Monday, July 10, 2017

Pheaturing Laura James

Hey, kids, how are you? Welcome to the Phile for a Monday. I'm your host, Jayden K. Smith. Just kidding. Haha. Speaking of names... After much deliberation, Carri Kessler and her husband finally decided on the perfect name for their new daughter. The only problem is that they picked it three months after she was born. Kessler and her husband decided early on that their daughter-to-be would be named Ottilie, a name of a friend from the U.K. that they always found to be beautiful. Once baby Ottilie was born, the new mom had reservations, but decided to just commit to the name. As time passed, however, Kessler discovered that her gut may have been right all long. Ottilie doesn't quite have the same ring to it when said with an American accent, not to mention that no one, including Carri's grandmother, could seem to remember how to pronounce the name. Soon Kessler knew she, in her own words, "f-ed up." "Anytime anyone said her name, I kind of cringed," she told "Today." "Introducing her made me sweat. And I thought, we're going to keep having to introduce her! This is going to be a problem forever." Oh, totally. From Starbucks cups to Instagram tags, people are definitely going to struggle with such an unusual name. Three months after she was born, Carri and her husband decided they wanted to officially change Ottilie's name to something a little less confusing. That's how she became Margot. "We sent out a mass email," she says. "It was like, 'Hey! Remember Ottilie? Her name's Margot now.'" Kessler said that the response to the name change has been overwhelmingly positive, and she no longer breaks out in a sweat when introducing her infant to people. And that's the way it should be.
Behold, the Nintendo PlayStation. You read that right. The Nintendo PlayStation. Well, it could also have been the SNES-CD, but you get the point. Instead of being rivals, Nintendo and Sony almost teamed up to revolutionize the video game industry before the then-dominant Nintendo arrogantly let the deal fall apart. In 1994, the Sony PlayStation debuted and took over the industry, and Nintendo has never again held the #1 slot. Only 200 prototypes of this system were made, and all were thought to have been destroyed. (The prototypes were made by Sony, which is why their name is all over it despite being a joint venture.) That is, until this system was discovered by Dan Diebold in the attic of his father, Terry Diebold, a former maintenance man for the Advanta Corporation... a bank holding company that went under in the Great Recession. The last CEO of Advanta was Olaf Olafsson, a former Sony Entertainment executive. Olaf Olafsson had apparently been toting around this priceless piece of machinery since 1991. When Advanta went bankrupt in 2009, Dan Diebold told Polygon, the company "ordered my dad to throw a bunch of shit out." Terry Diebold, however, is apparently a bit of a packrat. "He kept a bunch of stuff from there. My dad has tons of old systems and shit. He keeps everything." Dan posted this pics and a few others and a video to Reddit, and the reaction there was... strong.

In between drooling nerdgasms, they mainly wanted him to avoid ruining it by plugging it into the wall without a specially-adapted cord (currently, he does not have the original cord, so if he's not careful he might fry it). Others are drooling over how much money he could make (and messaging him to try and buy it), whereas some feel very strongly that it belongs in a museum. Dan and Terry Diebold will probably try to find a buyer for it. As Dan says, "I'm sure my dad would think about selling it because he's pretty broke." That seems like a good reason. He could probably make a lot of money. How much money? A LOT OF MONEY.

That's a game. A game where multiple copies (but very few) are known to exist. This is the only known Nintendo PlayStation. In the world. At all. Granted, there are no games to play on it (except for the unmarked demo cartridge you see in the picture, and a CD that Diebold assures us is in the attic somewhere), but there's no way this doesn't go for at least as much, if not more. Maybe Nintendo would want to buy it back to feature it in their gaming museum in Rockefeller Center. Probably not, though, since it represents the time they gave up their leadership of the industry. Some more backstory. In 1988, Nintendo approached a Sony engineer named Ken Kutaragi, who (without really consulting his superiors) agreed to design a 16-bit sound chip for the SNES. Sony executives were initially pissed at Kutagari who signed a deal with Nintendo, but a) they thought he was really smart, and b) figured it would be easier to enter the video game market with the cooperation of the dominant company in the industry rather than enter as a total newcomer. In 1991, Kutagari again went rogue and started a project with Nintendo to design game technology based on then-new compact discs (CDs, kids... sigh, they're like DVDs but worse... and DVDs are like Blu-Rays but... never mind). The project was called PlayStation. Again, Sony execs went along. Then, at the 1991 Consumer Electronics Show, Nintendo humiliated Sony by publicly (and without warning) announcing that they would team up with Philips to create a new CD-based system. They thought Philips had a superior technology, the CD-i. If you've heard of that technology, it's probably because you read about it in some article about the biggest technology flops of all time. The Philips CD-i system is mostly remembered for its legacy of almost ruining "The Legend of Zelda" with the god-awful cartoon version Nintendo stupidly licensed to Philips. Making awful decisions was kind of Nintendo's "thing" in the mid-90s. The furious Sony team went on to create the PlayStation, which debuted in 1994. The advantages of discs over cartridges were immediately apparent, even when Nintendo released the graphically superior Nintendo 64 in 1996. PlayStation games could have incredibly long plots by using multiple discs. This was one of the reasons, besides Nintendo's arrogance again, that role-playing game makers like Final Fantasy's Squaresoft abandoned Nintendo for Sony. Every Nintendo game had to be stored on the very limited cartridge memory, and thus also couldn't hold the "cinematic cutscenes" that, for better or worse, have been a staple of gaming since the PlayStation's debut. So, what's the moral of the story? 1. Never throw out video games or video game systems. 2. Don't dick over your business partners. 3. Profit.
Every day we have to wake up to another round of Trump tweets is a brand-new nightmare that still manages to feel like a repeat of the previous one. But while many of us continue to bang our heads against a wall, it's worth remembering that millions of people voted for the man and still support him... right? Well, maybe not as many as you think. In a hilarious new survey from the respected pollsters at Quinnipiac University, American voters gave Trump "a near-record negative 36 - 58 percent job approval rating." The poll also revealed that Trump is losing ground with independent voters and that his core base is eroding: white men and voters without a college degree... who both decisively backed him even a few weeks ago... are now beginning to desert him. But by far the best part of this poll is where they asked participants what single word first came to mind when they thought of Trump. If he ever sees this list, he's probably going to start firing some nukes at blue states. As amusing as it is to see "idiot" in the number one slot, I actually might be laughing more at the people who think Trump is "strong." Anyway, heckuva job, Trumpy. It's touching to see that a man who only wanted everyone to like him is now one of the most reviled humans alive.
Ahh nature. So beautiful. So majestic. So utterly terrifying. You remember the praying mantis right? Did you know it eats bird brains?! Last week, the University of Basel in Switzerland put out a press release titled, "Praying Mantises Hunt Down Birds Worldwide." Mantises are carnivores who mostly feed on other insects and spiders, but now scientists from Switzerland and the U.S. have discovered that they also kill and eat small birds on every continent but Antartica. As if it wasn't terrifying enough that a praying mantis can take down a bird, wait until you hear HOW they eat them. "Newsweek" interviewed two scientists to find out how exactly mantises manage to take down birds. State University of New York at Fredonia biologist William Brown explained that a mantises typically grab birds by the head, and then "pierce the skull to feed on brain tissue." "They just hold [their prey], and they eat them while they are still alive, slowly and slowly until there is nothing left," retired ecologist Dietrich Mebs chimed in. So praying mantises eat birds about the same way that zombies eat humans? LOVELY! According to Live Science, researchers determined this was a global phenomenon by searching through records (like published studies, academic papers, and social media posts) of mantises preying on birds. They found 147 examples in 13 different countries, the earliest dating back to 1864. Twenty-four species of birds were identified as mantis prey. If you haven't been sufficiently disturbed and you'd like to see photos of a praying mantises eating bird brains, you can check out the University of Basel's press release here... Enjoy your nightmares!
There's a new word for men who take umbrage at a naked male athlete on the cover of a sports magazine and cry foul that there's no real Heterosexual Pride Day. Anti-Trump people on Twitter have gotten used to being called "snowflakes," so hopefully all the Men's Rights Activists and mansplainers out there can get used to being called "broflakes." The word has already made its way into Urban Dictionary (well, it was already there, but with a very different definition that mostly had to do with being a flaky dude) which featured "broflake" as the word of the day on June 26th. The definition of "Broflake" reads, "Member of the alt-right who proudly shouts their free-speech warrior credentials but lose their minds when a fellow member is criticized." Prime example of a guy who is honestly upset that straight people don't get their own day.

Typical broflake. And all the man who couldn't handle the idea of their eyeballs accidentally seeing a naked man. Broflakes are the guys who rant and rave against so-called social justice warriors, but then get upset when anyone insults them. Men, try harder to be "no flakes" rather than "broflakes."
So, yesterday I told you about Mike Pence touching something NASA marked "do not touch." Well, turns out he didn't just touch it with his hand...

What talent, eh? Ever go to Goodwill? I have only been there once but if I knew they sold this I would go all the time...

If you go to the beach this summer I hope you don't see this...

Hey, is that Chris Christie? Speaking of, did you know he was on an episode of "Gilligan's Island"? No? Here's proof...

Hahahaha. That's so stupid. That's as stupid as this...

Do you kid's like Klondike bars? I don't but I thought their ad slogan was funny...

Very clever. Have you seen the new Spider-Man movie? Judging by the poster I think they put way too much stuff in it.

I like that Baby Metal is in it. I also heard Ant-Man is in it and he fights Spider-Man. I think this is a screen shot from that actual scene...

I think Spidey wins. Despicable Me 3 is out, but there's another spin-off coming out from that film as well.

Great. I bet it's funny. A few days ago Trump and Putin finally met and I have an exclusive pic from that meeting...

Shit. I'd rather see a pic of a praying mantis eat a bird. So, in the summer's past on the Phile I have shown you different bikini's and bathing suits you might see at the beach or by the pool this summer. Here's another one...

In 2014, 60-year-old entrepreneur Zhang Shifan made headlines worldwide for creating the "facekini"... a stretchy mask designed to protect beachgoers in China, where fair skin is prized. When Chinese women go to the beach, they hide under umbrellas, pile on layers of clothing, wear wide-brimmed hats, or don a facekini, which shields their entire body from the sun. Zhang attracted customers by convincing them they needed to protect themselves from ultraviolet rays and dangerous jellyfish. Her sixth collection features the world's most endangered animals, including giant pandas, alligators, and Siberian tigers. Despite the ridicule the suits have attracted, they are now popular across all demographics. Crazy. And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is...

Top Phive Tips For Enjoying America's National Parks
5. Remember that the giant redwoods are legally protected. Trying to smuggle one out will land you in a world of trouble.
4. Parks are busiest during the holidays, particularly Talk Like A Pirate Day and National Celery Day. Plan accordingly.
3. You can easily identify most park animals by their scat. That doesn't mean you should, of course. In fact, you'll enjoy yourself more if you forget I even mentioned it.
2. The best way to avoid crowds is to stay home and view your park of choice via webcam.
And the number one tip for enjoying America's national parks is to...
1. Try to get tickets for when Stephen Strasburg is pitching... wait, that's how to enjoy yourself at Nationals Park.

Hahahaha. If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. That's funny. Okay, so, recently my son and I were talking about how we used to watch "Sesame Street" together and how much the she has changed. So, once again, here is the pheature...

Bert wasn't going to just let Elmo get away with fucking Ernie behind his back. 

Are you lazy? If you are I bet you aren't as lazy as the person who came up with this...

I don't see the point. Oh, well. And now for...

It's 10:07 a.m., 85° and don't waste your time body-shaming Kelly Clarkson. The pop singer, being a woman in the public eye, has received her unfair share of online body shaming from Twitter trolls who didn't get hugged enough as a kid. But in a recent Twitter exchange, she proved that she DGAF. Or maybe she does secretly GAF, but either way, she's not letting the trolls win. The singer celebrated the 4th of July by tweeting out a tribute to the U.S. military...

Responses poured in from her fans who have served in the military, and Kelly was responding to them, like a boss. Then, a Twitter troll who is clearly not living his best life, decided to tweet "you're fat." Kelly fired back at this poet with the one thing trolls hate even more than going outside: self-love.

Kelly clearly won this interaction, with nearly 3,000 retweets in less than 24 hours. Don't forget to hug your kids, people, so they don't grow up to become Twitter trolls. 

Donald Trump had a big weekend at the G20 summit in Germany, hobnobbing with world leaders and generating another ten thousand embarrassing headlines. One of those stung worse than others. This one...

And the ones like it on CNN, "The Guardian," Politico, and every other site with a sighing editor working weekends. It's obvious why it's controversial... Ivanka Trump is not an elected official. And while the BBC says it's common for a "leader's absence" to be filled in by "high-ranking officials," Ivanka Trump is an advisor. It's questionable. Also questionable is Trump's defense. As natural as it is to blame Chelsea Clinton and Hillary Clinton for your negative headlines...

Trump is like a great science fiction writer. In an alternate universe, Hillary Clinton is president. Wow! And in that alternate universe, Hillary Clinton asked her daughter, Chelsea, to sit in for her at the G20. The alt-world media loved it! But in this alternate universe, Trump is a private citizen, and he... apparently... hated it? Even though it's what he just did, in the real world. And then aliens attack New York City. I love Trump's science fiction. Chelsea Clinton has been the daughter of a sitting president before. She's also been the daughter of a sitting secretary of state. Do you remember her ever taking their places at a state function? 

Clinton also pointed out that, thanks to Trump's strange wording, the implication in his tweet is that he was busy "giving our country away." Say what you will about their politics, but Donald Trump's an early-riser. So is Clinton. The first punch was thrown at 7:47 a.m. EST. The counter punch was thrown at 8:25. Lucky us! Now we have all day to watch their proxies attack one another about it. Or watch puppy videos. The choice is yours. 

According to your mother, a Nintendo is anything with buttons on it.

Today's pheatured guest is the author of "Cowboy Pug," the 62nd book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club. Please welcome to the Phile... Laura James.

Me: Hey there, Laura, welcome to the Phile. How are you? 

Laura: Hi, Jason. I’m very well thank you, hope you are too! 

Me: I didn't realize, you are from England. Me too. I was born in London, but grew up on Long Island, New York and now live in Florida. Have you ever been to the states? 

Laura: Those are excellent places to live. Lucky you. Yes, I’ve been to the states a few times. We went on a family holiday to Washington D.C. and Virginia when I was a teenager. It was very educational and I have to admit at the time I would have preferred a trip to Disney! I’ve also made a few visits to New York as an adult and enjoyed an amazing trip to California. I haven’t been to Florida, yet. 

Me: Okay, so, I love your pug books, Laura, even though I’m a 48-year-old man and your books are children's books... do you find a lot of adults are reading your books? 

Laura: Thank you, Jason. You’re not alone! Quite a few grown-ups buy the books. Particularly pug fans. 

Me: You have published two books this year, right? “Captain Pug" and the newest one "Cowboy Pug"... so, are the books about the same pug? 

Laura: Yes, definitely about the same pug. Pug’s owner, Lady Miranda is full of ideas for adventures so he’s quite a busy boy. 

Me: How did you get the idea for these books, Laura? 

Laura: I’m not sure. It is just the weird and wonderful way my brain works! Having said that my lovely dogs Brian and Florence have inspired me. Surprisingly they’re not pugs but wire-haired dachshunds. I’d never really met a pug until well after I started writing the stories. I think I just thought they were very characterful and of course, funny. 

Me: I love this pic I saw of you dressed as a cowboy with a pug… 

Me: Did you borrow somebody's pug, Laura? 

Laura: The picture was taken at the U.K book. launch for “Cowboy Pug." My friend’s neighbour has a pug called Archie and we invited him along to the “Captain Pug" launch. He proved to be a complete star so he just had to be there for the second launch. 

Me: In the books his name is Pug as well, right? 

Laura: Yes, Pug is a pug! 

Me: So, did you write the books back to back or did you take a break between them? 

Laura: There was a bit of a break between them but only a matter of months. 

Me: You went to school to study film, am I right? Which school did you go to? 

Laura: Yes, my first degree is in Film Studies from the University of Kent at Canterbury. I also have a masters in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University. The course massively helped me on the way to being published. 

Me: So, how did you get the idea to write children’s books? 

Laura: It just seemed the obvious route to take. You have a lot more freedom to be silly when you write for children! 

Me: Are you married, do you have children? If so, what do they think of you being a popular children's author? Or your friends? Parents? Siblings? 

Laura: I’m not married (I know, it baffles me too!) and I don’t have children. My friends and family have been really supportive. The journey to getting published can be quite a long one, even when everything goes well so I’m really grateful for their support and encouragement. 

Me: How many drafts did you write for the books to get it right? 

Laura: “Captain Pug” went through many more drafts than "Cowboy Pug." I can’t tell you the exact figure but the first book in a series is always going to be the hardest because you’re establishing the world and the characters. “Cowboy Pug” was much quicker to write. 

Me: "Cowboy Pug" is the book pheatured in the Phile's Book Club but we'll talk about "Captain Pug" first... which I saw the other day at Walmart and I was so excited! I took a pic of it to show you...

Me: Are you getting good reception over here in the states? 

Laura: I haven’t seen a photo of “Captain Pug” in a U.S. shop yet... thank you. I love that Pug’s traveling to places I’ve never been! Yes, I think the reception has been very positive. 

Me: You know you need to come over and do book singings here in Orlando... I can help... and take you to Disney. Haha. Anyway, when you started writing the books did you ever think they would take off like they are? 

Laura: Believe me, I’m sitting here waiting for the call to come to America! That would be so much fun. Orlando would be a good place to start too, nice and sunny I should think. When I was first writing the books all I could think about was completing them. Thoughts of having them published and selling around the world were a long way off. I still get ridiculously happy when someone I don’t know says they’ve read one of my books. Wow! 

Me: Okay, so, how did "Captain Pug" get to be the first book? Is boating something you are into? 

Laura: I come from quite a nautical family. My brother is the third generation to go into the Royal Navy. No doubt this influenced my thoughts when writing “Captain Pug," although I have to say I am rubbish at sailing. I don’t seem to be able to tell which direction the wind is blowing! 

Me: Tell the readers what the premise of the book is about, Laura. Is lady Miranda based on anybody? 

Laura: Pug and Lady Miranda are invited to a birthday party at a boating lake. Lady Miranda decides to make Pug a captain. The trouble is, he’s afraid of water. In an unfortunate moment (involving a picnic hamper) they get separated and Pug decides he needs to become a famous captain so Lady Miranda can find him again. Lady Miranda is a little bit me and little bit some of my more bossy (but lovely) friends! She isn’t based on one person in particular. 

Me: The newest one is "Cowboy Pug"? Are you into westerns? What was the inspiration behind this one? 

Laura: We borrowed a pony called Buster from my cousins when we were little. I think he helped to inspire “Cowboy Pug." 

Me: Do you horseback? 

Laura: So yes, but badly! 

Me: I like the name of the horse... Horsey. Hahaha. Don't take this the wrong way but I have characters on my blog and coming up with names is always the hard part when I think of a concept... is it the same with you? 

Laura: I love coming up with names for my characters. I realise it might not look that way with a horse called Horsey, a pony called Pony and a pug called Pug but you have to remember that it was Lady M who named them! When I do events I do an exercise where we create some characters together and I always tell children that once you name your characters they become much more real in your head. 

Me: Do you ever get writers block, Laura? 

Laura: I get writers panic! All the time. 

Me: Which book was easier to write? 

Laura: Probably “Cowboy Pug."

Me: Okay, I have to ask you about the artist for the books... Eglantine Ceulemans... what a name. Where is she from? 

Laura: Ah, the wonderful Eglantine Ceulemans. We call her Eg. She lives in Lyon, France. She is super, super talented and we are so lucky to have her working on the books. 

Me: She has drawn books for other authors, am I right? How did you end up working with her? 

Laura: Yes, she has illustrated quite a few books now, even though she’s still quite young. My publisher, Bloomsbury, found her but we all fell in love with her illustrations straight away. 

Me: Do you draw, Laura? 

Laura: I’m rubbish at drawing. I got through my art A’level by painting abstracts! 

Me: Did you tell her what to draw or did she have free rein? 

Laura: We gave her the manuscript with some notes. She picked up the style and tone of the books immediately and what’s so brilliant, she’s added to the books. There’s so much humor in her drawings. 

Me: Pugs pretty much all look the same but did you have a specific look and style in mind? 

Laura: Eg’s illustrations are classic and yet also fresh... not something that’s easy to achieve. She has literally drawn what was in my head. I couldn’t be happier. 

Me: Okay, this is a really stupid question, but if someone said they want to make a TV show or movie of the books would you let them? You’d have to say yes, right? 

Laura: So, of course, I’d be thrilled if someone wanted to make a film or TV show about Pug but I would definitely ask some questions first. I love what we’ve created so I wouldn’t want that to be lost.  

Me: So, do you have any plans to write any more Pug books, Laura? "Astronaut Pug," "Safari Pug," "Coal Miner Pug," "Doctor Pug," "Bone Pug and Harmony"... there's so many ideas to chose from. I really hope you do a whole series of Pug books. 

Laura: Thank you! Yes, we have “Safari Pug" ready to come out soon and then at least one more in the pipeline. I’ve certainly got plenty of ideas in my head. 

Me: So, when you’re not writing what do you do, Laura? 

Laura: I walk the dogs and go to the pub mostly! 

Me: Do you plan to write certain times or do you write spontaneously? 

Laura: We’ll call it spontaneously (that’s a nice way of putting it). In reality what happens is a deadline looms and once I notice it galloping towards me I sit down and write. Prior to that, there’s the writers panic I mentioned earlier. It’s an exhausting process! 

Me: Laura, I love your work and I hope you will come back on the Phile when your next book comes out. Will you? 

Laura: Yes, please. 

Me: Tell the readers where they can get the books and mention your website, Laura. All the best, and come back again soon. Come to Florida as well! 

Laura: Take care. My books are available online and in all good bookshops. My website is  Twitter: @PugandLadyM. Thank you so much for your great questions, Jason. Always here if you need me. Best wishes.

Me: Cool. Thanks again, Laura. 

That about does it for this enemy of the Phile. Thanks to Laura for a great interview. The Phile will be back next Sunday with Phile Alum Lee Negin. So, spread the word not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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