TIME Books

Exclusive: Read James Franco’s New Poetry

Hollywood Dreaming
Insight Editions

Read Franco's poetry about Spring Breakers and Sean Penn, excerpted from his forthcoming book Hollywood Dreaming

The latest project from multi-hyphenate movie star James Franco will be the book Hollywood Dreaming: Stories, Pictures, and Poems, due out Sept. 23, 2014. The book includes snapshots, short stories, essays and poems — including the two excerpted below.

ANGELZ

That was a time we had down in F-L-A.

It was something, like with all movies,

That was special, like a bubble, in which

We all lived, a magic time, where we all

 

Came together. This is how it iz on all filmz

But this one was special, because them girlz

Was doin’ sumptin like this fo’ the first time

And they wanted to be rescued, di’n’ they.

 

At first they was excited, and said yes, yes,

Then they was scared, and pulled back,

Because they waz still loyal to all them fanz

Of theirs, the young wunz, impressionable.

 

But then it changed, once again, when I arrived

Because I waz the electricity that shocked dem

Into place, you see how that happened?

They was hot young things with skillz of sex

 

That I brought to the fore, and galvanized.

 

 

SEAN II

They called you Sean

De Niro because of your

Dedication. An actor

As engrossed in his role

As De Niro, as LaMotta,

You were Spicoli, stoner,

Prophet, entertainer, politico.

 

Smart enough to know

Not to give too much:

That ordering pizza

In class was the move

That would last.

Everyone loves a loser

If he smiles; everyone

Wants to relax.

 

Spicoli, in his dream, won

Surf contests, and had babes

On his arms, and was asked:

“A lot of people expected

Maybe Mark ‘Cutback’ Davis

Or Bob ‘Jungle Death’ Gerrard

Would take the honors

This year.” You said,

“Those dudes are fags.”

 

And when he introduced you

For your nomination for Milk,

De Niro, now your friend, said

He couldn’t believe you

Had been cast in all those

Straight roles, because

In Milk you were such

A fine homo. And when

You and I kissed

On Castro Street, it was for a full minute.

Your beard was like my father’s.

 

Excerpted from Hollywood Dreaming: Stories, Pictures, and Poems by James Franco, published by Insight Editions. Copyright © 2014 James Franco

TIME Books

Watch Neil Patrick Harris Take Shots of Rubbing Alcohol in His Book Trailer

It's...wait for it...legendary

Neil Patrick Harris has never been one to blend in with the crowd. So it’s no surprise that his upcoming autobiography, Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, has been styled as a “choose your own adventure” book.

The charming new trailer for the book visually demonstrates what that experience might be like: If you’re bored of hearing book details, you can watch NPH do magic, re-enact the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp with his husband David Burtka or (attempt to) take shots of pure rubbing alcohol.

Despite the silly trailer, Harris’ book will touch on some serious topics: He opens up about struggling with his sexuality and having his children with Burtka through a surrogate.

The book is set to hit shelves on Oct. 14.

 

TIME Books

Watch the New Trailer for Carl Hiaasen’s First YA Novel

Clinton Tyree, the wild-man Florida governor from almost 30 years of Hiaasen fiction, is back—this time in Skink—No Surrender, a book for younger readers

Bestselling author Carl Hiaasen is joining other adult writers who have recently gone young-adult with Skink—No Surrender, out next week from Knopf. Hiaasen, the author of Florida-based crime thrillers like Strip Tease (which became the movie starring Demi Moore) and Bad Monkey, has also written four novels for children.

Skink—No Surrender, his first for young adults, introduces the teen audience to the eccentric character of Clinton Tyree, a glass-eyed, roadkill-eating Vietnam vet and former Governor of Florida who has gone crazy and lives off the grid (read: on the beach), costumed in a floral shower cap and long beard woven with vulture beaks. He is known as Skink, both to the characters in the book, and to readers who would recognize him from numerous “grownup” novels, as Hiaasen calls his adult books, starting with Skink’s first appearance in Double Whammy 27 years ago.

Richard, Skink—No Surrender‘s teenage protagonist, meets Skink on the beach as he waits for his 14-year-old cousin Malley, whom readers soon learn has run away from home with a boy she met in an Internet chatroom. Richard and Skink form a two-man search party, and the novel is off and running.

Though it’s typically the teen characters in young adult books who have readers itching for a sequel, it’s the adult in this story who leaves a lasting impression. “Kids dig the irreverence of the fact that [Skink] sort of lives on the edge and does exactly what he wants,” Hiaasen says in the book’s official trailer, revealed today on TIME.com.

TIME Books

New Alan Moore Comics Coming in December

Alan Moore
Avatar Press

The six-part series is based off Garth Ennis' Crossed

Fans craving new material from graphic novelist and comic book icon Alan Moore have some good news: the man behind Watchmen and V for Vendetta has a six-issue project in the works.

Crossed: +100, a spin-off of Garth Ennis’ sci-fi-horror series Crossed, takes place approximately 100 years after the original outbreak of a plague that reduces humanity to its most evil thoughts, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Gabriel Andrade will illustrate the author’s new set of monthly comics.

“I think people think of Crossed as a horror story, and I can see why. It is extremely horrible,” said Moore in a statement. “[But] I was thinking that Crossed is actually a science fiction story that has got a really, really high horror quotient. So that was the way that I started approaching it.”

Crossed co-creator and writer Garth Ennis likened Moore’s addition to the series as “Jimi Hendrix want[ing] to play in my band” and said it “means everything to me.”

Crossed: +100 arrives in December on Avatar Press.

[THR]

TIME Books

I’m a Woman Who Lived as a Boy: My Years as a Bacha Posh

The Underground Girls of Kabul
The Underground Girls of Kabul Crown

For 9 years of her youth in Afghanistan, Faheema lived as Faheem—a boy, one free from the societal barriers and stigmas women face

Jenny Nordberg’s The Underground Girls of Kabul, published Sept. 16, is the result of five years of research into why it’s not uncommon for girls in Afghanistan to be brought up as boys. Nordberg, an investigative reporter, discovered the practice in 2009, and detailed it in a story for The New York Times.

The Underground Girls of Kabul explores the reasons for, and the consequences of, this longstanding practice, which has affected many Afghan girls and women. It also offers a glimpse into the situation for women there, which remains precarious.

What happens to such a person, Nordberg wondered, when they relocate to a society that values women more, and there is no longer a need to hide? She recently connected with another young Afghan woman, now living in the U.S., who once passed as a boy in her home country.

Exclusively for TIME, this is the story of Faheema.

**

Liberating. That’s how it felt, walking out the door for the first time as a boy. I was 12. I was no longer Faheema, who needed to be proper and watch her every move, but Faheem, who had guts and could go where he wanted. That was my right as a bacha posh—from Dari, it translates to, “dressed up as a boy.” It’s what they call girls who live their lives disguised as boys in Afghanistan. And I suppose those who eventually become boys on the inside, too.

My family had returned to Kabul after the Taliban, and in 2002, society was so much more conservative there than in Pakistan, where we had lived as refugees. Girls were looked down upon, and being one was made very difficult.

With short hair and in pants, I found that no one would look at me on the street, or harass me. I did not have to wear the scarf. I could look people in the eyes. I could speak to other boys, and adult men too. I did not have to make myself smaller by hunching over. I could walk fast. Or run, if I felt like it.

In fact, I had been brought up as a boy—I just didn’t look like one at first.

At home, I was the one who got things done. We were carpet weavers, and I ran the family enterprise from our house. Seven other, younger, children took orders from me. My parents often told me they wished I had been born a boy. They have said it for as long as I can remember; my father in particular. It would have made more sense, he said, since I was a harder worker than any of my brothers.

Even while living as a girl, I tried to do everything Afghan society and culture said I couldn’t do. I became strong. I took responsibility. I educated myself and my siblings. I helped my father with his guests and all the technical work at the house. But I still felt inadequate.

Most bacha posh in Afghanistan are made that way by their parents. But my story is different. One day I made the decision for myself to switch. I gave them what they asked for.

It worked.

The attitude, the lowered voice; how I moved with more confidence. I could disappear in a crowd. The more divided a society, the easier it is to change the outside. Others bought it. It shocked me that I could trick those harassing eyes just by how I looked. Being a boy allowed me to function as a more of a whole person in society. It was practical. I could protect my sisters, and escort them to class in winter. It pleased my parents, too. At least they did not protest.

I spent nine years as a boy. I continued trying to please my parents like that until a few years ago, when I came to a small town in America to go to college. My turning point was when I started thinking about being a woman. Why should I need to hide? Could I not have the same pride, and the same abilities, as a girl? Why did only my male self have that strength? I had been so proud to be a boy, in that I had figured it out and outsmarted everyone. That I had won. But I began feeling more and more angry. I was like, “How long will I have to do this?”

To be honest, I had always thought of being a bacha posh as my own choice; that I was doing something also for myself, and of my own free will. But that was not entirely true, I realize now. My parents’ wish for me to be a boy forced me to become one. I took it too literally. So a few years ago, I wanted to try and accept myself as a girl. I knew it was inevitable at some point anyway.

By then, I was 18 but I still had no breasts, and my periods were irregular. When my mother had sought out a doctor in Kabul, he said that my psyche may be turning into that of a man’s. It scared her. She worried I may never be able to turn back.

It was hard. I began letting my hair grow out. Now it’s almost all the way down to my waist. I also went to see a psychologist at my university. We talked about what is male and what is female in me. I don’t know what normal is, but I am not as angry anymore. The differences between men and women exist here too, but there is no need for me to pretend to be a man in order to go outside, or to count as a full person. In some ways America is a conservative society too, and it’s so important for many people to be either male or female. I have both in me now and that’s how I’ll always be.

I think often about what it means.

Being a man gives you so many privileges, you don’t see the small things. You own the world and everything is yours. As a boy, I was very busy thinking of everything I needed and wanted. That’s what you do. You just don’t take much of it in. You focus on yourself. A lot is expected of you as a man, so you have to.

As a woman, you see more. You notice what’s around you. To me, that is the essence of it. You relate to others. As a woman, I have a soft core that melts with everything. As a woman, I can feel what others feel. I see what they see. And I cry with them. I think of that as the female in me. I allow that now.

I’m in my twenties now, and I don’t expect to live long. A woman’s average life in Afghanistan is 44 years, so I’m halfway done. I would like to stay here and become an anthropologist, but my American visa expires in a few months, and then I have to return home.

My father still only accepts me as a boy, not as a girl. We talk on Skype: He is a macho colonel in Afghanistan who calls me every day. Like my close friends, he is still allowed to call me by my boy name. But I know now that both my family and much of my society was wrong in saying that only boys can do certain things. They are the ones who don’t allow girls to do anything.

I have complicated feelings about the freedom I have here in the West. It’s borrowed. It’s not really mine. Deep down you know it’s going to be taken away at any moment. Just like that of a bacha posh.

As told to and edited by Jenny Nordberg.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

What Are 5 Books That Can Change Your Life?

153187611
Violet D'Art—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Don't forget these on your next trip to the library

I recently posted about five of my must-read books. Here are a few more that have really made a difference in my life:

1) 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute

What is it?

If you like this blog, you’ll love this book. Richard Wiseman takes psychology research and tells you how to use it to improve your life in a straightforward (but entertaining) way.

What did I learn from it?

A ton. I learned that:

This video describes some of Wiseman’s work.

Check out the book here.

2) Creativity

What is it?

For his book Creativity, noted professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi did interviews with 91 groundbreaking individuals across a number of disciplines, including 14 Nobel Prize winners. What do they have in common? What does it take to be a successful creative professional?

What did I learn from it?

They weren’t stars in school. Almost all have IQ’s over 130 — but once past the 130 threshold, all that mattered was effort. They were all curious and driven. They take their intuition seriously. More here.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studies creativity, happiness, and flow. Here’s his TED talk.

Check out the book here.

3) Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

What is it?

Brian Wansink studies our behavior around food. And his work is fascinating. You eat for a lot of reasons — and hunger is rarely the primary one.

What did I learn from it?

  • Dessert tastes better on fine china than a paper plate.
  • Big plates make you eat more.
  • Wine from California tastes better than wine from North Dakota — even if it’s the same wine with different labels.
  • And a lot more.

Wansink discusses his research here.

Check out the book here.

4) Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t

What is it?

Want to understand how office politics works? Want to learn how to get better at playing the game? This is the book. Combines research with examples to give you a modern Machiavelli’s The Prince. Even if you don’t work in an office it’s a must-read because these factors are fundamental to human nature.

What did I learn from it?

I did a whole post about the book here.

Author (and Stanford MBA school professor) Jeffrey Pfeffer discusses some of the book’s ideas in this video.

Check out the book here.

5) Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries

What is it?

How can you spur innovation and creativity in your life without taking big risks? Little bets are the answer. Author Peter Sims lays out a system for pushing the envelope without danger, pulling from scientific research and great examples (like how Chris Rock develops his comedy routines.)

What did I learn from it?

It’s an excellent system to make sure you keep learning and growing in almost any area of your life. I posted about the book and similar theories here.

Peter Sims spoke about the book at Google.

Check out the book here.

Again, they are:

Join 25K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

What are the top five books you must-read?

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

What five things can make sure you never stop growing and learning?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Bizarre

Why Smoke 110 Cigarettes at Once? Anything For a World Record

From the May 13, 1974, issue of TIME
From the May 13, 1974, issue of TIME TIME

The Guinness Book of World Records has inspired some dubious feats over the years

Guinness World Records releases its 2015 edition this week, featuring a Pomeranian that’s the fastest dog on two paws and Metallica, the first musical act to perform a concert on every continent.

The book is also the 60th anniversary edition, but things have changed since the first-ever Guinness records book arrived in 1955. Though early editions were full of miscellany and trivia, its records tended to be fairly basic: fastest, tallest, smallest, deepest. But, as TIME reported in a May 13, 1974, feature on an “oddball Olympics,” a group of 200 California students who gathered to beat previous world records and set new ones, the records have gotten weirder. This passage shows the great lengths people will go to achieve such an honor, something current record holders will be able to relate to:

During the week-long oddball Olympics, contestants in 75 events set eleven new world records. John Parker, 24, made himself a 1975 edition Guinness notable by downing 300 goldfish, 75 more than the previous oldie goldie. Rick Sumner, 14, polished off 20 doughnuts in 9 min. 59 sec., beating the old record of 20 in 15 min. John McKinney, 17, and Rick Sackett, 25, each crammed 52 cigars into their mouths and kept them alight for 30 sec. (v. the previous record of 28 lit for 30 sec.). Another titlist, Scott Case, managed to smoke 110 cigarettes simultaneously for 30 sec. without endangering his health. Kevin Farrell and Corey Fletcher each stood on one leg for 7½ hr., 60 min. longer than anyone ever has before.

Allan Littman, 17, consumed a pound of grapes, with seeds, in 52 sec. to crush the old mark of 65 sec. Allan Greenberg, 22, twirled a record album on his forefinger for 5 hr. Bruce Stewart and Robert Argust slapped each other’s faces for 31 hr. to top the old record by one hour. Frank Dolce blew 116 smoke rings on one drag to break the old high by 30.

And the weirdness has continued. Other fun records TIME highlighted over the years include:

The longest song title, mentioned in the People section in 1969: “I’m a Cranky Old Yank in a Clanky Old Tank on the Streets of Yokohama with my Honolulu Mama Doin’ Those Beat-o, Beat-o, Flat-on-My-Seat-o, Hirohito Blues” by composer Hogey Carmichael.

The world’s largest diary, reviewed in 1995: 20 million words spanning 67 years and roughly 35,000 pages, penned by New York World reporter Edward Robb Ellis. The quality of the writing lives up to the quantity, based on his description of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, the face of the Red Scare: “McCarthy has the slim hips of an athlete, a thick trunk and shoulders like a buffalo. Almost lacking a neck, his huge head seems perched on his shoulders. His mouth is long and thin, like a knife-gash in a melon.”

Fastest beer drinker, featured in a 1983 profile. Before Robert Hawke was known as Australia’s longest-serving Labor prime minister, he guzzled 2.5 pints of beer in 12 seconds at Oxford, earning a spot in the record book.

Read about the 1974 record-breakers here, in TIME’s archives: Oddball Olympics

TIME Books

9 Ugly Lessons About Sex From Big Data

Dataclysm
Dataclysm Courtesy Random House

Christian Rudder, author of Dataclysm and a founder of OkCupid, dives into the numbers and surfaces with some revelations on love, sex, race and culture

Big Data: the friend you met at a bar after your usual two drinks, plus one. You leaned in, listening more intently than usual. “Digital footprint.” “Information Age.” You nodded and smiled, even though you didn’t understand. “Change the world.” “The future.” You were impressed—and even if you weren’t, you faked it well.

Come morning, you have only fuzzy recollections of Big Data, its tag lines and buzzwords. You also find it vaguely reprehensible.

If you’re still up for it, there’s another side of Big Data you haven’t seen—not the one that promised to use our digital world to our advantage to optimize, monetize, or systematize every last part our lives. It’s the big data that rears its ugly head and tells us what we don’t want to know. And that, as Christian Rudder demonstrates in his new book, Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking), is perhaps an equally worthwhile pursuit. Before we heighten the human experience, we should understand it first.

Rudder, a co-founder of OkCupid and Harvard-educated data scientist, analyzed millions of records and drew on related research to understand on how we search and scramble for love. But the allure of Rudder’s work isn’t that the findings are particularly shocking. Instead, the insights are ones that most of us would prefer not to think about: a racial bias against black women and Asian men, or how “gay” is the top Google Search suggestion for “Is my husband… .”

Here are 9 revelations about sex and dating, courtesy of Rudder, Dataclysm, and, of course, big data.

1. Straight men think women have an expiration date.

Although women tend to seek men around their age, men of all ages are by far looking for women in their early 20s, according to OkCupid data. While men often set their age filters for women into the 30s and beyond, rarely do they contact a woman over 29.

2. Straight women are far less likely to express sexual desire than are other demographics.

On OkCupid, 6.1% of straight men are explicitly looking for casual sex. For gay men, it’s 6.9%, and for lesbians, 6.9%. For straight women, it’s only 0.8%.

3. “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Like any good data scientist, Rudder lets literature—in this case, Thoreau—explain the human condition. Rudder cites a Google engineer who found that searches for “depictions of gay men” (by which the engineer meant gay porn) occur at the rate of 5% across every state, roughly the proportion of the world’s population that social scientists have estimated to be gay. So if a poll shows you that, for instance, 1% of a state’s population is gay, the other 4% is probably still out there.

4. Searches for “Is my husband gay?” occur in states where gay marriage is least accepted.

Here’s a Big Data nugget you can see for yourself: Type “Is my husband” in Google, and look at your first result. Rudder notes that this search is most common in South Carolina and Louisiana, two states with some of the lowest same-sex marriage approval rates.

5. According to Rudder’s research, Asian men are the least desirable racial group to women…

On OkCupid, users can rate each other on a 1 to 5 scale. While Asian women are more likely to give Asian men higher ratings, women of other races—black, Latina, white—give Asian men a rating between 1 and 2 stars less than what they usually rate men. Black and Latin men face similar discrimination from women of different respective races, while white men’s ratings remain mostly high among women of all races.

6. …And black women are the least desirable racial group to men.

Pretty much the same story. Asian, Latin and white men tend to give black women 1 to 1.5 stars less, while black men’s ratings of black women are more consistent with their ratings of all races of women. But women who are Asian and Latina receive higher ratings from all men—in some cases, even more so than white women.

7. Users who send copy-and-paste messages get responses more efficiently.

OkCupid tracks how many characters users type in messages versus how many letters are actually sent. (For most users, it’s three characters typed for every one character sent.) In doing this analysis, Rudder found that up to 20% of users managed to send thousands of characters with 5 keystrokes or less—likely Control+C, Control+V, Enter. A little more digging showed that while from-scratch messages performed better by 25%, copy-and-paste messages received more replies per unit of effort.

8. Your Facebook Likes reveal can reveal your gender, race, sexuality and political views.

A group of UK researchers found that based on someone’s Facebook Likes alone, they can tell if a user is gay or straight with 88% accuracy; lesbian or straight, 75%; white or black, 95%; man or woman, 93%; Democrat or Republican, 85%.

9. Vermont doesn’t shower a whole lot, relatively speaking.

Rudder has doled out some heavy info to ponder, so here’s some that’s a little lighter: in general, according to his research, in states where it’s hotter, people shower more; where it’s colder, people shower less. Still, the Northeast is relatively well-washed. Except, that is, for Vermont. Rudder has no idea why. Do you?

 

Rudder has a few takeaways from beyond the realm of love, too…

— On an insignificant July morning, Mitt Romney gained 20,000 Twitter followers within a few minutes.

Rudder dives further into social media data to show that Mitt Romney gained 18,860 new followers at 8 a.m. on July 22, 2012. Nothing particularly interesting happened on that day, and that spike in followers was about 200 times what he was getting immediately before and after. The secret? Likely purchasing followers. And Romney isn’t the only politician to do so—it’s a common practice, Rudder says, as we seek to strengthen our “personal brands.”

— Obama’s election and inauguration caused a massive spike in Google searches for “n-gger.”

According to Google Search data, search volume for “n-gger” more than doubled when Obama was elected in Nov. 2008, then fell rapidly within one month. When Obama was inaugurated in Jan. 2009, it similarly spiked, and then immediately fell. We don’t have national conversations on race, Rudder suggests, just national convulsions.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

Forgotten Dr. Seuss Stories Find a New Audience

In 'Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories,' familiar characters like Horton and the Grinch appear in new predicaments

Dr. Seuss fans will have a chance to read four of the famed cartoonist’s long-forgotten stories in a new volume, Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories, out today. The book features beloved characters as Seuss (whose real name is Theodor Geisel) rendered them for Redbook magazine in the 1950s. Though Seuss died in 1991, a collector and biographer, Charles Cohen, helped catalyze the new Horton after finding archival material in the magazine.

An illustration from Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss
Marco in an illustration from Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss Courtesy of Random House

In “Marco Comes Late,” Marco, from his first children’s book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, makes up a fantastical story to explain why he was really late to school.

An illustration from Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss
Horton and the Kwuggerbug in an illustration from Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss Courtesy of Random House

In “Horton and the Kwuggerbug,” a demanding insect called a Kwuggerbug sends Horton, the elephant best known for hearing a Who, on a wild mission that involves climbing mountains and standing up to crocodiles to find Beezlenuts—a delicious, sought-after dessert.

The Grinch is still as grouchy as ever and preaches about the pitfalls of consumerism in “The Hoobub and the Grinch,” reflecting the author’s “feelings about his history in advertising,” according to the book’s introduction written by Charles D. Cohen, a dentist who collects Dr. Seuss memorabilia.

An illustration from Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss
Officer Pat in an illustration from Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss Courtesy of Random House

And the extremely paranoid policeman Officer Pat from “How Officer Pat Saved the Whole Town” was meant to be a book unto himself, but Random House opted to publish Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories instead.

The original illustrations live in the archives of the Dr. Seuss Collection at the University of California at San Diego.

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