Philosophy, Psychology, Nerdisms, Writing from the Trenches

Observations

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.)

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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.


Top TV Writers Talk How to Work on Successful TV Shows

Went to a panel sponsored by The Scriptwriters’ Network on Saturday. Call that my force social interaction for the week. The speakers were Glen Mazzara of The Walking Dead, Dan O’Shannon of Modern Family, Alex Cary of Homeland, Janet Tamaro of Rizzoli & Isles, Vanessa Taylor of Game of Thrones & Matt Nix of Burn Notice. As you can tell, some hefty names in there.

They started with the usual grab bag of “How I Broke in Stories.” I appreciate these to a certain extent, but the thing that nearly all of the stories boil down to is: Know Someone.

They knew someone, They met someone at a party, such and so introduced them to their agent. It’s not easy. You have to network. So, circle this, star it, bookmark it, whatever. If you want to write for television, somewhere, somehow, you’re going to have to know someone in or around the industry. What this translates to is: get to Los Angeles. I’m not poo-pooing your dreams and maybe there are exceptions, but look deep inside yourself and decide whether or not you’re Katniss Everdeen and even she had sponsors. Peeta had to know someone to get a leg up (oh! A leg up! Snap!)

Enough with the Hunger Games references. What other wisdom did I take away from the experience?

You have to write. A lot.

You have to get used to rejection. Janet Tamaro, as a female showrunner, asked the men on the panel what the male equivalent to “bitch” was. Interestingly, the joking answer was “success.” And all the panelists were kinda like, “well…yeah.”

But let’s be honest:

bitches get stuff done

Perhaps the biggest thing they hit on was Voice. (Yes, so big I capitalized it)

It’s weird, Voice. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have a Voice. No, not sometimes. All the time. What is my Voice? How am I different? How can I be different while proving that I can also be the same?

This comes on the tail end of me pitching something in class that I probably shouldn’t have. I started the pilot writing class on Tuesday, a class that will end with a group of actors reading my pilot on stage. This is an awesome opportunity, to see what someone will do with my work. And, I pitched my half-baked idea. I had my ready to go idea. And I pitched my half-baked idea.

My heart’s in it. I love my half-baked idea. But my brain started berating me. I’m not ready to write this. Which makes it, perhaps, the perfect time to start writing it. It’s like I snuck up on this idea in the jungle and surprised it into submission. Hopefully, I can wrestle it to the ground before it gets its legs underneath it.

Well, once again, I’ve turned this blog around and made it all about me.

I guess what you really need to know is that nobody knows what they’re doing. And also no one can really tell you what to do. We’re all firing in the dark. Some people have flashlights, but when they hand them over, they don’t always work correctly.

Last note: Dan O’Shannon wrote a book about some of his comedy experiences called What Are You Laughing At? If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought. I will probably take a look at it and throw a review up here. I suppose I should get back to being “smartly droll*” about books.

* A friend of mine said I was smart droll so I’m stealing it. Welcome to the world of writing.


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.

 


Jokes for the Week of 11/5

Papa John’s will be cutting hours due to projected ObamaCare costs. It was either that or downgrade to “Cheaper ingredients,cheaper pizza.”

Yahoo’s fantasy football website broke down today, leaving fantasy football players stuck playing their level 5 mages.

CIA Director Petraeus resigned due to an extra marital affair. If he worked in the British Secret Service, he would have been promoted to 007.

Gasoline rationing has continued in New York City. In a related story, New York City Prius owners are emitting a record amount of smug.

A 64-year-old Florida man tried to shoot his horse and missed while riding it drunk. In related news, the broad side of the barn can rest easy.

A British zoo is offering a program where tourists can swim with tigers. This replaces the much less popular program “Swim with the Yankees.”

Lindsay Lohan recently said the cops are out to get her. The cops responded “Any info of Lohan’s whereabouts can be reported to her dedicated hotline.”

Carrie Fisher told interviewers she wants to be in the new Star Wars. Just what we need; the return of the Sith.

Officials asked news media to stop calling hurricanes superstorms. Official classifications are Category 3, Category 2, and Holy Shit, Wake Up Grandma.

The only reason people make fun of Snuggies is because they’re jealous they didn’t think of it. That and they make you look like a klansman.

A New Zealand scientist was banned from referring to ancient humanoids as “hobbits.” The decision affects all archaeologists, making it one ban to rule them all.

Thousands of rats displaced by Sandy are taking to the streets of NYC. There hasn’t been this big of a rodent exodus since Fievel went West.

A new study shows that LA porn stars have more STDs than Nevada prostitutes. It just goes to show that some things really do stay in Vegas.

Starbucks plans to accelerate growth in 2013. Instead of a Starbucks on every corner, there will be a Starbucks in every home.

Philadelphia 76er’s revealed a t-shirt cannon that shoots 100 t-shirts a minute. This move is just another escalation in the NBA arms race.


Stranded

I’m changing my superpower.

Flight and invisibility are the poor man’s game. When I played pick a superpower, I always played it with the full X-men dossier. Everyone said Wolverine because he was cool and great and awesome and who hasn’t wanted to brandish knuckle-sprouted blades at some inconsiderate line cutter. (or is that just me? my bad…)

I just want to point out that “badass” is not a superpower, it’s a state of being.

Anyway…

I usually went with Storm. I mean, come on. You can control the weather. Snow. All the time.

But, I’m changing it to Nightcrawler teleportation. Nightcrawler has a roughly three-mile radius in which he can teleport. At the very least, I would use it to cross the street.

But, the real reason is my damnable travel karma (see previous post). On with the tale!

What you need to know:

Hurricanes come with their own stages of emotions.

1. Mild Surprise

I got a text message from my dad on Friday that read: “How’s the storm situation?” At the time I had no idea what he was talking about. My flight the previous night had been delayed (see previous post), so I assumed he was talking about that, even though I hadn’t mentioned a storm. I told him I got in late last night. About 45 minutes later, I saw the news and sent him this. “Oh. Now I see what you mean.” It was far away, I was young and inexperienced. Certainly I would not fall victim to such a thing.

2. Irrational Fear

Okay, so the president’s talking about it. And, apparently it’s pretty bad. And, Twitter is abuzz. Oh, my God. I’m going to die. What are my last words? Who should receive my last farewell? Who gets my stereo?

3. Coy Nonchalance

I’m staying in Cambridge, on the MIT campus. Where else in the world would be a better place to sit this out?

4. Irrational Fear

ANYWHERE ELSE THAT IS NOT IN A HURRICANE! FIND THE TORNADO ROOM! NO, GET TO HIGH GROUND! WIND IS SO LOUD!! WHY IS WIND SO LOUD?!?!

5. Cabin Fever Bat Shit Insanity

I’m never going to get out of here. Every flight that ever existed has taken off or been cancelled. I’ll never see anyone again. Are the walls closing in? Why is it so bright? I can’t see. No, wait, I’m looking at things. I can see. I’m never going to get out of Boston.

6. Overwhelming Frustration

Okay, this one hit when I was told that my rescheduled flight was also cancelled. The new one? Friday. I’m trapped in a dorm until Friday. Admittedly, a big part of this frustration stemmed from the fact that I am supposed to fly to Vegas from LAX on Thursday. Yeah.

7. Acceptance of Fate

Do you know what it feels like to flush money down the drain? That’s what happens when there’s no possible way you can get to Los Angeles before Thursday and your ticket is non-refundable. Rebooking the flight costs more than the original ticket, and I’m not going to throw good money after bad. Oh, and I’m flying to Dallas on November 15th for the week and a half of Thanksgiving. At this point, I might still be in Boston, but, whatever, man. Whatever.

As far as the hurricane itself, well, it didn’t really hit Boston. It was simply a rainy, cloudy, windy day where everyone stayed inside. No flooding, no power outage. I ordered delivery.

Yes, I have a place to stay with power, a bed, Internet, and all those things that so many are without. I am grateful for all those things. I know a lot of people have it much worse than I do. Right now, I just want to go home.

But, let me make one thing known. You don’t want to be in a hurricane. You don’t even want to be near a hurricane.

Oh, and:

Dear Mom,

Send underwear and shampoo.

Love, Kate