Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Generalities

Just say “no” to snow cones

Snow cones are a southern thing. Should that be a capital? A Southern thing? Yes. That looks more Paula Deen-ee.

When I first moved to Texas, the kids in class with me talked about snow cone stands. Which one was the best, which one was adequate, and which ones to avoid all together.

My Yankee brain didn’t understand this. What’s the big whup with snow cones? Any Northerner who has left a can of pop in the garage in January…homemade snow cone.

Now, ice cream. Ice cream I get and ice cream is something the North does right. I don’t care what your personal Southern ice creamery is, but I put it up against Sherman’s in South Haven, MI any day of the year.

Well, that’s my rant about snow cones. And that’s why I drew this picture (which is mostly traced from the Internet) for ice cream, not snow cones.

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Bobby is Bobby Drake AKA Iceman from the X-men. I wish this was a t-shirt.


TMI Minute Episode 7 | Hunger Games Theme Park

It’s Tuesday and time for a new episode of the TMI Minute.

Written by Joe Neuburger and I.
Performed by Afton Quast, Anthony Fanelli, and Rachel Butera


Remembering NaNoWriMo and Trying to Inspire Others

A friend of mine, Briana Hansen, is vlogging her National Novel Writing Month journey. I’m being supportive, as you should be ifRemembering NaNoWriMo and Trying to Inspire Others someone you know is doing it. It’s tough. It’s hard. You need a support structure.

I have the added benefit of having done it myself.

My journey is atypical. The way I write is different from others (everyone’s writing is different). I write novels by hand and I don’t set pen to paper unless I know what the story is, who the characters are, and where it’s going. I spend most of my waking moments planning.

So, when someone says, write a novel in a month, it’s easy. If I have one ready.

My NaNoWriMo experience was a class assignment in college. I finished in 8 days. The whole class hated me. Everyone finished by the end of the month. So, from someone who wrote 55,000 words in 8 days, let me tell you how I did it.

1. Stop worrying

55,000 words is not a novel. These days, a novel is between 75,000 and 100,000. So, writing the NaNoWriMo’s requisite 50,000 is not a whole novel: it’s the bones and muscles without the flesh and clothing. Don’t worry so much about what it looks like. When you reach your goal, set it aside. You can always come back to it later, flesh it out, and dress it up. This is not a polished product. That’s what revision is for.

2. Just go.

Don’t check your word count every ten minutes. Don’t look at the clock every hour. This is a marathon. It’s going to take time. If you’re on a roll, but you’ve already written for your two hours, keep going. Why stop? When you do stop, stop in the middle so you can pick up where you left off and get right back into your flow.

3. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. Unless there is.

There will be a time (maybe more than once) when you sit down with your hands over the keys and you have no idea what comes next. The truth behind writer’s block is that it’s self-doubt rearing it’s ugly head. If you want to do it in 8 days, you turn off your inner editor and squash self-doubt with the power of will (not really; you squash it with the power of blind, speeding momentum). When self-doubt threatens your word count, sit it down and give it a talking to.

Trust your characters. Trust your plot. Trust everything.

Trust that you can always change it later.

4. Ride the wave

Coming from someone who’s written five of them and knowing people who have written more, writing a novel is an emotional roller coaster. Briana is still in the honeymoon period. She’s in love with the idea, she’s in love with the process, she’s in love with everything around it.

There will come a time when you hate it with such utter contempt you can remember why you decided to do it in the first place.

This is natural. Ride the wave. It WILL drag you down, but don’t worry. You’ll get through it. The process of writing a book looks a lot like the hero’s journey. You have a time when the walls are closing in, you have your own dark night of the soul about your project. Remember, at the end, you get to bring your holy grail back to the villagers. And, you’re never the same after you finish.

5. Support

Don’t do this alone. Seriously. Even if it’s just one friend, get a support structure in place. Writing a book is like being in a relationship: sometimes, you need someone you can vent to.

That’s what I got for all you NaNoWriMo kids. I wish I could have joined you this round, but time does not allow me to.

What are your tips for NaNoWriMo? Tell me about your journey in the comments! And, if you are going through it alone, check out Briana’s vlog and comment.


The TMI Minute | Episode 4 – Dogs in the Machine

Here’s a new episode of the show I write and produce with Joe Neuburger and Julian Clark.


Agents of SHIELD Pilot Review? Analysis? Post about me watching it?

I unapologetically have no time to watch TV when it airs. So, it’s rather surprising that I was able to watch Agents of SHIELD last Agents of SHIELD Phil Coulsonnight.

But, if you know me, perhaps not that surprising. Because I love Agent Coulson. I had a small twinge of jealousy during Avengers when he said there was a cellist in Portland. I nearly ripped my theatre seat out of the ground when Loki stabbed him in the back. I hung on through the movie, thinking, “No body, no death,” the reality of action movies, but the movie ended.

And, seemingly, Coulson ended with it.

Now, as anyone knows, Coulson is back and as quippy as ever. And he comes bearing conspiracy.

The pilot episode explains Coulson’s reappearance as Nick Fury faking our favorite agent’s death to get the Avengers to work as a team. This hypothesis is icky. If Coulson’s death was a fake, it’s ultimately meaningless, considering everything that Coulson stands for. However, Maria Hill and Doc Shepard (Firefly guy) hang on Coulson’s resurrection a little too long. So long, in fact, that we know there’s something rotten in the state of Strategic Homeland Initiative, Enforcement and Logistics Division.

The general agreement is that Agent Phil Coulson of Agents of SHIELD is a life model decoy. I’m not placing my bets on that, but it’s certainly possible.

Any way, the thing that I really wanted to talk about was the definition of heroism. io9.com posed this in their biggest unanswered questions about Agents of SHIELD:

Are all superheroes essentially psychotic?

This seems to be one major theme of the episode — Michael gets superpowers and uses them to help people, just like the Avengers. But he resists doing the whole “costumed hero” thing when Skye suggests it… until he starts to go insane due to the tech in his arm. Then he suddenly starts talking about being a hero, and his mean factory foreman being “the bad guy.” And he tells the nice doctor lady that this is his origin story. So… is the whole idea of being called to heroism just a form of psychosis? Is it essentially sociopathic? At the end of the episode, though, Michael says “it matters who I am,” and Agent Coulson turns that around into a thing where Michael’s real chance for heroism is self-sacrifice — saving the people in the train station from his own spontaneous combustion. (And then luckily, it doesn’t come to that, thanks to Fitzsimmons.)

This is an interesting idea and, while I won’t bet on the true nature of the current Phil Coulson, I would wager that Agents of SHIELD will be addressing a lot of the stigma around heroism. The tagline, after all, is “Not all heroes are super.”

Part of my love of Phil Coulson is this weird grey area he exists in. He’s definitely a hero. In Avengers, he’s the hero that the super-powered aspires to be. He faces a “god” because it’s the right thing to do. At the same time, Coulson absolutely loves his job. Is he just following orders?

It’s sort of a Yoda moment. Coulson is a person who DOES. He doesn’t try. He’s gets shit done. And that, above most else, is why I love him so.House Cornell

Anyway, I would purpose some major unanswered questions of my own:

Will Phil Coulson be in the next Avengers movie?

You can’t just ignore the fact that Coulson is back. While the Marvel cinematic universe just got a little bigger, it’s still very insular. Coulson was the go-to guy on ALL the heroes. He was Thor’s contact, the first man on the job when Tony Stark started suiting up, and even saved Pepper a few times in the first Iron Man film. Not to mention JARVIS could have out with the big secret within 20 seconds of half-assed hacking.

How will the heroes react to it? 

They don’t need Coulson anymore. But, if they stick with the cover story that Nick Fury is a liar, well, that’s not real great for team cohesiveness.

Where are the super-powered?

A lot of people wanted the Michael character to be Luke Cage. And, that’s not a bad tactic, introducing Marvel characters less likely to get their own movies into the television universe. However, my thought is that we won’t see any super powers. We’ll be seeing how people in a world with the superpowered deal with not having them. And, that’s pretty much how the series has been billed. Maybe we’ll get these characters later, but I doubt we’ll see supers in the first season outside of artificial ones.

What does this mean for the cinematic universe?

In the comics, all of the Marvel heroes exist in the same universe. X-men, Avengers, Spider-man, they’re all kicking it around in the same world. With 20th Century Fox holding on to X-men and Sony with the iron grip on Spider-man, who knows when these properties will be back together on-screen. Stop celebrating the Batman/Superman movie, give me Spider-man/Human Torch or Wolverine vs. Hulk. One can only hope that competing companies will play nice for the sake of Marvel’s success. But realistically, Coulson might have to die again to make that happen.


TMI Hollywood Video | Mon of Steel

I wrote and helped shoot this one.

Mon of Steel – watch more funny videos

 

 

 


The Non-Adopters

I have a problem.

I’m not sure if it’s a generational thing. I mean, I’m friends with people from many generations, and it doesn’t strike me as a generational thing. Here it is:

Why doesn’t everyone use Google (or, God forbid, “The Google”)?

There seems to be a subset of humanity that actively refuses to embrace technology. And the thing that really gets me is that technology is supposed to make our lives easier. If it isn’t helping you, don’t use it.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyPerhaps this has something to do with our gadget-obsessed society. It’s enough to own the bright, shiny toy. You don’t need to know how to use it. As long as you have it, your position in society is assured. We’ve replaced technological knowledge for the appearance of technological knowledge. “I have a smartphone, but I don’t know how to use it.”

I was so excited when Apple announced the iPad, because it was like someone announcing a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Here was a handheld device (okay, maybe not palm size, but still reasonable) that had an almost guaranteed connection to the Internet. The Internet. The most complete compiling of human information so far. You want it? You can find it. Science fiction became science fact. Grab your towels.

Another thing about the iPad is that it has nearly limitless potential. Want to use it as a gaming device? Go for it. How about a medical aid for nurses and doctors? It can do that, too. I’ve been asked what an iPad does, which baffles me. You can use it as a musical instrument. You can use it to send text messages or talk on Skype. You can use it to create graphs and set up visual aids for meetings. You can use it to scan credit cards for your business. It can’t make you a cup of coffee, but it can tell you where to find some, and it get you one at Starbucks if you add money to the app.

The iPad, while a technological advancement, is also hailing back to the cave man. Here’s a stick. What does it do? It does whatever you can make it do.

Now, not everyone is ready for an iPad. I understand that. If it doesn’t somehow make life easier (again), you don’t need it.

I believe technology is the one of the foundations of human evolution. Before “I have a smartphone, and I don’t know how to use it” was “I have a rock, and I know how to use it.” Those must have been exciting times, when Caveman Jobs held an event with his turtleneck (made out of actual turtle?), and announced the rock. Maybe he was even responsible for the slingshot. Ridiculous scenario or not, human innovation cannot be denied as a major component of our development.

There’s this aspect of my personality that makes me undauntingly curious. If I want to know something, nothing will keep me from it. I will read the books, I will take the classes. If I had more time, I would study everything from Accounting to Yiddish Studies (yeah, it’s a thing) and everything in between. I understand on an intellectual level that not everyone shares this insatiable thirst for knowledge. Fortunately, I’m not related to any of those people. My parents, my siblings, my aunts, uncles, and more, all share my desire to learn.

The Internet is a portal into the garnering of information. (I don’t believe everything I read on the Internet; I’m just saying you can find factual pieces if you know where/how to look).

If I don’t know how to do something, my first instinct is to turn to Google.

Why doesn’t everyone do this?facepalm

You know another thing that’s great about Google? You can just type in your question, right into the box, and it gleans your meaning. How? They employ linguists who seem to have the ability to read minds. Their algorithms incorporate data from your history of searches. They look at the way other people have reacted who have performed similar searches. Google is trying to make your life easier. Embrace it.

I think these non-adopters are going to have a problem very shortly. Human technology is evolving alarmingly fast (not that you need to read any books on it). If you can’t keep up now, what happens when everyone is wearing Google Glass? What happens when we develop a way to store our thoughts instantaneously to the cloud?

Human evolution is so closely linked with our development of better tools, it’s possible the swift development of technology could lead to species directed evolution. Yes, our tools now could determine the future of the human race.

So, get on board. The spaceship is leaving without you.

P.S. I’m ready for my nanite injection, Mr. DeMille.


I’m Judging You (Or The Other Side of the Rejection Letter)

We held auditions for the stage read of my pilot this weekend (it’s at 6:30 on April 17th at Second City Hollywood and you’ll see two shows for the low, low price of FREE!) and these auditions put me on the other side of throwing yourself at the mercy of someone else’s judgement.How to audition

It’s not easy being an actor. We had 39 people show up.

There are 8 people in my pilot.

One of them only exists off-stage. That’s right. I’ve cut the story down to the essentials (how many people are in an episode of The Big Bang Theory? You’ve gotta keep it tight). Now, there are a few non-speaking roles in there. The first scene takes place at the Hugo Awards, so you would presumably have a whole audience in there somewhere.

But, they don’t talk.

On top of that, I already had two of my characters cast from people I know from the show I write for at Second City.

It was a little ridiculous. Even I was getting nervous about auditions and all I had to do was sit at a table and watch. It’s hard to imagine how they feel. Worse, you’re throwing yourself at the mercy of someone’s highly subjective opinion, someone who has a look, a style, a character, in mind and you need to rock it. I only write down you’re name if you’re interesting. I only remember you if you impressed me. The first thing that goes out the window is “Nice.” I can’t waste too much time saying how wonderful everyone is. I have to get down to it.

sorryimnotsorry

I’m a little sorry.

There were a few people I saw that I thought, “It’s too bad that I don’t have a part for you.” Literally. Out of eight characters, three of them are male, and one of them can’t be half-assed or borderline. You have to rock it.

You have to either read my mind or change it.

Here’s what I learn from having to drop the gavel:

1.) Sometimes, it’s how you look.

I need a 15 year old boy. But, the character is so important, I didn’t want to cast a 15 year old (everyone on Glee is in their 20′s, so you can get away with it). If you look like you’ve walked a hard road to 30, it’s a hard sell, even when it’s just a read.

2.) Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how you look.

One guy, clearly older than 25, read for the 15 year old character and nailed it. So, he didn’t perfectly fit the role as far as looks were concerned. He hit the important part, which was in the attitude and the speech pattern. He brought something to it. What I’m saying is you can change someone’s mind.

3.) Go all out.

I can’t imagine how nervous you are. Whenever I submit my stories to agents, it’s always from behind a computer screen where I can listen to Take A Chance On Me or Maybe This Time and dance around in my pajamas, because I’m a writer and that’s pretty much what we do. I’ve had pitches with agents in the past, but even those were one on one. It’s not as terrible as standing in a line with 7 other people. The person who ended up as my lead took the direction I gave her and made something out of it, even in a three page scene. I was able to look at her reading the role and think, “I never saw the character this way, but, damn, it works.”

4.) Don’t be cocky.

Sometimes, you have to psych yourself up. I get that. I’ve performed live before and ten minutes before every show, I had to sequester myself and talk myself into it. I had to amp up. I had to get ready. I’m an introvert, so I could keep that amping up in my head.

Don’t do it out loud.

Please.

If saying you’re going to fucking rock these auditions is what gets you into the room and gets you psyched, great. Don’t do it in front of the people in charge of the auditions. They don’t all think you’re psyching yourself up. Some of them think you’re just being a jerk.

If you are just being a jerk, stop. STAHP.

5.) Bring a headshot.

It’s LA. You should have one.

Even if they don’t ask you to bring one, you should bring one. A little professional can go a long way. If you single yourself out, maybe you don’t need one. But, you should have one. It’s like bringing a resume to a job interview. Yeah, you already sent one, but maybe they didn’t feel like printing it out. And, it’s easy to say, “Would you like a copy of my resume?” They can say no if they’ve got one. If they don’t, you’ve already set yourself apart from everyone who forgot theirs.

I know rejection sucks. I’ve been there about 120 times in the last 2 years, and those are the ones that bothered to answer.

You can do one of two things:

Keep going

or

Quit.

So, it’s up to you.

What’s the next step?


How to Achieve Your Dream

I have a dream. I don’t often talk about my dream publicly. I mean, my friends know. And my family knows. And I’m always striving, always working toward that goal. I think I have a sort of weird knock on wood mentality about my dream, like if I say it out loud, it won’t come true. It’s something that I have to keep on the inside, something that’s my own.How to acheive a dream

Before you think you know what it is, it’s not being a “writer.” Saying I want to be a writer is like saying I want to be biologically classified Homo sapien. I’ve had a problem with the word aspiring for a long time, especially as it pertains to writers. Are you writing? Yes. Are you actively pursuing a career as a writer? Yes. Than you’re a writer. If you label yourself as aspiring, my first assumption is that you’ve never actually finished writing anything that doesn’t begin with the words, “Dear Diary.”

In Hollywood, it’s weird. There’s a “who do you want to be” atmosphere that I finally reached the breaking point with.

So, here are some things I’ve learned about dreaming, straight from Hollywoodland.

1) Celebrate the victories

My dream is huge. It takes a lot of steps. Usually, when someone asks me what my dream is, I only tell them the current plateau I’m headed for. Like “head writer” or “created by.”

I have a problem taking compliments. When someone tells me they like something I’ve written, the dreamer in me reminds me that this isn’t the peak I’ve dreamed. This is a road sign to blow past. But, that’s not really the case. I’m working on celebrating these moments of compliment, because I know where they come from. Rather than answer with an I’m not there yet, I take them in stride and acknowledge and appreciate them.

2) Dreams are hard

When I told people I was moving to Los Angeles to pursue my dream, I got a lot of reactions. Most of them started with “You’re so brave.” I suppose that’s a compliment, but it struck me as odd. I didn’t think I was brave at all. I was simply doing that which was necessary to achieve what I wanted.

So, step two is to understand that some people find out that their dream is hard, and they stop going for it. There are other people that don’t acknowledge that part of their dream. There is no hard, there is only an obstacle that has to be surmounted. If you get stuck on the hard, you need to either reevaluate or quit.

3) Aspirations are misleading

So often, people want the simple answer. The question isn’t so much what as it is who. Who do you want to be?

I don’t have an answer for that. I want to be myself. I don’t want to compare myself to other people. So, Tina Fey? No. Tina Fey can be Tina Fey. I will not be better at being Tina Fey than Tina Fey is. Jane Espenson? Closer, but no. I would not make a very good Jane Espenson. (I love Jane Espenson and have the utmost respect for her.)

I understand why this is a question that people ask. It’s the same reason they have to take complex scientific theories on sci fi shows and distill them to clumsy analogies that are simple enough for a largely unscientific audience to understand.

Regardless, stop comparing me to other people. Our dreams might not be the same, and even if they were, everyone’s path is different.

4) Reputation is currency

I suppose this could be specific to my field, but I don’t think so. It’s a little bit karma, but mostly attitude. If you go out to meet people, get to know people, connect with people on a basic level, you will develop a reputation of being kind. I know myself enough that I am often considered aloof and disinterested. I’m not. I’m fully engaged, I just usually enter a receptive state.

Yes, I’m listening. But my face is apathetic. Understanding my aloofness, I have to remind my face to do things when I’m talking to people. Be aware of what you’re putting out there. People might talk about you. You don’t want them to say bad things.

That’s what I’ve learned so far. It’s a work in progress.


On Ruining Everything

A recent post about Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has my childhood spinning in its proverbial grave. And, before you start accusing me of hipster nostalgia, you’ve got nothing on me. I watched the cartoon, had the toys, devoured the movies, got the Christmas ornament. I even read Ninja Turtles books. Checked them out from the library. Left it outside in the rain. That put the fear of God in me.

Anyway, that point is Michael Bay is RUINING ninja turtles. Michelle Fox! What in the…how would the…but the…

Okay, I’m going to stop myself right there.

It’s sort of interesting when these types of things happen, my mind runs to cover the eyes of some imaginary child that I don’t have, nor even want at this point in my life. It’s weird, this completely unjustified righteous indignation. And, while I do think, “It’s not even the same story. You’re changing everything. Can’t you just make that movie and leave my beloved non-alien, un-Michelle Fox Turtles alone?”

Clearly not. And it’s not really my business to say so. You see, I make a stand by not giving Hollywood my money. (In most cases, it matters not.)

But, it brings me to a weird point that probably doesn’t need to be made.

You’re not really ruining it.

While attempting a Harry Potter movie marathon last weekend, I came to a stunning realization. Those movies are DEPRESSING as HELL. As I made my way through the first three years of Harry Potter on DVD, I forgot the good times that Harry had at Hogwarts. I forgot J.K. Rowling’s sly wit and subtle humor. So much of that didn’t come out in the films. I had to stop because I knew Harry’s journey just grew darker and darker.

Did the director’s of Harry Potter ruin it?

No. I had so many fond memories of reading the books. And, fond memories of gathering with my friends to go to the midnight releases. I wonder what someone who has just seen the movies must think.

Back to the point:

Ruining things.

In many ways, we don’t want pieces of our culture to die. We bow down to them and worship. It’s like the George Lucas tithe. Every ten years, we must give him more of our dollars and eat popcorn at his altar. This reluctance to try new things is killing the movie industry. (Let’s face it, it isn’t going anywhere soon.) Studios want to bet on the sure thing. And even if everyone is going out to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in order to hate it, YOU’RE STILL SEEING IT.

If we want to maintain our culture, we should preserve it in our minds. I remember sneaking Star Wars on the basement VHS player. I remember my shock that Darth Vader was Luke’s father. I remember those episodes of Batman: The Animated Series that introduced me to every villain and left me with a fondness for boxy Batmobiles.

At some point, we have to let go of this notion of ruining. The world is progressing. It’s not easy to build a fandom from scratch, but kids do it every year. Do I love The Nanny because of it’s timeless Broadway references or because it was a part of my youth? Mostly because of the Cici/Niles repartee. Perhaps I over-inflate the brilliance of things because I have a developmental attachment to them.

Either way, we must face the facts: Batman is growing up, the Ninja Turtles are growing up, The Nanny will not come back on the air.

Accusing people of ruining things holds us back from progress. Stop being such a Raphael.

(By the way, I can’t wait for Jurassic Park 3D)


Why I won’t be hooting at Meryl Streep

When the Oscar’s come to LA (well, my part of LA, which is the Hollywood part), everything shuts down. I mean, seriously. The street is closed. Events are cancelled. This is our Super Bowl.

I thought that I could fulfill my lifelong dream of hooting at Meryl Streep.

All right, so it’s not really a lifelong dream to hoot at Meryl Streep, it’s more of a last four days dream.

Anyway, I looked up tickets for the red carpet. They’re free. Which is nice. But, then there was this.

  • Write a short essay explaining why you deserve to be chosen.
  • Upload three photos: full length photo, real passport photo and a recent photo with friends.
  • Complete a “Background Check” conducted by the Academy’s Security Team.  A passport-type photo will be required.

I can understand the background check, but an essay? A full-length photo? A recent photo with friends? I don’t even think I have this stuff on my Facebook page. In response, here’s my essay on why I DON’T deserve to be chosen for the Academy Award Red Carpet Grandstand:

I don’t care about the Oscars. I really don’t. I just wanted the opportunity to yell at celebrities in their natural habitat; award shows. I wanted the chance to see Robert Downey, Jr.  I’m not even sure he’s invited to this year’s Academy Awards. I wanted the opportunity to see how tall George Clooney is (he’s short, isn’t he? I bet he’s short). I wanted to Instagram a bunch of famous people and also the back of some guy’s head. I wanted to check-in on Foursquare at the Kodak Theatre (I live pretty close; I can probably do that anyway).

The only Oscar nominated movie I saw this year was Silver Linings Playbook, so if they don’t win any awards, I’m at a loss. There was something in French, right? I don’t even know. It was probably boring.

I have no appreciation for clothing. You could point out some famous designer, and I would have no idea who you were talking about. Tuxedos. Yeah!

To be honest, if I went anywhere, it should have been the Golden Globes. Or the SAG Awards. Or the Emmys. Because I *heart* TV.

Here’s a photo of me with a finger mustache.

stache


As our contract states, you owe me some tongue

This isn’t my usual gig, but stick around anyway for this.

I watch a lot of television, most of it streaming, so commercials are few and far between. I’m fairly good at tuning them out, too. Unless they’re funny, I find them less than useful. I buy my Apple products because I was brainwashed by my peers. The commercials had nothing to do with it.

But, recently, I heard a commercial that caught my attention FROM A DIFFERENT ROOM.

Yes, I was minding my own business while my roommate was watching TV and I heard a commercial that sounded sort of…strange. I walked in to watch the rest of it and thought, “Well, that’s Pavlovian.”

If you don’t know who Pavlov is, he’s this psychologist who taught dogs to slobber at the chime of a bell. Sound stupid? You’re wrong. What he did was ring the bell, feed the dogs, ring the bell, feed the dogs, ring the bell, feed the dogs, ring the bell…and the dogs started slobbering because they were expecting to be fed.

If you think that’s common sense (my dog eats on a schedule and gets antsy around 6; I don’t think he can tell time), Pavlov was able to prove it in a lab {and on one! ba dum chish} and as we all know, if you can’t replicate it in the lab, it didn’t happen. (Ok, psychology nerds; what I’m talking about is technically operant conditioning, but more people are familiar with Pavlov than Skinner, I would have had to explain more when they can just Google it, and I wouldn’t have been able to make the “lab” joke)

Back to the commercial.

It was a Kay Jewelers commercial. I’ve embedded it here. If you don’t see it, CLICK HERE. You see, it’s a Super Bowl ad. Millions of Americans are supposed to see this commercial. Take a look.

Maybe you think it looks sweet, but the man is working on conditioning his wife.

Pretty much every jewelery commercial is like this.

Give lady shiny rock for good thing, she do good thing again.

It even says it in their slogan. Every kiss begins with Kay.

Agreed upon contract or hidden misogynistic agenda?

I don’t know why I suddenly went on this feminist rant. I suppose it’s just been building for years, with every jewelry or Colon Blow™ yogurt ad where women are the target market. I’ve been calling the Open Hearts Collection the Tits and Ass Collection ever since I saw the first commercial four years ago because that’s what it looks like. I’m sorry, Jane Seymour. I’m sure you’re a wonderful person, but, seriously.

Am I taking it too personally? Sure. Why not? I don’t really care about jewelry. I would rather have something functional, something meaningful. For example, a wedding ring is a symbol that you are married. It can also function as a bottle opener.

If someone wanted to condition me, they would say, “Thank you. Here’s a subscription to Mental Floss,” or “Thank you. Here are the new tennis shoes you need.” Or, better yet, “Thank you. This is a gift that no one would understand except the two of us and I knew it would make you laugh and you would love it because you love me and it symbolizes our mutual trust and happiness with each other.”

Put that on a Boobs and Butt locket, Kay.

(You can argue the flip side that the commercial is conditioning the men to buy the jewelry. Commercials are all within the realm, trying to show you the rewards of a lifestyle you would achieve with their product. It doesn’t change the fact that ultimately, women are being demeaned in these ads. And it bugs me.)


The only question left is: Do I drink the water?

I just got back from…wait for it:

THE SET OF IRON MAN 3.

So, I guess, the obvious question: No, Robert Downey, Jr. wasn’t there. It was second unit. Or not even that. Principal shooting has been done on Iron Man for awhile. No, this stuff was filler. Extra scenes that just need to fill the seams in the movie. Doesn’t matter. It was still awesome.

Great stuff below. (more…)


That Color Doesn’t Look Good on Anyone

I recently threw myself a pity party. You know the one. The one where you feel like the whole world is against you; or maybe your mouth was faster than your brain; or maybe, for some reason, your being is divided between id, ego, and superego and they all hate each other at the moment.

Whatever the reason, I started the pity party. I know why. It’s that moment when your life decisions catch up with you. Not that you made any particularly bad decisions, or decisions that you regret. It was the sort of thing where you expected everything to go smoothly and forgot that the time between decision and success is LIFE HAPPENING.

And, I usually go with the flow. But, I’m a Philosophy major, a brain, one of those overly analytical introverts that are so depressing at parties (be they “pity or otherwise)…

The Universe has not subscribed to my time table.

It all started when I realized I lost touch with my voice. Wait, not my “voice,” my Voice. That mystical, magical buzzword that all writers use (it’s bullshit, but it isn’t {but it is [but it isn't.]}) I’ve been writing things for Not Me for awhile. Spec scripts, jokes, sketches; things that are me, but they aren’t (but they are {but they aren’t [but they are.]}) In the world of The Creative, there’s the whole thing about trying to get paid for your work, so you do things to increase your exposure that are not necessarily the thing that you would be doing in that parallel universe where the world is perfect. This world isn’t really available to anyone. Even people with contracts still get rejected by their editors, producers, executives, etc. I mean, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are pretty much the only Creatives who get to say “My rules” to whomever.

Anyway, the thing that I want, more than fame, is to be able to present a project and say, “I can make this work.” And, maybe that’s what fame is? Maybe not. Whatever the case is, I don’t want to be a sellout, I want to be a silver lining. I want to be a Fixer. I want to be the person who can turn a Nothing into a Something.

Back to the Pity Party.Id, Ego, Superego

Quiet down, up there.

My Superego knew exactly who to invite to this party and made a move to protect itself. My Id, on the other hand, just wanted the immediate Pity gratification, which it sought without any consultation.

So, to those of you who were invited to the Pity Party out of Id, I apologize. I know that you love all of my parts and tried to help in the best way you could, but you were gratifying the Id, which really didn’t deserve it.

And, to those of you who were invited to the Pity Party by the Superego and showed up to throw the drink in its face, you were right. Thanks for coming.

Because, if I’m the one who wants to be able to say, “I can make this work,” sometimes the advice I need is “Make it work.”

It’s not a perfect system. My Id still begs for gratification. But, at least on some level, I’m starting to reject my self-imposed martyrdom.


Home Office? More like Pajama Party!

I won’t pretend that I haven’t hit the jackpot. I work from home. When you think about it, that’s pretty awesome. No, even when you don’t think about it, it’s really awesome. And for some reason, there’s this weird conception out there that I do everything in my pajamas, and that’s not exactly a lie.

But there are some pitfalls to working from home.

Like no human interaction. When you’re communicating through emails with everyone, sometimes you wonder if there’s actually someone on the other side. I keep getting paychecks, so I assume…

Then, there’s the whole thing with the pajamas. If I don’t have pajamas on by one ‘o clock in the afternoon, it means I’m not going anywhere, so I might as well throw on the Snuggie and stretch the power cord of the laptop over the back of the couch. And just like Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day, I’m not nearly as productive. What do you mean there’s no Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day? Is that not a thing at your office?

My computer is for fun and for profit. There’s no difference between my work computer and my home computer (except for that one thing about the Java update that means I have to use that one bit of software on the old computer, but that’s neither here nor there).

I don’t have a water cooler. My roommates are out of the house most of the time. I don’t have a receptionist. Or a mail guy. It gets sort of lonely. Sometimes, I go a couple days without leaving the house. My thoughts start to echo back in my head. Television is my friend.

Anyway, the real productivity comes from getting out of the house. If I go to a coffeeshop, I’ll sit and work for four to six hours straight, no breaks, no lunches, not even a bathroom pause.

And, if I’m bored on a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, it’s easy to fall into work. I’ve gotten emails at 11:30 at night which could wait till the morning, but of course my first response is to do it now. I get work emails on my phone, on my computer, sometimes even alerts on my iPad. Is that how most people do it these days?

Midwest Work EthicMy Midwestern ideals make it so I have to work. I feel guilty if I don’t. Sometimes, I feel like that horse in Animal Farm. Pretty soon, the only thing I’ll be good for is glue.

Which brings me to a point, sort of, about introversion. I land pretty high on the introversion score. I like hanging out with other introverts. Extroverts freak me out and make me suspicious and paranoid. Why are you so happy? Why are you telling everyone you’re so happy? Don’t touch me. Why are we hugging?

If they talk about things I’m interested in, I’m less suspicious. But, getting stuck inside by myself for extended periods of time sort of reminds me why humans are social creatures. You gotta get out there and meet people. Or be stuck inside with your own irritating self who won’t shut up about Underworld until we watch it seven times.

Home office or regular office, work is work. What are the pitfalls of your daily plod?


‘Twas The Night Before Rapture

‘Twas the night before Rapture and all through the land; We hoped that the Mayans were wrong on their plan.
For some people said it would be over soon.
Many of us hope they’d just run out of room.

With holiday greetings still stacked on the shelves; We hoped to see light at the end of Two Thousand and Twelve.
With cable news glowing, lights upon the Christmas tree.
We tentatively watched and thought, “Well, I guess we’ll see.”

But everything became boring, no word of mass dead. I thought, ‘Geez, forget this. I’m going to bed.”
I shuffled upstairs and I turned out the light.
Too exhausted to think this could be my last night.

So many ways to go, zombie, asteroid, or drought.
I’m going to sleep, you guys figure it out.
For you see, if tomorrow, the world begins splitting.
You can bet bet the doomsday preppers are the first people I’m hitting.

end


Talk Amongst Yourselves

You know you’ve reached a weird point when you start Search Engining blog topics. I mean, what do I write about?

Part of my problem is overload. I’m writing four sketches a week, 10 jokes a week, two blog posts a week for work (why is that always easier?), and developing a sitcom pilot while keeping one eye open for work in the entertainment industry.nog

So, I guess I’ll update you on random things and you can talk amongst yourselves.

  • Love, love, love Los Angeles. Go…Theater Nerds? (I’m not sure what team I’m supposed to cheer for here.)
  • Still working two and a half jobs from home. Garbage disposal broke. Plumber came over to replace it. I awkwardly hovered over him and tried to talk about TV shows.
  • I flirted with him a bit, but he turned me down. It’s cool. Those inter-office romances never work anyway.
  • I’ve started referring to all my neighbors by their Native American names. Works On Car. Lets Dog Poop. Flirts With Kate. Has Loud Sex.
  • Egg nog is a meal in and of itself.
  • My Second City classes were lovely. They cost a lot of money. Those two things probably aren’t related, but whatever.
  • I haven’t finished reading a book in two months.
  • I’m reading Pride & Prejudice and I love it. Which makes me a stereotypical girl, but I’m dealing with that in my own way.
  • I lost a friend and made two.
  • I’ve been earning Adulthood badges like gangbusters.

Well, what have you been up to? I think you don’t realize how busy you are until you look at the date and think, “Hm. I should have my Christmas shopping done by now.”

Happy Hanukkah everybody!


Holiday Movie Distractions

It’s getting to be that time of year when we have extended periods of time with our families. They’re the ones you haven’t seen in months, but even so, you’re all caught up on life within ten minutes (I blame the Internet).

We can’t disappear into class or the workosphere. There’s so much time to bask in the warmth of kith and kin.

Or not.

Here are some top Netflix picks to get you through the holidays.

Family Friendly:

Mirror Mirror1. Mirror Mirror

If given the choice between Mirror Mirror and Snow White and The Huntsman, I would pick Mirror Mirror. It’s not just that it’s better written; Mirror Mirror has stunning visuals that SWATH can’t compare. In MM, the purity vs. corruption metaphors are HUGE and overt, but in a well told story that’s satisfying and twisting enough to hold anyone’s attention. Definitely take a look.

2. A League of Their Own

YES! This is on Netflix and this movie is (in my opinion), one of the best movies ever made. The dialogue is precise and witty. This movie is the definition of quotable. If you’re as disappointed as I am about the outcome of the World Series (or not, either way), this baseball movie will help ease the pain of a concluded baseball season. While Tom Hanks and Geena Davis stand out, A League of Their Own has a stellar ensemble, including Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna. A tip of the hat to Penny Marshall’s greatest.

Crying? Are you crying? There’s not crying in baseball!

Romance:

3. Shakespeare in Love

This movie is 14 years old. Amazing. But, don’t forget, this gem won 7 Oscars including Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Picture. It was nominated for six other Oscars. Love or hate Shakespeare, it doesn’t matter. This movie is a wonderful diversion.

4. I.Q.I.Q. Movie

In this movie, Albert Einstein tries to hook his super smart niece up with an auto mechanic. Meg Ryan plays the niece; Tim Robbins, the auto mechanic. This movie was made back when Meg Ryan was still America’s sweetheart. Stephen Fry rounds out the love triangle. The writers really called in the Meg Ryan style of cuteness and irrelevant observation.

For Mature Audiences Only:

5. Breaking Bad

Catch Grandma and Grandpa up on the life and times of Walter White. For all those grandparents asking, “What’s all this about the bad breaking?” Even if it’s not the thing for the grandparents, it should keep the uncles entertained before the football’s on. Same goes for The Walking Dead.

6. Weeds

Weed is legal in Colorado and Washington now. How many of your family members are thinking of moving? The holidays is a great time to look at other people’s families and say, “At least I’m not them.” No matter how hilarious they are.


I Put the “eck” in Rejected

It’s been awhile since I’ve done an overt post on writing and I just KNOW you’ve been dying for one (irony irony irony and scene). Regardless of how you feel about writers writing on writing about writing while writing, I can’t afford therapy, so I bought a domain name instead.

If you are a working writer, you’ve received a rejection letter. If you haven’t, then:

1. Screw you

OR:

2. You’re not really a working writer and you need to take a look at what you call your career.

Rejection is part of the process, and it’s something that want-to-be writers must deal with in order to progress. Sometimes, your writing sucks. Sometimes, the market is bad. Sometimes, nobody wants you. Okay. It happens. That’s life.

You pull up your big girl panties and get back to work.

This week, I got the rejection letter from my final requested manuscript. It was not a form rejection. It was kind and gentle, and I’ve developed a Twitter relationship with this agent and still enjoy talking with her, even if she didn’t want my stuff. This letter made me feel a great many emotions, but all these things were very loosely defined.

I’ve been waiting for this rejection for awhile. Now, let’s take a look at that. I’ve been waiting for this rejection. I wasn’t waiting for a “yes.” I’d been waiting for a “no.” When did that happen? When did I become so bitter and cynical that I’m expecting bad news over good?

But, regardless of expectation, every rejection letter brings up every other rejection and compresses them all into one big lump of ice right smack between the lungs. And that lump expands into a void of negativity. And the doubts rush in to fill the negative space.

I’m not talented. I can’t tell a story. I’m doing something wrong.

Your support structure tells you that’s wrong; you’re talented; you’ll get there. BUT THEY ARE LYING!!! (irony irony irony and scene)

The truth is, when you come to expect rejection, the old adage of doing the same thing and expecting a different result leads you to the crazy train.

Now, here’s the real point of this story.

The worst thing repeated rejection has done to me is trained me to not want things.

Wanting things is stupid and leads to pain, therefore the act of wanting is a gateway to pain and must be avoided at all costs.

I realized my numbness to desire when I suddenly wanted something. An opportunity presented itself and that cold lump was immediately incinerated in the burn of possibility. There was an all consuming rush, a caffeine high, an unfurling of imagination as a million different futures spread before me, none of them featuring a rejection. I had to tell someone. I had to tell everyone. I had to run home and write a blog post about it!Give It Colbert

So, there. The real travesty of rejection is not the “no.” It’s what it does to your head. It’s how it messes you up, pushes you down, leaves you on your belly so you forget what it’s like to sit, stand, walk, run.

But when something is worth wanting, maybe that’s the only thing that you need to get back on your feet.

 


Flight Patterns

You shouldn’t fly with me.

I might be the black cat of airline travel. Over the past five trips I’ve taken by plane, at least two of the flights have been cancelled, at least three of the flights have been delayed over two hours, and one plane was struck by lightning as we landed.

I abandoned checked luggage ages ago. I’m never on the plane I’m supposed to be on, and my bags aren’t, either.

Air TravelI booked my trip for Boston over a month ago, back in September. I like to book early for prices and for convenience. Besides, I need that time to allow people to abandon the flight before I actually make it to the airport. I usually give myself an extra day. I’ve spent two nights on separate occasions sleeping the Chicago’s O’Hare airport, once by myself; another time with over 1,000 stranded people.

It’s easy to point at O’Hare and say, “Kate, you’re flying to a bad weather hot zone.” Fair enough. My trips to Michigan are almost always in the dead of winter and the cause of my flight delays are the same reason I’m going up there in the first place: snow.

But, things were supposed to change. At the end of September, I went back to Dallas to surprise my friends. The day before the flight was supposed to leave, they cancelled it. They rebooked me on a flight that would have me landing four hours later and (consequently) ruining my elaborate construct of surprise. Orbitz (I will say again) ORBITZ! took my call and was able to book me on a different flight that routed through Denver rather than San Fran and had me arriving at the original time (no extra charge). Surprise saved.

I will always recommend Orbitz because of this. They took care of me.

On the flight back to Los Angeles, lightning struck our plane as we descended into Denver. It’s not very exciting.

On my flight to Boston (routed through San Francisco {or, as I told my dad “The new Chicago”}) the flight was delayed so long that my connecting flight had left San Francisco before I even left LA. United got me on a different flight and I landed in Boston at 1:00AM.

Which brings us up to today.Hurricane Sandy

I am sitting out a hurricane.

Now, it could be worse. I don’t have a job I have to get back to because I work from home. I’m missing my classes, but hopefully I can make them up later. My car is slowly accumulating day after day charges, but it’s only $10 per day, so an extra 20 isn’t going to break the bank.

I’m not going to stop flying anytime soon. I love that air travel makes our world smaller by hours. I love that I have income flexibility that allows me to travel to places like Michigan, Boston, Dallas. I’m lucky to have friends and family in these places that give me a place to crash.

Perhaps the moral of this story is that all my karmic dissonance plays out in the form of terrible airline travel. A few things I’ve learned, though:

  1. Flexibility is essential.
  2. Pack light.
  3. Pack extra underwear.
  4. Be nice to airline employees.

That last one is probably the most important.

If I live to tell the tale, I’ll post about what it’s like to sit out a hurricane on the MIT campus. This coffee shop I’m posting from is playing “Singin’ in the Rain” which is either genius or in very poor taste.


Jokes for the Week of 10/15

Texas State Fair lost their icon Big Tex, a 52-foot cowboy, in a fire. This leaves the state without it’s last line of Godzilla defense.

Tim Tebow has trademarked the term “Tebowing.” Fans have raised the question, “Is that what Jesus would do?”

The NBA has instated a 90 second time limit on pregame handshakes. Officials reassured the full handshake will still be required to enter the post game treehouse.

A man hired a woman to slap him every time he logged on to Facebook. The move is likely to inspire a new trend with “50 Shades of FarmVille.”

Today is the first day of PSAT testing. In other words, a test where everything is made up and the points don’t matter.

A poll shows parents would rather have Obama watch their kids which means if Obama loses the election, he won’t add to the jobless rate.

The Rolling Stones announced their 50th anniversary tour. It will unite old and young fans with people who want to watch someone die on stage.

Both Nike and Anheuser-Busch have dropped Lance Armstrong as a sponsor, proving any move to stay with the cyclist is ballsy.

General Mills will cut sugar and salt from its breakfast cereals, so keep an eye out for Nut Cheerios, Toast Crunch, and Unlucky Charms.


The Change

I’ve gone Hollywood.

Gone HollywoodFor the first time in 3 months, I returned to Dallas on a quest to surprise those I left behind. I hadn’t thought I had changed.  I was still the sly, witty, Iron Man rip-off that I’ve always been, but this time, something felt different.

One of my roommates is a reality TV star. Living with her is not nearly as exciting as it would seem. She’s an amazing, generous person with a Midwestern work ethic and an inviting personality, but it doesn’t change the fact that each tidbit of information I mention seems like I’m raising the stakes.

She’s a reality TV star.

From Bad Girls’ Club.

And Love Games.

And she’s filming a pilot this weekend.

Yes, my life turned into that. My roommate is filming a pilot this weekend.

I wrote a sketch for a Second City show that premiered on the main stage this Sunday when I was in Dallas. It was a wonderful thing to be able to tell everyone about, but I wasn’t heartbroken that I missed it. There will be more to come, more to experience, more to contribute.

I met Jane Espenson. I was at a coffee shop with Damon Lindelof (I think, still not sure), and I went to the Paley Center preview nights for three major networks.Hollywood Star

Back in Dallas, I ordered the salad because the takeout is less greasy in LA (this is not to say it is more healthy). I left a half-hour too early for everything because I’m already adjusted to living with the traffic patterns. Gas was $4 a gallon and I considered it a good deal.

But, let’s be completely honest.

The one thing that has really changed about me is that I’m happy.

I love living in Los Angeles. I love what I’m doing in Los Angeles. I am incredibly busy and not everything has moved as fast as I want, but I love it all.

And my last moments were bittersweet. Because, as I said goodbye to my friends, my heart breaking all over again because I already missed them, this time I wasn’t leaving Dallas to move to LA.

I was going home.


Knowledge is Power

I miss school like a heartache.

I started Second City classes a week ago and I was assigned homework. Granted, it was fun homework (Watch Late Night television, write jokes), but it was still homework. And, as I struggled with why Diet Pepsi, with added ingredients to increase shelf life, deserves the time slot after Larry King, I remembered what it was like to have to do something because a professor told you to.

Second City HollywoodI love school. I love education. Learning new things energizes me. I can only compare it to the feeling when you finish writing a book. I want to run around and strike ballet poses while expressing my joy to inanimate objects. Leap through doorways. Dance with a mop. Just remember that moment when, after struggling over something for hours, your brain finally makes that last connection and it’s like a whole new world is illuminated.

And, it doesn’t matter the topic. Granted, I struggle more with certain subjects, but learning is fascinating. Perhaps I’m intrigued by the impetus of learning that school forces on me. Learn or fail. There’s no other option.

I love homework.

I love hauling out that ten pound textbook and pulling out the highlighter. Poring over that dense writing with no white space. Maybe a diagram every twenty pages…

My roommate, Randy, has gone back to school to become a nurse. Which makes me question whether or not I need to have a direction in mind. What are things that I would like to learn?

I never really met my science needs. I haven’t taken a serious science course since freshman year of college and, face it, rocks aren’t the most difficult of sciences. Geology Isn't a Real Science

Physics is an option. But, I never took to calculus. I need a refresher in that. I could always try to finish out my psych major. In college, I pretended that I didn’t want to conduct social experiments, but I totally do. Human behavior is quite interesting (or maybe I’m just annoyed by all the political posts on my Facebook feed).

Then, there are the humanities. A history course wouldn’t really aim me toward anything except to be more educated in history. But, there is the draw of just taking classes.Textbooks

On a whole different level, perhaps education is my calling. Not necessarily the perpetual student on the level of Buster Bluth, but maybe my destiny is in education. Could I cut it as an associate professor somewhere?

I’m not about to abandon my dream of writing for television yet. All writers are captivated by knowledge. They’re seekers of truth, after all. This doesn’t change the fact that I really want to go listen to a professor.

If you could go back to school, what classes would you take? Answer in the comments to make me feel happy.


Second City Homework

Okay, so I had to write ten jokes. Here they are, in all their (non) glory. Let me know if you like any of them.

  • A new button has surfaced at the Democratic National Convention, Hipsters for Obama. That’s a change from supporting that candidate you’ve never heard of.
  • Canada has launched a new digital currency called the MintChip. No word yet on the other 31 flavors.
  • The Democrats have brought in Kal Penn to do the rebuttal to Clint Eastwood’s RNC speech. Penn aimed his remarks at an empty bong.
  • This week was the first annual cat video film festival. Everything was going great until the closing ceremony, when someone snuck in a laser pointer.
  • Wyoming has taken its grey wolf population off the endangered list which is terrible news for the Wyoming Lannister population.
  • Last year, Obama ran on the Change campaign slogan. This year it’s “Change. Spare change?”
  • Hurricane Isaac washes up 18,000 dead swamp rats. Honey Boo Boo commented with “Them good eatin’ right thur.”
  • Snooki released her first photos with her newborn son, Lorenzo. You can find his new cologne at Babys R’ Us and Macy’s.
  • Turns out the speakers at the Democratic National Convention mischaracterized on their speeches. That’s what you get when you use Joe Biden as your factchecker.
  • Fantasy Football season has started. It’s a perfect time for fantasy football players to pretend they aren’t roleplaying.

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