled with 18-year olds today: Juicy (or Hypnotize), Hip Hop Hooray (they can wave their hands back and forth), Poison (not really hip hop, but still kills em’), Money Ain’t A Thang and Slam by Onyx, just because I love Slam by Onyx.

• Rank in order (favorite to least)—Jeb Bush, House of Pain, male-pattern baldness, Peabo Bryson, Pete Rock, “Remains of the Day,” Cherry Coca-Cola, Converse All-Stars, Slam Magazine, U.S. Postal Service, beauty marks, Drake, Rubik’s Cube, salmon: Pete Rock, Rubik’s Cube, House Of Pain, Salmon, Peabo Bryson, Converse All Stars, Slam Magazine, Cherry Coca-Cola, Remains Of The Day, U.S. Postal Service, Beauty Marks, Male-Pattern Baldness, Drake, Jeb Bush

• Do you think Tupac would have approved of the Ghetto Gospel remaking with Elton John that was put out on a posthumous CD?: Yes, because he would have gotten paid.

• In 20 words or less, can you make an argument for Young MC?: I can do it in seven words. Don’t Just Stand There, Bust A Move.

• Best and worst venues you’ve ever worked?: Best—Red Rocks in Colorado. Worst—Tenjune in New York City. F#ck that place, seriously.

• Why is pot such a huge part of the entertainment world?: Because it’s awesome (apparently).

• Five genuinely nicest, most decent celebrities you’ve worked with: Justin Timberlake (we sang karaoke together in Japan), Snoop Dogg, CeeLo, Lupe Fiasco, Questlove

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I have experienced three, count em’ THREE, emergency landings in my life. I never really felt like I was going to die. The old lady next to me on one of the flights though … She really thought she was going to die.

• Celine Dion calls. She wants you to produce her upcoming 50-track CD, “Celine Sings Only About Strawberry Cupcakes.” Good news: She’ll pay $15 million for a year’s work. Bad news: You work 365-straight days, sleep in her broom closet and have to only wear pink T-shirts that read, I’M CELINE’S BITCH BOY. You in?: Absolutely. I would do it for a dollar and some envelopes. And a pack of Skittles.

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Jojo Moyes

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So one of the big problems with writing biographies is you rarely get to read stuff for fun. In the course of researching Sweetness, for example, I probably went through, oh, 50 Chicago Bears-related books.

That takes a helluva lot of time.

Hence, when the wife recently raved about an “amazing” book she was recently reading about some dude in a wheelchair, I nodded, sighed and—to be honest—pretty much ignored her. Wheelchair? Who had time for a wheelchair book? I’m deep in research.

Then, however, I had a flight. A long flight. So I opened up the ol’ Nook and started reading “Me Before You,” by Joj Moyes. I read and read and read and read and read—and could not put the dang thing down. Narrative—amazing. Dialogue—terrific. Character development—tremendous. This wasn’t just a book. No, it was an experience. One that left me both wanting more, but completely fulfilled.

When I was done, I located Jojo on Twitter and, it turns out, we spoke once before, for an article she wrote several years ago. Small world.

Anyhow, I’m thrilled to bring you Jojo Moyes, Essex, England resident and this week’s Quaz. Her new book, One Plus One, was released in the U.S. on July 1, and she’ll be touring the States beginning July 5. You can see her full schedule here, follow her on Twitter here, and visit her website here. She has no idea who Ariana Grande is. But, hey. No one’s perfect.

Jojo Moyes, dreams come true. You’ve been Quazed …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Jojo, I just read “Me Before You” and loved it. Absolutely, positively loved it. As did my wife and, apparently, shitloads of people. Which leads me to ask this: What—if anything—don’t you love about it? Now that the book is done, out, digested—are there parts you don’t feel amazing about? Word choices you regret? Any writer’s remorse whatsoever? Because lord knows, I always have tons of the stuff …

J.M.: Okay—this may be an annoying answer, but I’m going to be honest. This is the only book I’ve ever written (and I’ve written 11) that I didn’t hate afterwards. There’s actually not much I would change about it at all. I did find a few small things when I was adapting it as a script, but I can’t remember what they were, so they can’t have been major. It’s actually the only book I’ve written that I can read and re-read, too. Mostly once I’m done, I don’t look at a book again, except to read from it in public. I’m too busy thinking about the next one, and all I can see is what I want to change.

My husband is my first reader. Mostly he reads a book, makes lots of really frank suggestions, and I don’t talk to him for two days, admit he’s probably right, and then set to rewriting. This was the first of my books where he just sat back and went: “Yup. I like that.”

J.P.: Today, I sat in a coffee shop with my laptop and tried to churn shit out. I’ll be back at it tonight, probably in the nearby diner, after my kids go to sleep. Jojo, how do you write? Where do you write? Do you churn out 5,000 words at a time? Do you slave over 50? How does it work for you?

J.M.: It’s a constant struggle to find the time not just to write, but the time to think about what I’m going to write. I probably spend 70 percent thinking time to 30 percent writing. I used to write after my kids went to bed, but two of them are teenagers now and frequently go to bed after I do, so I’ve taken to starting at 6 am before everyone else gets up. I try to write 5,000 words a week, in a mixture of bed, coffee shops (although other people talking makes me really crabby) and my little office, above a hairdressers. Some weeks I manage more, mostly I manage less.

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J.P.: How did you get the idea for “Me Before You”? I mean, I get nonfiction ideas, especially in sports. There’s this great quarterback, no one’s ever done a book on him, he’s quite popular—bam! But, with fiction, where does the concept derive from? And what makes you think, pre-anything, it’ll both work as a narrative, and ultimately sell?

J.M.: Most of my books come from snippets of things: news stories I’ve read, or heard, or bits of conversations I’ve thought about afterwards. The best ideas for fiction, I’ve found, are when a story you’ve heard just won’t leave your head. That’s when I start trying to work out how to turn it into fiction. “Me Before You” came from a news story I heard in 2008 about a young sportsman who was left quadriplegic and persuaded his parents to help him commit suicide. I was so shocked by it, and I couldn’t rationalize it, and that’s why I needed to explore it further.

I never know what is going to sell. I don’t think you can anticipate the market like that, or it comes across as calculating. When I wrote “Me Before You,” I would describe the outline to publishers and you could see them actually recoil a little bit. Like: “It’s about a quadriplegic who wants to DIE? Who’s going to want to read that?” But I just had a really clear idea of the story in my head, and faith that I could write it. Luckily, it turned out okay.

J.P.: You spent a decade working as a journalist—nine of those years at The Independent covering news and entertainment. What was the challenge of sliding over from reporter to novelist? Is it a natural transition? Do you report fiction, as far as background, details, etc?

J.M.: I think it has advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of being a journalist first are numerous—as you probably know. You have the ability to ‘see’ stories everywhere. You learn to listen (a surprisingly rare skill). You learn to write, and to do it to a deadline (also surprisingly rare). You can research swiftly and accurately. The downside, weirdly, is that nine years in news kind of batters out of you the ability to write much other than really factual language. It took me ages to relax and to let myself get a little more colourful.

J.P.: Your book has sold 3 million copies. Let me repeat that: 3 million copies. Which makes me say two things: A. Bite me; B. When did you first know you had a hit? Not a hit, like I’ve be lucky enough to experience (best-seller list, 80,000 sold), but a full-throttle, ass-kicking mega-hit that makes you a pretty big superstar? Was there a moment?

J.M.: Hahaha! I’m not sure there has been ‘a’ moment, more a series of moments. When it first went big in Britain, back in 2012, I was just massively grateful, as I’d had a few books that had not done too well, and I was just desperate to be able to carry on writing. But then it charted, and then the following year it sold big in the US, and then it sold big in Germany, and then suddenly, two years later, you get odd bits of news like: “Oh you’re Number One in the hardback and paperback charts in Norway.” And nobody even told you.

There have been a few moments though. One was flying to MGM in LA to talk to them about adapting it. Walking into that reception, with all those Oscars on the wall, was completely surreal. Another was turning up late to an event in Chicago and discovering that there was an actual round-the-block queue of people waiting to have books signed. I feel weird even saying this stuff, because in England it’s considered a little boastful. But I have a friend, Ol, a scriptwriter, who said to me: “You’ve written one of those books.” And that really hit me. Because we all know ‘those’ books. And it’s so far beyond what I dreamt of that I still have trouble accepting this isn’t actually a dream and someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and I’ll be back to just chugging away, hoping I don’t’ have to take in a lodger …

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J.P.: I know you’re 45, know you’re from London. But when did you first get the writing bug? What made you want to do this for a living? And was there a moment when you know, “Hey, I’m not so bad …”?

J.M.: 44! Ahem! (at least for another few weeks). And I’ve written since I was a child. I was an only child, and a massive bookworm, and it’s just how I’ve always processed the world. But I didn’t think I could be ‘a writer’ until I’d been a journalist for many years. To me, a writer was someone very cool, intellectual, possibly living in a garret in Paris.

And no, I haven’t had that “Hey, I’m not so bad’ moment yet. Occasionally I write things that I’m quite proud of, but mostly I’m just annoyed with myself that the book in my head is always better than what I manage to get onto the page.

J.P.: I read your book on a Nook (that was fun to write, actually). Are you cool with that? Do you prefer people purchase print copies? And, Jojo, what sort of adjustment do you think we need to make, here in the book world, to the digital era? Can we survive and thrive?

J.M.: I’m happy with however people read. My two boys were not big book readers, and then we bought an e-reader and it actually started them reading everything. I also love traveling with an e-reader as they’re so much lighter than six or seven books in your suitcase. And I think we are in a period of huge change, but humans are infinitely adaptable, and it’s interesting seeing writers working out how to put their own stuff out there, publishers finding new media.

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J.P.: Your books have received wonderful reviews, almost across the board. On Amazon, for example, 4,417 customers have reviewed “Me Before You,” and 3,284 gave you five stars. Awesome, great, awesome. Then I stumbled upon this review: “Speaking as person in a wheelchair, with a job, a life, a passport full of stamps from interesting trips and not nearly enough free time to do half the things on my list, this book makes me want to smack my head into a wall for the stupid damage that it does to the public perception of people in wheelchairs. Ugh. And, yes, you can of course, say that this book is not about people in wheelchairs, it is about a particular character in his particular wheelchair, but seriously, where are the books about people in wheelchairs living interesting, not horrible lives, that rack up thousands of reviews on Amazon? (There’s Moving Violations – great book, nowhere near as popular as this wretched thing.) And, how many movies can you think of where the person in a wheelchair is either the villain or the subject of pity? Now, how many where they’re a regular character? How many where they’re the hero? … And this book gets so many rave reviews. To reiterate, ugh.”

As a fellow writer, I wonder two things: A. Do bad reviews hurt you—as they almost always hurt me? Like, is your skin thick enough to worry little; to move on without a second’s thought? And B. Were you at all concerned about how quadriplegics would react to the book?

J.M.: I hadn’t seen that. I’m not entirely sure what to say. Nobody likes to think that their book is going to actively upset people.

But as the writer says, this was not a book about all wheelchair users, just one. I was concerned before I wrote it—I didn’t want people reading it and thinking that was a future I advocated for anyone disabled (especially as I have a disabled child myself). I actually wanted to discuss the issue of autonomy and personal choice—even when it flies against what we are comfortable with—and I’ve actually had so much positive feedback from both quads and their carers that I am reassured that generally people have just enjoyed reading about a wheelchair user who was three-dimensional, and smart, annoying, sexy. I wanted the wheelchair not to be the thing that you thought of when you thought about him.

A lot of people just contact me to say it has opened their eyes to a lot of the issues quads face, which I”m glad of. The head of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation contacted me a while back to say he wanted to support the book for exactly that reason. That’s good enough for me.

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J.P.: You’re insanely good with dialogue. I mean that—as good as they come. As a writer, what’s the key to this? Do you pay attention to how folks talk? Do you try and hone in on conversations? What?

J.M.: Very kind of you to say so. Yes, I really do pay attention to how people talk (this is a polite way of saying I’m really nosy and spend a lot of time eavesdropping). I think that it’s easy as a writer to write dialogue that is quite stylised, and expresses how people would like their fictional characters to talk. Real life conversations tend to be far messier and (in our house, anyway) have a lot of dark humour. Basically I just try to write how people I know actually talk to each other.

J.P.: A couple of years ago you interviewed me for a piece on Internet bullying. With your increased notoriety and book success, have you experienced some of this? Thugs? Assholes? Etc?

J.M.: I did! And you were a great interviewee. (I still love the story of what you did to that troll). And the answer is—without wanting to bring it all down on my head—surprisingly few. I try very hard not to answer any trolls back though. Just block and move on, that’s the way. Life is too short to sit there messing up your blood pressure because of some armchair warrior.

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• You have the happiest first name of all time. What’s the story behind it?: I am named after a Beatles song—Get Back. My parents were huge fans. I’m a little concerned that Jojo was a man, but …

• Three memories from your first date: Hah! With my husband? Um … whisky, an ambulance, and I can’t tell you any more!

• Celine Dion calls. She wants you to co-author her autobiography, titled, “Celine: I’m Amazing.” She’ll pay $25 million, but you have to live with her in Las Vegas for a year, sleep in her (admittedly king size) bed with her, paint her toenails every morning and live on a diet of tuna, Dr. Pepper and stale rye bread. You in?: Totally, if my kids can have visitation rights. But not for the money. It would be absolutely fascinating. Oh hang on, I just read the bit about the sleeping in bed. Hmm.

• Five greatest novelists of your lifetime?: John UpdikeNora Ephron. AM Homes. Kate Atkinson. George RR Martin.

• How do you come up with the names of your characters?: I just stare at my bookshelves and pull out whatever names on spines I haven’t used yet.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Traveling Wilburys, The Telegraph, Paris, Woody Allen movies, former Cincinnati Red first baseman Dan Driessen, Ariana Grande, A Streetcar Named Desire, Lionel Messi, Kitty Kelly, glue sticks: Is this like some weird Rorschach test?. Paris, A Streetcar Named Desire, Lionel Messi, The Telegraph, Woody Allen movies, Glue Sticks, The Traveling Wilburys, Kitty Kelly, Dan Driessen, No idea who Ariana Grande is. Sorry!

• How’d you meet your husband?: At work, when I was a journalist. Neither of us got out much.

• How do you respond to the, “I have a great book idea and I’d love to talk to you about it …” e-mail?: I use the Stephen King defence: I’m so sorry but my lawyer has advised me not to read anybody else’s work, in case I unconsciously steal your ideas.

• Would you rather live for eternity or die at 90?: Having had three loved relatives in care homes, I do not want to live for either eternity, or 90. I’d like to live for just as long as I am lucid and independent.

• Grossest thing you’ve ever seen?: If I answered this truthfully, your blog would drop 50 percent of its readers.