The Alan Parsons Project: The Turn of a Friendly Card (1980)

The Alan Parsons Project’s ‘70s albums all had great moments and, when they weren’t being unfairly vilified as “Pink Floyd light” or worse (usually by the vociferous, Punk-biased British rock media), they scored plenty of style points amongst open minded progressive rock fans.

But I believe it was the studio-confined ensemble’s fifth (and first after a lucrative contract renegotiation *), The Turn of a Friendly Card, that ultimately became the prototypical A.P.P. LP – complete with dramatic synthesizer introductions for smooth, classy pop rock (“May Be a Price to Pay”), punchy chart singles (“Games People Play” – No. 16 in the U.S.), ethereal post-prog ballads (“Time,” which went one better at No. 15), and atmospheric, even finger-snapping instrumentals (“The Gold Bug”).

All of these styles were just as seamlessly aligned on Side B’s sixteen-minute titular suite, highlighted by the thought-provoking main theme’s cautionary bookends, another memorable instrumental in “The Ace of Swords” and an initially gentle, later hard rocking “Nothing Left to Lose” – one of many songs crooned by the Alan Parsons Project’s “silent” but very equal creative partner, Eric Woolfson, who left us in 2009.

As did, almost exactly one year ago, another frequent A.P.P. lead vocal regular, Chris Rainbow; and still, this peculiar collection of nerd rockers and hired guns continues to resonate today with non-judgmental lovers of meticulously crafted songs, no matter the genre.

* After lengthy and heated proceedings with Arista Records, Parsons and Woolfson allegedly delivered an all-instrumental album named “The Sicilian Defence” (named after a famously aggressive chess move) that would have fulfilled their contract and, thus, forced Arista to capitulate to their demands.


some facts about Snail racing:
you don’t need 10 g to play, if you have less than 10g or no money at all Napstablook will let you play for free. If you win, you get 9 g, so you can still profit by winning in this first race. for all other situations you lose 1 g per win. the secret is to get second by a close margin, then you get 30g because Napstablook is so nervous, he gives you too much. you make a 20 g profit doing this. 

The secret to doing this? just hit the z key 7 times at the start of the race, quickly counting out loud to 7. this means exactly 7 exclamation noises should happen, you can’t do any during the countdown. If you are still going too slow try doing it with 8 slowly, but it works best just doing it with 7. you have to count out loud, don’t quickly mash it 7 times or it wont register 7 exclamations.

doing this you can get 20 g profit or 30 g profit if you have no gold, and you can do it repeatedly getting 20 g every 48 seconds if you use C to skip the dialogue, making 25 g/minute rate with no monster encounters or risk or having to pay attention.

….I hustled Blooky’s after-life savings betting on snail races…… Toriel would be disappointed in me. 

Ask a Debut Novelist - Question 4

In which thompsonted, author of The Land of Steady Habits, answers your questions about writing, publishing, and making good work. Have a question? Ask away.

Anonymous asked: Is there a good reason to seek to be published through Little, Brown and Company rather than self-publishing as an ebook?

This is a question I initially skipped because it seemed a little too practical, and I am by no means a publishing expert, or anything close to it. But then I found myself talking out my answer in the shower, and again at night before I drifted off to sleep, and I guess that’s an indication that there’s a lot more to this question than I initially thought.

So here are my initial, practical responses, the ones I would probably cite at a dinner party if we’d just met, Anonymous, and it seemed like maybe you were making chitchat since you’ve heard a lot about how digital technologies are disrupting traditional publishing and I maybe get the sense that the subtext of your question is that it’s a little old fashioned or backward-looking to be doing business with a company that still primarily traffics in paper and glue (a scenario that, for me these days, happens about every other month):

1. Money
Yes, there are best sellers that are self-published on Kindle, where the author ends up making enormous amounts of money on royalties because there are so few middle men involved, and every time I hear one of these stories I’m enamored with them, amazed, and filled with a kind of wild optimism about writers and readers and the narrowing gap between them, and the ability for words to find their proper homes in other people’s lives, despite things like the retail supply chain and its gatekeepers in tall glass buildings.

But just because there are lottery winners doesn’t mean playing lotto is my retirement plan. The fact is a traditional publisher will pay you an advance—they’ll put their money up as a gamble and a gesture of their belief in the book—but more importantly they’ll cover all the considerable expenses involved in getting the book to readers. As I’ve mentioned before I had no idea how much work it was to get a book into stores (both physical and digital). It takes an enormous amount of person-to-person communication for this to happen, which requires relationships and trust and a reputation for not leading people astray, and all sorts of other intangible things that take time to forge. Also: money. It is possible to do this on your own, through social media, or by building a community of readers with a series, but I wasn’t writing a series, and working on a single book sucked up pretty much all of my time. So given the option, I’d still rather spend the time I have writing another book and let a huge, experienced company take care of a lot of the rest.

2. Real, professional readers
You can hire a structural editor and a line editor and a copyeditor. (I happen to do all of those things freelance, and enjoy them immensely, and give those projects everything I have.) But it’s not the same as having other people with a vested stake in your book. In fact, it seems to me having someone else whose fate is also tied to it is the only way to be sure you’ll be called out and challenged on the things you need to be. Editors both purchase your book (thereby laying their own reputations on the line) and also work with you to make it better, which they have a huge personal interest in doing. “Make it better” in my experience comes down to running your manuscript through their own minutely calibrated bullshit detectors. This also applies to agents, who edit as well, often extensively, and if they’re good at what they do won’t let you send anything out that’s not ready, no matter how brilliant you might think it is. One thing I’ve come to realize is that the series of (sometimes endless) gates you have to pass through on the way to publication make your book better. Like so much better. And in that way it’s actually a lot more of a team sport than any tortured writer mythology might have us believe.

3. But, really, money
There’s just no replacement for not being broke. And an advance allows you, on a very practical level, a chance to get started on the next thing. It buys you time.

But say I got the sense, at this dinner party, somewhere around the main course, that you’d decided to self-publish a few books of your own, books you were proud of but felt were maybe underestimated by the traditional publishing establishment and particularly the authors it supports. And say I liked you, which I probably would since in my little fantasy here you’re taking such an interest in me and we’re really getting along and genuinely laughing at the other person’s jokes and like some of the same books—in that case I would probably add:

4. I’m not sure I have the gumption to be my own book’s salesman, publicist and marketer
From my limited experience, publishing is about 10% making a book available and 90% talking about it. If it were just a matter of uploading a file onto Amazon and calling it a day, this would be different, but I know enough to know it’s a whole lot more than that, requiring time and skills, not least of which is a healthy dose of entrepreneurial salesmanship. If there’s anything in this world that seems to run counter to the persistent low hum of my natural self doubt, it would be having to also constantly pitch people, to convince strangers one at a time that they should spend their hard-earned money on my writing. Nothing makes me quite as uncomfortable as being pitched (“Excuse me sir, do you have three minutes for the environment?”), and the idea of doing that to other people about a book I wrote myself makes me want to just evaporate into a thin mist.

5. I am naturally suspicious of self-promoters and salesmen
This is especially true when it comes to creative people, and I know it’s probably not the best attribute in me, and that it comes from both a place of uptight protestant manners—I can hear in the back of my head the word “unclassy” come bubbling up with all its problematic implications—and also one of snobbishness. Salesmanship is somehow an indication of a lack of integrity, of crass motivations peeking through a curtain that, for a real artist, should remain firmly drawn. Of course we all engage in it (ahem), and even those who refuse are eventually creating a kind of persona (“reclusive” “camera shy” or if you’re really lucky “enigmatic”), but for me the separation between writer and seller is already nicely built into the traditional model of author and publisher, so I guess you could say it’s convenient. Having someone else vouch for me is probably more important to me than I’d always like to admit.

But, okay, say we were getting toward dessert, and had gone through all the red and the white and a half-bottle of rose someone found in the fridge, and we already had headaches brewing and knew tomorrow was a lost cause, and say our host broke out a dusty old bottle of port she’d been given by someone who knew about such things, a good one, though at this point neither of us would be able to tell the difference, and we were swirling that dense liquid in those little midget port glasses and realized we were the last two left at the party, that the candles had all burned down to goblins of wax and that the host was off in the kitchen scraping the plates that we really should have been scraping were we better guests—here are the things I would probably say then, in that setting, the things I would probably regret the following morning, when I woke up with that headache and wondered what the hell I had said after that second glass of port (and, you could argue, therefore the real reason):

6. If I’m totally honest, the one thing I write for is some sense of acceptance
I know how slippery that statement is, and how uncool, and that I may lose any shred of real artist cred I might have had, but if I strip away all of the  layers of motivation that get me up and to my desk every morning, what’s left is some version of this. I think it’s important to note the difference between changing my writing to try and please some imaginary club (a trap if there ever was one, and one I’ve also fallen into many times), and writing what is truest for me, what is often uncommunicated in the daily chatter of life and yet is felt so deeply—trying to put that into words—and wanting to feel a sense of acceptance coming back at me, a sense that the work of communicating that subterranean life is worthy, and therefore, by extension, that I am worthy too. The moments of feeling this, acceptance for not only talent or craft but the substance of my unspoken feelings—whatever they are, dreams and desires and fears—are the real payments I’ve always been chasing. Of course acceptance is probably an unhealthy drug to get hooked on, because the who of it will always continue to change, the clubs whose entry you’re yearning for will continue to get smaller and more exclusive, and there will never be a moment of arrival. (Having a book published by Little, Brown should be that moment, and several years ago to me it would’ve been, but now I see it as just the beginning, the summit of one peak that’s granted me entry into a park of towering others.) If there’s one thing I admire so much about those who choose to self publish it’s this, this sense of sovereignty from the approval of others, which of course can translate into a fierceness of expression, though often it seems that the measure of acceptance is just transferred to sales, to the terms of the free market, which can be a blunt tool for measuring anything. I can beat myself up about this motivation, choose to see it as an indication of weakness, of a warped or malnourished self-esteem, but I also know that the yearning for acceptance is a kind of acknowledgment of the reader, a sign of respect for other people and maybe even humility before them. I can’t imagine anyone writing anything in language they hope will communicate not wanting acceptance. In a way it’s a beautiful thing, the reason so many of us continue to take what’s internal and make it external, the reason to dig deep and share.


Previously on Ask a Debut Novelist:

  1. On Writing and Revision: “Throw away the scale. There is no scale, there is only your story.”
  2. On the Book Business: “Selling a book won’t change your life—except it kind of will.”
  3. On Compliments: “And maybe every piece of writing is an act of trust.”

Have a question for Ted? Drop it in our Ask Box.


So when I was looking into things for my earlier post on SH attending TWC’s party in 2011, I posted the above photo of her with Max Osterweis. And I was intrigued by it, because nowhere had I read that they might have dated and googling Osterweis brought up the fact that he is married. So no obvious romantic relationship, yet close enough to accompany each other to galas and events and for pictures like the one below to exist.

Osterweis is a fashion designer, which is fine, but what’s the connection here? I didn’t really bother looking for an answer but then, last night while researching Gambles, it appeared, unbeckoned. 

Some backstory- Matthew Daniel Siskin, aka Gambles, was once upon a time married to a girl called Taylor Thomas. As we can see in the Guardian article, their story was ultimately a tragic one:

And most particularly, there is his unnamed ex-wife: it was their marriage, their divorce, the loss of their child and the loss of his mind that inspired so many of Trust’s songs.

But back in 2009 or so, things were happier. Taylor owned a showroom in SoHo and did fashion interviews, such as the one above, wherein she discloses that she absolutely loves fashion label Suno. And who’s the founder of Suno? Why, Max Osterweis, of course. Not only that, but Osterweis was one of Gambles’ groomsmen at his and Taylor’s wedding. 

Then, at some point, SH appears in NYC and the rest, as they say, is history.

Quick sidenote here, though I’m afraid it would be better to draw this than to write it:

One of Gambles’ best friends is Eloise Fornieles, one of the bright young artsy fucks mentioned in the Conrad Shawcross article I posted a while back. SH, Eloise and Gambles are all very close friends. Once upon a time, Eloise was married to David Birkin, who not only actually is Jane Birkin’s nephew (unlike SH, lol), but is also apparently one of BC’s best friends, if we believe the man himself:

“It’s an extraordinary legacy that truly befits the beautiful soul of its namesake, Anno Birkin. His brother David Birkin is one of my dearest and closest friends and through him I was lucky enough to meet and be inspired by Anno.”

So close, in fact, that BC donated one of his Spencer Hart suits to the charity founded in Anno Birkin’s memory back in September 2014. Anyway, Eloise and David - who’s also an artist, natch- were happily married until Eloise left him for playwright Polly Stenham who, get this, was the blonde rumoured to have been the cause behind Robert Pattinson’s break-up with Kristen Stewart. Of course, Gambles was around for that fun evening in 2013, too, just as he had been a year earlier when Hipsterbatch touched down on Coney Island in June 2012. And how can we forget that Polly attended the Flaunt Magazine party hosted by BC just this past October? Such connections, much wow!

What I"m trying to say here kids, is that this is more incestuous than a fucking Greek drama and it’s basically a vapid artsy clusterfuck in which BC is not just a bystander, but a full participant. I know most of us know the majority of what I’ve outlined above, but I’m just trying to connect everything together. And I’ll expand on all of this more at a later point when I’m not literally falling asleep while typing, because that’s how exhausted I am right now.

I’m really curious, though, what Eloise and Polly and the rest of them would have to say about Sophie suddenly going from being an artist to posing on the red carpet with Cumberspawn in her belly… 

Benedict with creative director friend Matthew Siskin aka Gambles (also Sophie’s friend) and artist David Birkin (old friend from Harrow School and Sophie’s cousin) in New York, July 2012. Photo taken by artist Natasha Chambers (also Sophie’s friend). Gambles and David both attended Benedict and Sophie’s wedding on the Isle of Wight in February 2015. Benedict and Sophie attended David’s wedding to performance artist Eloise Fornieles (also Sophie’s friend) back in 2009.

From DataLounge. This is the same site that pointed us toward Gambles. Once we heard that her theatre friends were shocked she was engaged because it was well known she had a lover who was a musician in NYC- we started to scout the InstaGrams and Facebooks of acquaintances. That’s where we saw Gambles plead “I love you and need to hear your voice”. You know, I love my friends but not like that.

So, here’s another WTF moment to add to the ling list of them in this courtship.

As I told a friend once - it shouldn’t be this hard.

Bin Laden Op: Obama Bets the House

Without doubt, the planners of the OBL operation were aware of the ghost of Desert One. Certainly White House officials, including the president, were braced for an onslaught, should the mission go bad. And there were hundreds of ways the operation could have gone south. A single bad assumption or stray bullet could have ended the operation and caused an ignominious failure in Abbottabad. In such a scenario, whatever the cause, Obama would have received the blame, no matter if the origin of the screw-up had had nothing to do with him.

More of David Corn’s analysis here.

(White House photo/Pete Souza)