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July 12, 2008

New York, New York
"Hey, F. Scott Fitzgerald! Get a Clue!"

I'm flying back home from my second media tour. Sharing a row with a super-overweight lady. She can't get her tray down. I think she had to buy the seat next to her as well, which makes me kinda sad. I guess there's a point where practical space issues force you to face the music. She seems very nice. Must be humiliating.

But it works out great for me! I've got an empty seat to my left. I can type!

Shared a green room with Gene Simmons the other day for the CBS morning show. He was on to promote some book about hookers. I missed his crack-of-dawn treatise on socialism, but one of the other guests told me about it. A producer said they were going to try to get him to dance with me while they went to commercial. I wasn't too sure about that being such a great idea, but whatever.

I think someone ran it by him, cause a couple minutes later he was shooting me some nasty stink eye. I smiled and waved back, but he held firm behind his sunglasses like I'd just kicked his dog. There was to be no dancing with Gene Simmons.

When I relayed this story to Melissa, she thought I was talking about Richard Simmons and was surprised he wouldn't dance with me.

Richardsimmons

This happens a lot with Melissa. I fear for the day we run into Gary Oldman on the street and she asks him to recite catch phrases from Diff'rent Strokes.

A few seconds before I went on air, Harry Smith walked over and whispered in my ear, "I knew about you before you were in the Times."

The New York Times piece has really changed things. I've stopped asking people if they've seen it. Everyone has seen it -- which makes me feel like a philistine for rarely reading the Times. Apparently I'm the only one...well, maybe me and Gene Simmons.

But it's not just readership. Acknowledgement by the paper of record lends a weird air of legitimacy. News anchors are way nicer now. They come over and talk to me after the segment is over. One of them gave me her email address.

Here's a thing I've learned: no one ever talks to you after the segment is over. There's no longer any reason to be cordial. They're on to the next thing. So if they do stop to talk, it's generally for real.

On to MSNBC. Everyone was obsessed with Jesse Jackson's nut-severing antics. That and Christie Brinkley's divorce; an ongoing story that can be boiled down into four words: "Look! She's still hot!"

Met with my book agent. I'm no longer all that concerned with being able to find a publisher. Now it's more about finding the right publisher, the right concept, and then carving out time to author the damn thing.

Lunch with some TV folks. Not sure I'm a fit for that whole realm, but I'm listening and talking and considering.

Met with Reuters in Central Park, right at the spot where we danced in the video: Bethesda Arcade. The interviewer had talked to billionaires, movie stars, and heads of state. He asked me what's different about internet celebrity as opposed to real celebrity.

I'd say it's lack of insulation, a different and in some ways greater control over our images, and we generally don't smell as good.

Phone interview with the Globe and Mail; the big paper in Canada. Got tested about the details of my relationship with Stride.

Is it really as simple and transparent as it appears? What exactly is Stride's angle? Is it all some sort of marketing hoax?

I am a terrible liar. Fortunately, I didn't have to.

Had drinks with someone who wants me to do something that sounds like it might be fun.

Napped.

Back to MSNBC for an evening news show. They wanted me dancing on a green screen with that footage of George W. Bush shuffling in front of the White House.

"Really? Him?"
"You don't want to dance with the president?"
"Well, no."
"Who would you rather dance with?"
"Uh. Anyone. Anywhere. Ever. Since the dawn of man."
"How about the Dalai Lama?"
"...if you can find footage of the Dalai Lama dancing, fine."

They picked Ellen and Barack Obama. Next best thing, I suppose.

Smile, Matt.

If I look weary and exasperated, it's cause I am. That's me answering a question for the eighth time in a day. It's a question I've been asked every day for the last five years.

Also, green screens irk me. First off, I've got enough people thinking the whole thing is fake. Second, it's really hokey. Third, it's kind of the exact opposite of what my thing is all about.

But I did it and it was fairly painless. They put me on the moon with some astronauts. They put me in that Filipino prison with the Thriller dancers. It could've been dumber.

Trust me. It could've been dumber.

Morning interview with CNN. Again with the genuine interest, enthusiasm, and courtesy.

I think it has to do with me being back a second time. That old F. Scott Fitzgerald aphorism about no second acts in American life has proven to be the most colossally wrong thing anyone has ever said about our culture. Just ask Ozzy Osbourne or Hulk Hogan or Robert Downey Jr. or freaking Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ask Gene Simmons.

America loves a second act.

I'm used to being treated like the cute, disposable gimmick of the day. I'm not used to being treated like an auteur.

And it makes me nervous. It feels like one step closer to the ledge. All my favorite forms of artistic expression are things that no one takes seriously; videogames, comic books, internet video. In my opinion, as soon as they start getting critical analysis and respect, they stop being interesting.

Next room over. Interview with CNN International in London. This is the channel I watch more than anything while traveling -- largely because it's the only English channel in most places I go. I am deposited alone in a room facing a giant robotic camera. It's like trying to have a conversation with HAL 9000.

Met with a book publisher. It seemed to go well.

Met with the UN. That went very well. I pitched a project I want to do in the fall. They offered their support. They can't fund anything, obviously, but that's not really what I need. They have resources on the ground that will help me get into the areas I want to visit and accomplish what I want to do. They also suggested using their name to help get partners onboard. I am very excited about this.

We were talking about all the media I'm doing and they asked why I'm not going on The Daily Show.

"I'm not substantial enough for the The Daily Show. I'm only substantial enough for CNN and The New York Times."

Afternoon segment on Inside Edition. They sent me around midtown to dance in front of landmarks. Times Square, 30 Rock, Radio City Music Hall. Much to my surprise, I must confess, this was kind of fun. Every time I danced, people on the street recognized me and joined in. Pretty amazing.

Dinner with my dad and good friend, Aaron. Aaron is now doing PR for the New York subway system. He wants me to do a dancing video for them.

"The MTA needs help. We have projects that are not funded and they absolutely have to get done. The Javitz Center extension, the 2nd avenue line...we have sump pumps pulling thousands of gallons of water out of the tunnels every day just to keep them running. The only way to make people aware of what's going on is to get some goofy guy to dance in front of everything."

My dad has been enjoying fame-by-association among his coworkers. He is not the kind of man you'd expect to be related to someone who dances badly for a living. People usually ask if I'm adopted.

He felt a little guilty after reading the Times article. I told the reporter my dad didn't want to pay for me to go to college if I didn't want to go.

"I kind of sound like a cheapskate," he said.

What I didn't mention to the reporter, for fear of sounding pompous, is that my dad attended Cornell and Harvard Business School and felt like it was a mistake he didn't want his son to repeat. That information certainly casts him in a better light, but what can you do? I still think he came off sounding smarter and braver than a lot of parents, even without the extra details.

Slept almost a full eight hours for the first time in a week, loafed around the hotel room until they came in with a crowbar, then meandered over to JFK -- still my least favorite airport. Still the slowest, least reliable, least efficient, rudest facility I've ever had the discomfort of squeezing through.

$15 to check luggage. $10 for a turkey sandwich and potato chips. Armageddon is at hand.

Oh. By the way, this is awesome.

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"Hey, F. Scott Fitzgerald! Get a Clue!"
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Comments

This is a little odd to say to a complete stranger, but I feel really privileged to be a voyeur to all the work that you have done. I am glad to have been reading about all of your success as of late, and I hope it continues. First bad dancing, next UN ambassador!

I read that quote and thought 'right on, Matt's dad!' even without the backstory. Too many people go to college because they think they have to, and they don't get anything out of the experience.

And besides...you seemed to turn out okay. :)

Delurking to admit that I too thought you meant Richard Simmons. (As very shallow aside, what's up with Gene Simmons hair. eeeeeek!)

Growing up in the rural Midwest, it was always instilled in me that I *should* go to college, then after that I will just have to deal with a job I may or may not like, and just live with what comes at me.

I DID go to college and am very thankful, but I've always gone out of my way to break the mold of the "9 to 5" job and to act out against what our society thinks we should do, as far as employment goes. My point is, I always preach to my friends to "do what you really WANT to do, and ignore what you SHOULD do - believe in yourself and go against the grain if you believe in it".

You did just that with your concept of traveling all over, leaving your job behind. Your method of thinking behind all this is inspirational; keep it up. I think if more people traveled and were open to other cultures, we'd be better off as a whole.

Matt -
I'm embarassed to say that I hadn't heard of you or your video until receiving it via an email...but I LOVED the video! LOVED IT!! I certainly hope it's not too cliche to say that "it made me laugh, it made me cry". Not sure why it made me cry - but... it was really that wonderful. Such a simple, silly, joyous act - dancing - it speaks to everyone!

I NEVER get the first comment

If the UN can't provide funding, can they at least let you ride around in the black helicopters?

What a gift to us, Matt! The scenery, the music, your smile, the dancing made me happy. Your fellow dancers had me weeping with joy. I also like your blog. You are manifestly not an obnoxious person, which is hard for someone in your position. Keep up the good work.

MSNBC was actually good, Matt, right up to the point where they asked you to dance. And they totally killed it.

Oh well, it's not about the dance, it's about the ratings.

Some bits of advice:

Don't green screen dance again. Ever. It cheapens your accomplishments and your brand. Your concern about people accusing you of faking it are valid, so don't give anyone any ammo. Your power and positive message is about dancing with people and, more so, making a connection, dancing with silly video of NASA's finest on the moon doesn't help that.

Agree to be interviewed only on the same set with the interviewer. Again, it's about making personal connections, and a set-up where you are matrixed onscreen with the interviewer (like with David Schuster on MSNBC) doesn't further that. If they want you to dance, make 'em dance with you.

Why should you have all the fun?

I totally agree with Joe. You've come to far to be cheapened. Congratulations on everything.

....should have proof-read. Too late!

The UN?
Oh my sweet jesus.

That's AWESOME.

Hey Matt,

Congratulations on all the attention, and at handling it all with such grace.

But I kind of agree with J.Fogarty -- you're such a nice guy to be willing to try to accommodate what everyone else wants, but don't do anything that you don't feel fits with the spirit and intent of your wonderful work. (Then again, you did draw the line at dancing with the Shrub!)

Thanks, again, for all of your videos.

I am so glad to hear that you are talking to TV folks because I believe you would make an amazing travel show host. Television needs as many intelligent, well-spoken folks as possible to help offset the stuff at the other end of the spectrum.

Of course, working on a project with the UN sounds like it would be even more worthwhile. I look forward to hearing more about that.

Are you all crazy?! Did anyone even see the magnetic fields video at the end?!!

I don't get it?! Did they draw the fields on a computer afterwards "as they could have appeared" or where that the actual REAL fields that we saw moving?!

That was by far - the coolest thing I ever seen! Thx for sharing man!

You've been all over the world and your only a few hours drive from me. Come down to Atlantic City I'll take you to all our casino's give you a free place to stay and everything. If not now, at least stop by some time, we got some decent photo Op's and I have a bunch of friends who would love to dance a little bit. Anyway, you probably get those requests a lot, all the same, the offers always on the table.

What's Gene's problem that he wouldn't dance with you? I guess some people don't know how to be silly.

You totally do snap when you're dancing. :)

Your publisher... That's all you're going to say? Did you write all about this and I missed it?
I know you talked about a book at one point a little while ago, but it was also very brief from what I can recall.

A few comments..

1. Gene Simmons didn't dance with you because he is a poser. He only has "cool guy" sense of humor...lame...
I used to think he was cool when I was a kid and I thought posers were cool. He's cool like "Todd" from Beavis and Butthead.
2. The green screen was pretty bad. I agree that it sets a terrible precident.
3. Respect is given to you by the masses. The people you care about. Don't worry about the posers.
(journalists/media people/"real" famous people)
4. The UN... brilliant.
5. I found the magnetic field line movie to be interesting, but a bit corny.

I'm new to your journal and a new fan. I'm so glad to hear that you're working on a book deal, because after spending way too much time at work the other day reading your entries, my thought was "Dude can write!"
:)

I just wanted to say , well done with all of this! It's such an amazing idea and i really enjoy reading your journal , & the video makes me smile every time! And I am so glad you didn't turn out to be one of those people who only does it for the fame, i'm glad there are still afew out there. :)

The hair similarities between the two Simmonses are shocking. I loved how Gene's hair helmet flapped as one in the New York wind. Now there is a guy who has jumped a shark or two.

I could not agree more with the comments above about never green screening again. It's cool that you go with the flow, but you don't want to devolve into a circus act.

On the UN thing, I can only assume you will be doing something to better the lives of the children we all love to see in your videos. I have my ideas about what you're up to, but we'll just wait and see if I'm right.

Wishing you all the best from this corner of the cubicle farm.

Matt, danced with you in Dublin, because of what it was, and couldn't foresee such the beautiful result that you clearly imagined, executed and perfectly created. Severely disappointed to see that MSNBC clip up there... You're a good guy, but sometimes you MUST say no, to protect your well earned credibility and respect :-( Think on... No need for that.

Keith.

Sorry, don't know how the "such" crept in there.

Hey - when are you coming to Alaska? Or did you and I missed it? I love your brain, your humble attitude, and that you "keep it real." (Even with the tribesman beating the drum then pretty much saying - mmmm no, not my gig. Let me just dance my own little dance! Thanks for letting us travel with you and watch you dance your silly little dance wherever you go! Love it.

Matt, you're an inspiration, I've spent my entire day watching all your videos after seeing your piece on CNN. I laughed and cried. I think I was overwhelmed with the realisation that dancing brings joy and joy is universal and it united you with the people you met who felt the joy and watching it gave me joy. I made my husband and children watch the 3 main videos this evening and they too were full of questions and opinions. Thank you Matt

Matt-
Take good care of yourself; this journey could take more out of you than the last!
Hope that the shmoozing pays off in spades on your next project

PS Jon Stewart should be calling any day-now THAT would be fun to see you dance with those guys on green screen...

Ever thought of letting the fans of your work pay for your next trip? The credits would probably take longer than the video, but people like to be a part of something greater than themselves. I enjoyed the video greatly, it made me feel good inside.

UN?
Somehow this does not surprise me at all.
Of course, I don't know anything about your next project, but If you need a contact in São Paulo City I can give you the email of a fantastic guy who runs a foundation that works with street children. A major problem in Brazil.

Havard?
My husband and I were there for course in 2000.
Most of our collegues were there to heal their wounds from Harvard.
After seen that, I think I'd hather be dancing.

Marília (excuse my poor English).

Matt, I saw your video tonight and instantly googled you. I love your story, so I guess I want to share mine.
I work with homeless adults in Denver and I normally find the work to be very satisfying and fulfilling. Occasionally, I need to be reminded that there are like-minded people in this world who still care and/or have hope for our future. Recently, I've been feeling less positive about the world. I was 1 1/2 hours late for work today because I was trying to find some "inspiration" through music. Luckily, I listened to about every version of "Across the Universe" I could find then felt a little better about the world.
When I came home tonight and saw your video, it moved me to tears. There was something about watching you share a common experience with so many people around the world that just helps me think that the world is changing for the good. I honestly don't care if that sounds "hokey". I am just extremely grateful that you chose to share this experience with the world. I am also very happy to read similar comments from others. Thanks again! Just remember, "No dance can be bad or wrong because dance is the ultimate expression of joy."

PS: If you are ever in Colorado dancing I'm so there!

Way to go, Matt. I'm glad to hear this is turning into more stuff for you (and for us).

I'm also glad to hear you'll be working with the U.N. As I watched the outtake video for the tenth time, I realized that the dancing with Rwandan children repeated, I thought it might be a good project to do even MORE good to dance in some places where there maybe hasn't been dance in a while.

Thank you for the joy you bring. Many blessings on your continued journey.

Nice work, Matt! Who says you need to actually say something to get a political message across?
I live in Innsbruck, Austria, one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Ever danced in the Alps? Loads of my friends and I would love to dance with you. In fact, I think I'll leave the office to go dancing for a bit. Broke up with my girlfriend yesterday, I think I need it.
So long,
Matt

You should try dancing with Ronnie James Dio. Much cooler than Gene Simmons.

I realize that what you do is so simple, but someone had to start. And you did.

One of your video's made me smile and feel good about the world after a crapy day. Thanks for that.

Hey Matt, its really great that you are so grounded and continue to do what you believe in spite of the publicity blitz surrounding you and your work. Kudos to you for your dedication and still keeping it real at the same time =D

I was a little disapointed by your starting comments about the obese woman. It would be nice if people who have so much attention and get so many visitors to their site would for once be more understanding of obesity and how it affects the people who actually have to live their lives differently because of something almost always beyond their control. There are facts to back the whole "beyond their control" thing up, yet society has made it impossible for people to get beyond the blame game. Anyhow, it is humiliating, as you suggested. I'm sure she was nice and just as human as you. Everything you've said that I have read so far has been amazing. I was thinking what a great person you are when I read that first paragraph of this journal entry. I guess no one can actually be aware and understanding of every social issue, but it was disappointing to see you discuss this woman and issues of obesity in such a degrading and ignorant fashion. You didn't even need to make mention of it. I find it especially ridiculous in relation to your comments in your previous post about the "doughy" adjective the NYT used to describe you. Anyhow, there really isn't any good way of explaining how I feel about this and I'm sure you won't understand anyhow and would say "but I didn't say anything mean." Oh well.

Matt,

This might be a strange comment, but I just wanted to say thanks for how you talked about the overweight woman you shared the plane row with. I am a very overweight woman and I hate air travel with a passion. It's one of the most humiliating experiences to deal with as a fat person. So many people have such a mean, spiteful attitude towards fat people, and I (like your rowmate) am a very nice person, sensitive to others and giving and kind. I just really appreciated the thought that a stranger might pick up on that about me at some point, instead of just thinking how disgusting and pathetic I am. Regardless of whether you believe someone's weight is their own fault (as many do, possibly correctly), at least you acknowledge the difficulties we face.

Just FYI, though... I also can't fit the seat tray in my row down, but I have never had to buy an extra seat. I think a lot of fat people probably wouldn't really do that, just because it's so expensive. Instead what I usually do is take advantage of the "change your seat" option on electronic check-ins, and then I look for a seat with an empty space next to it. If I can find one, I snap it up, and sometimes I actually get lucky and it stays empty.

Anyhow, thanks. I guess it's just nice to see that your general attitude of tolerance extends to us fatties. :) And good for you for not dancing with Bush. :P

P.S. Alexandra must have posted at the same time I did... interesting how we had such different takes on your words. I didn't feel you were being insensitive, I thought you were being factual about the situation. And it didn't seem to me like you were necessarily blaming her for her situation, which I thought was a welcome change from a lot of what I see online. Would I say your attitude was wholehearted acceptance or "fat positive," necessarily? No, probably not, although I'm actually just as suspicious of ardent "fat acceptance" supporters as I am of people who are hateful towards fatties. (And I do use words like "fatties" in a reclaiming way, just for the record, because I'm trying to take away some of the power and sting of the words.) But like I said, it was such a far cry from the kinds of cruelty I usually see online with regard to fat people, I still thought it was worth complimenting.

I was a little disapointed by your starting comments about the obese woman. It would be nice if people who have so much attention and get so many visitors to their site would for once be more understanding of obesity and how it affects the people who actually have to live their lives differently because of something almost always beyond their control. There are facts to back the whole "beyond their control" thing up, yet society has made it impossible for people to get beyond the blame game. Anyhow, it is humiliating, as you suggested. I'm sure she was nice and just as human as you. Everything you've said that I have read so far has been amazing. I was thinking what a great person you are when I read that first paragraph of this journal entry. I guess no one can actually be aware and understanding of every social issue, but it was disappointing to see you discuss this woman and issues of obesity in such a degrading and ignorant fashion. You didn't even need to make mention of it. I find it especially ridiculous in relation to your comments in your previous post about the "doughy" adjective the NYT used to describe you. Anyhow, there really isn't any good way of explaining how I feel about this and I'm sure you won't understand anyhow and would say "but I didn't say anything mean." Oh well.

HI Matt, I am delurking to say how much I admire what you are doing. you must be pretty fit. I think you should dance with Richard Simmons, is he still alive???
You go guy.

for a minute i thought those were actual video of magnetic fields... got very scared.

Alexandra = cuckoo
Get over yourself.
Matt has poked fun at himself, normal people can and do.

Whatbookwhen?!

I've always enjoyed reading your journal entries and I'm sure the same will ring true with the book.

I saw your video for the first time today and i loved it! I could write more on how much it inspired me, i would take too much space...just sum up....AMAZING!
Next time you go around the states, you should hit some Reservations and dance with some natives! I would love to dance with you, stop by New MExico sometime!

If I may, what did the title "Hey, F. Scott Fitzgerald! Get a Clue!" mean? Sorry if this is a stupid question :)

Kim, The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald famously stated that "There are no second acts in American lives." Matt is proving that wrong.

NOT a stupid question, either.

Great work Matt... more importantly...so that wasn't actual video of magnetic fields? What WAS that?

Joe, as Alexandra predicted, her message doesn't sink in with people such as yourself who only know how to take such issues in ways they've been programmed to take them: through the standard media and stereotypical societal lines.

Matt pokes fun of himself but can't deal with being described as doughy. Someone points out that perhaps he perpetuates fat stereotypes yet your reply that they must be "cuckoo" and that they should "get over themselves"- obviously neglecting to see the irony in your own sensitivity over people expressing how they feel. How wonderful you must be.

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