Julia Louis-Dreyfus returns in “VEEP”

We love this photo of Julia Louis-Dreyfus on the cover of Rolling Stone promoting the new season of “VEEP” on HBO. She’s always looked hot and has been one of the funniest women on television for years. “VEEP” made our list last year of the best shows on television, so we’re looking forward to another great season.

  

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A Chat with Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss may have had pop culture street-cred for his work as a journalist for Rolling Stone and The New York Times, but it wasn’t until he wrote The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, that he became perceived as a “guy’s guy” journalist…for better or worse. Now, with the help of collaborator Adam Kornblum, The Game has been turned into a game itself. Strauss talked with Bullz-Eye about the unique entity that is Who’s Got Game? while taking additional time to discuss some of his other literary endeavors as well.

Bullz-Eye: So The Game is now officially a game.

Neil Strauss: Yes. In a matter of speaking. [Laughs.]

How weird was that? Was it an idea that you came up with, or did someone else pitch it to you?

Yeah, I don’t think I ever would’ve come up with that on my own. [Laughs.] But now I’m really into it. Now I really love it. There’s two elements. One, it’s really fun – Adam (Kornblum) made a game, and I made it into more of a game that I’d want to play with my friends – and, two, it’s just kind of fun to have a game. It’s kind of a childhood dream. It’s not just Monopoly or Sorry! or Mousetrap or Chutes and Ladders or…there’s this game 221B Baker Street, which is, like, a better Clue. [Laughs.] But all those games…I’d always wanted to do a game, but what I think really motivated me to want to do it was that Adam contacted me, and…I didn’t know him at all, but sometimes in the deluge there’s a compelling email where we sit around and think, “Maybe we should contact this guy.” And he had done a game for Hasbro, so he had some credibility there. He said he had made a game based on the books I’d done already that he’d been, like, taking out to bars and playing there just to meet women. So I thought, okay, this guy’s field-tested his idea, he’s not just writing about an idea that he’s come up with while he’s sitting in front of his email. I guess he’s now engaged, so obviously it worked to some degree. [Laughs.] Anyway, I thought, “Okay, let’s kind of entertain this and take it seriously.” And he sent it over, and I kept just playing it with different friends and then adding tweaks and changing it and adding new types of cards. Like, I really wanted the game to be something that you play in bars but, like, for example, when I’d go out, I’d end up bringing people back to my house and I’d be, like, “Fuck, now what do I do with them?” And the game’s kind of like social lubrication, a way to get to know people and having everybody having fun and laughing and bonding without any awkwardness.

You said Adam got the ball rolling, but when someone’s playing the game of The Game, what’s something that you personally added to the game?

I think a couple of my favorite things are the Neg cards, where, like, whoever has the worst driver’s license picture or the most wrinkled shirt loses points. [Laughs.] It’s, like, I thought, what’s fun is people laughing at themselves and their own foibles in a non-malicious way, where you’re teasing someone like they’re friends might tease them. Another favorite is the Secret cards, which are basically…it’s a secret social mission to pull off over the course of the game. For example, if you make up something conversationally and someone else in the group believes it’s true, you get two points. So all through the game there are these two layers: the game itself, and the social mission. And it’s a fun layer. It’s a fun form of manipulation, because you’re, like, “How can I get everyone to believe this and get my points?” The social dynamics part is something that, as far as I know, hasn’t been seen in a game yet. There are games with fun challenges, tests, points giving and taking, but where you’re actually trying to execute a social mission within the group…? That’s where it becomes unique.

It definitely seems that you don’t have to be single or on the market, as it were, to enjoy the game.

Oh, definitely not. In fact, we had a dinner party a few nights ago, it was about 12 people, and I’d say about eight of them were couples in serious relationships. So, no, it doesn’t matter at all. Either it’s good to get to know someone or it’s just fun to play with friends. But, I mean, my girlfriend and I play it all the time. It’s fun to go to a party and bring your own game. By the way, you only do that at parties with really good friends who are proud of you and can appreciate that you have your own game, and not with casual acquaintances who are, like, “Why is this asshole bringing his game to our party?” [Laughs.]

Having brought up the fact that you have a girlfriend begs a question about the original book: how quickly did you admit to her that you were the guy behind The Game? Or did she know from the get-go?

Uh, yeah, at this point, I think I’m kind of screwed. I kind of have to say it up front, because if I don’t, one of these things happens: they know the book already, their friends are going to tell them, or they’re going to Google me and find out. Better that I be the bearer of the news. [Laughs.] It can definitely make it more difficult as far as getting people to trust anything you’re saying. I think my only recourse is to be as sincere as possible, because everything is tainted with suspicion.

So what was the original impetus for writing The Game? You’d written in the medium of pop culture quite a bit prior to that, certainly, but…

I think the initial impetus was being a rock critic at Rolling Stone and The New York Times and going to all these shows, which are carnivals of flesh and sexuality, really. But that’s rock ‘n’ roll. [Laughs.] And I’m just the lonely guy with the notepad watching everybody else have all the fun, hoping that maybe some girl’s going to come up and talk to me because I’m writing something in my notepad. And then I’d say, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to this show next week and these other shows the following week, if you want to come with me,” and I assumed that was going to be a date, and…I remember once I met this girl at one, and she ended up making out with the guy sitting next to me. And I was, like, “What the fuck…? What’s wrong with me?” So it really came not from a desire to go underground and assume an identity and be an investigative journalist or even to write a book but, rather, to help get over my own problems with women. [Laughs.]

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Holiday Gift Ideas – Books

We covered a wide range of categories in our 2011 Holiday Gift Guide, from Gadgets to Movie DVDs. Here we offer up some book ideas as well.

Steve Jobs
By Walter Isaacson

This isn’t just a great biography. Isaacson is a very talented writer, historian and storyteller who’s written about great men such as Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein. Jobs is also a fascinating figure, but the difference here is that Steve Jobs just passed away this year, and we’re able to read about a man whose accomplishments and impact on society are so fresh in our minds. Practically everyone who reads this book can relate to Jobs’ inventions and innovations, making the story that much more compelling.

This was made possible because Jobs gave Isaacson access during the final years of his life, and Jobs was willing to open up and let Isaacson see him for who he was, warts and all. We see a man who was both brilliant and petulant. He was extremely passionate but often rude and insulting. We see how Jobs’ obsessive attention to detail and passion for products led to his stunning successes, as well as some of his more spectacular failures.

One of the more fascinating story lines involves his rivalry with Bill Gates. Jobs was obsessed with total control over his products and insisted on closed systems so he could control the user experience. Job relied on his intuition and his maniacal attraction to beauty and simplicity. Gates believed in open systems and was eager to license his software to a wide variety of partners, even if that meant sacrificing the user experience and quality. Gates was the clear winner early as PCs dominated Macs and Apple almost went bankrupt, but Jobs had the last laugh as he pushed Apple to revolutionize consumer electronics with the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone and the iPad.

The book is a great read, and it’s a great gift for anyone who likes biographies or is interested in technology or business.

Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead: Journeys into Fame and Madness
By Neil Strauss

On the back of this book, which is a compilation of interviews and other wild stories from Neil Strauss’s career as a rock journalist, Strauss states, “You can tell a lot about somebody in a minute. If you pick the right minute. Here are 228 of them.” Strauss is a master storyteller, and we got our first introduction to his work years ago when he wrote “The Game,” which in our opinion is the best book you’ll on pick-up artists and dating advice for men. Strauss uses some of the same skills he learned as a pick-up artist to get celebrities to talk to him. His use of a mind-reading illusion to get Britney Spears to open up to him is a classic. Strauss recounts all sorts of bizarre encounters, from shooting guns with Ludacris, being kidnapped by Courtney Love and being told off by Prince. As a writer for Rolling Stone he had access to everybody. The book is very entertaining and makes for a great gift for fans of music and/or celebrities.

The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon’s Golden Age Baseball Photographs
By Neal and Constance McCabe

Is baseball starting to get its groove back? The American Pastime has had a rough go recently, particularly with the steroids scandal that upended many of the great records that helped define the game. Baseball’s glory days now seem so long ago. Yet Major league Baseball has been getting some good news, as they avoided the labor troubles we’ve seen in football and basketball, and we’ve just come off one of the most dramatic World Series comebacks in baseball history.

This book compiles golden age baseball photographs taken by Charles M. Conlon taken between 1902 and 1942. The book features over 200 portraits, and the authors include well-written profiles of the players featured on each page, including quotes from the players themselves. Photos include baseball great such as Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Phil Rizzuto, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig. Many of the photos have never been published, and this makes a great coffee table book. Baseball fans will love it.

  

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