Rejuvenile by Christopher Noxon  
 

12.15.06 Rejuvenile: The Backstory

First, we talked cupcakes. Now, we talk business. Rachel Kramer Bussel, whose online presence is deliciously split between a blog about cupcakes and a blog about erotica, did a very nice piece this summer on the cupcake blog about rejuveniles and food.

This week she posted an equally good, if somewhat less tasty, question-and-answer about the mechanics and practicalities of writing this book. It?s posted on the journalism webzine Mediabistro. Here?s an excerpt:

Where did you first get the idea for The New York Times “rejuvenile” article and how long did you spend researching it? Did you have plans to turn it into a book at that time? Were there more things you wanted to explore and chronicle than you had room for in the Times piece?
?I’d been freelancing for magazines and newspapers for seven-odd years when I started thinking seriously about writing a book—I felt my attention span getting longer and was itching to tackle a big, amorphous topic. The idea for Rejuvenile grew out of questions I was asking myself, and things I saw around me. At the time, I was dividing my time between freelancing and taking care of two little kids. I discovered that caring for small children gave me license to play tag, splatter paint, eat Popsicles and do all sorts of things I was sure would be listed as felonies in the “Official Adult Rule Book.” Talking first to other parents and then to a number of other adults, I was shocked to find I wasn’t alone—grown-ups all over were indulging their inner children like never before; the meaning of maturity had fundamentally changed without much reflection or comment.

I approached a few agents with the idea but was mostly met with “call us back when you have a proposal.” Betsy Amster—a former editor at Pantheon and Vintage, who now runs an independent agency here in L.A.—was the exception. She loved the idea, helped me plan and shape the proposal, and advised me on what material to concentrate on for a sample chapter.
Hoping to turn a freelance assignment into a sample chapter, I pitched editors I’d worked with at The New York Times with a story about adults who love kiddie music—I’d just seen a band called Gwendolyn and the Goodtime Gang do a set of rock covers of “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and “Bingo” for an over-21 club and had talked to collectors who specialized in weird old kids records and thought it would make a good [“Sunday Styles”] feature. They liked the music idea, but were way more interested in the larger phenomenon, and ended up assigning a general trend piece.

After the rejuvenile story ran on the front page of the “Sunday Styles” section, I spent another month fleshing out the proposal, eager to submit it while the story was still relatively fresh. In the end, I didn’t do a sample chapter at all, opting instead to do a detailed overview and lengthy chapter summaries (which, of course, changed when I got the deal and actually began writing).

How did the book deal come about?
?To my enormous relief, the proposal was picked up within the first week. Three publishers expressed interest, though Rachel Klayman at Crown/Random House was the most enthusiastic. She made an offer within 24 hours. There was a date set for an auction but, in the end, the other publishers elected not to compete with Crown.

In your book proposal, how much of your research plans were mapped out?
?I did a lot of advance research for the proposal, referencing basic demographic, marketing sociological data that supported my thesis, and including interviews I conducted while reporting The New York Times piece. These research plans changed significantly once I started work—I altered four chapter topics, added three others and rearranged material.

Do you have any advice to first-time nonfiction authors? Is there anything you’d have done differently, either from a financial standpoint or a journalistic one? ?
It’s become a clich?, but it bears repeating: Your job is only half-done once you’ve finished the book. Your publisher or agent or publicist can be helpful with promotion but, ultimately, it’s your job to get the word out. This extra work has its benefits—it’s great to connect with readers, and hear how your ideas land in a larger market—but it’s hard to make the switch from writing and reporting to hustling and promoting.

Posted at 9:45 am in News | 2 Comments

12.12.06 Strobe Lights (Formerly Snackage)

You there, against the wall ? drop the Dixie cup and get out on the dance floor. Under the flickering lights, behold!

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? I took this photo a few weeks ago on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood and find myself thinking about this poor guy way too often. Beyond wondering about what goes through his mind all day long (Isn’t this how Brad Pitt started?), my question is this: isn?t $14.99 a little steep for a fart machine?

? I just relaunched my author site to include a deeper archive of clips and a Flickr site of photos, doodles and found art. Fun stuff.

? The unstoppable force for good known as Kim and Jason Kotecki have done a sweet redesign of their website devoted to Adultitis, the Jason-named condition marked by over-seriousness, chronic dullness and all the other assorted qualities rejuveniles seek to avoid. Take the online intake questionaire and begin your treatment today!

? If ever there was a worthwhile political campaign for rejuveniles, this is it: preservationists are rallying to stop demolition of an amazing little playground in San Gabriel. I discovered Monster Park a few years ago while hunting for a soup dumpling joint: there, tucked beside a storm drain amidst drab suburban sprawl was a cluster of odd concrete figures ? a dinosaur, an octopus, a whale ? all of which you could slide and climb and scramble all over. It?s the sort of weird, wonderful, probably-unsafe-but-delightfully-so place for kids that you never see anymore. Even if you?ll never make it to San Gabriel to see it yourself, trust me: sign the petition and join the effort to stop the Man from slaying these lovable monsters to make room for another bland, padded plastic-composite play structure. (Link via Spike Brower, who used Monster Park as a principal location in his terrific short film The Fish Burglars)

? Bond goes rejuvenile: In a clever co-opting of moves that mix Kung Fu grace with Spiderman daring-do, the new Bond movie Casino Royale gets an thrilling kick from the age-norm-busting urban gymnastic known as parkour. Producers cast Sebastien Foucan, the parkour pioneer featured in chapter 3 of Rejuvenile, as Mollaka the Bomb-Maker, who leads Bond on an intense opening foot chase. Not shabby for a 36-year-old dad.

? Here?s a culinary event for rejuveniles ? the Grilled Cheese Invitational, an annual meeting of gooey sandwich connoisseurs described as ?part competition, part fashion disaster and part rave potluck.? (thanks to best teevee critic ever Heather Havrilesky for tip)

? Trendspotters Buzzfeed did a nice roundup on adult enthusiasm for Legos, which I write about in chapter 2 of Rejuvenile. The Buzzfeed piece links to a bunch of sites by AFOL?s (Adult Fans of Lego), including one by former JPL engineer and entrepreneur Phillip Alvelda who says Legos were a ?transformative toy for me that unleashed my imagination around the realization that I could build ANYTHING.? (Thanks to reader Brian Vartabedian for the link)

Posted at 9:21 am in Briefs | 0 Comments

12.06.06 Pirates & Penguins

The recent success of the CGI movie Happy Feet proves at least three things: 1) that director George Miller has finally atoned for following the miraculous Babe with its druggy disgrace of a sequel, 2) that mash-up pop is now officially not even remotely cool, 3) that penguins have joined pirates as pop culture mascots of the moment.

Anyone else notice the recent pirate n? penguin proliferation? They?re everywhere. Go to Disneyland expecting a meeting with Mickey, Donald & company and you?re instead marauded by packs of rum-swilling scallywags. Turn on PBS or Animal Planet and you?ll enjoy a deep catalog of wildlife films featuring waddling arctic birds. Ever since Johnny Depp channeled Keith Richards in Pirates of the Caribbean and French naturalists mined anthropomorphism for gold in March of the Penguins, pirates and penguins are the hottest thing in the non-copyrightable kid media universe.

It?s worth noting any time a character breaks out of kid media in such a dramatic way. It?s especially worth noting when the zeitgeist is simultaneously infiltrated by icons that represent such diametrically opposed characteristics. Think about it. When pirates are the most popular costume on Halloween, when the movie about dancing penguins is preceded by previews for a movie about surfing penguins, when ?talk like a pirate day? becomes a national media event, when Original Penguin becomes the hottest retro brand is sportswear? it means something. It means these characters have gotten under our skin. They speak to us.

And what do they say? Two different things entirely.

Pirates, of course, are lawless, drunken, slovenly, wily, individualistic, brutal, unhygienic, rootless, venal, greedy, foolhardy and anti-authoritarian. They are what we?d be if we severed all ties with families and bosses and forces of civility. They venture forth, they overdo, they revel and rebel. Their popularity speaks to an intensifying desire to buck against forces of regularity and restraint. We want to unshackle our inner wench or rascal, get drunk at the office party, vomit on the boss? shoes and make off with the buried doubloons. They are our id, our hidden libertarian, our inner rock star.

Penguins are something else. They?re communal, lovable, affectionate, noble, habitual, faceless, dutiful, familial and predictable. They are what we?d be if we gave over entirely to the rule of the crowd. They nurture their young, follow the pack, huddle together against the merciless cold. Our inner penguin urges us to carpool the neighbor?s kids to soccer practice, follow mom?s advice and vote for the candidate with the best plan to mend the social safety net. They are our super ego, our progressive-democrat, our inner social worker.

So which are you, pirate or penguin?

As a father of three who spends much of his time shuttling around in a minivan with more cup holders than horsepower, I fall squarely into the penguin pack. But as is so often the case in such polarizing red state-blue state comparisons, I?m purple. Among my favorite CDs for the grueling commute to school: Captain Bogg and Salty, a kiddie rock act that specializes in, yes ? pirate songs.

Quick, Dreamworks, greenlight that treatment about a band of pirate penguins!

Posted at 11:15 am in The Rejuvenile Impulse | 4 Comments