Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why I Want to Punch the Word "Networking" In the Face

Resistance is futile...
I've been spending a fair amount of time on The LinkedIn lately, reading discussion threads, jumping in when I feel like I have something to contribute, but mostly just trying not to throw things at my computer screen.

Why the urge toward monitor abuse, you ask? Because of networking.

God I hate that word. I hate it. It's a stupid word and it deserves to be punted into the sun, like synergy and leverage (unless you're using leverage to describe the way the Incredible Hulk held up that mountain during the Secret Wars, then it's cool.)

Networking. Gah. Whatever happened to being a person? Whatever happened to having friends? When did we all become nodes?

I see long LinkedIn threads with suggestions like "Let's all Like each other's profiles!" or "Let's all subscribe to each other's Twitter feeds!" and it makes me want to smack the internet.

Is this what we've come to? Just blindly and arbitrarily accumulating critical social mass in the hopes that someone, somewhere will be our ticket to the promised land?

Screw that. 

Look, I get it. I know that it's good to meet people, make connections, hobnob and all that jazz. It all just seems a bit mercenary sometimes, like that guy you meet at a party at 9:00pm and who, by 9:03, has already asked you to recommend him to someone you know. You met him three minutes ago, and he's already trying to pole vault off of you and up to the next level.

You probably hate people like that, but at least they have the guts (or complete lack of judgement) to peddle their wares in person. The internet gathers up hordes of people like that, strips them of all semblance of accountability, injects them with the rage virus, and points them straight at you.

Maybe this sounds like I'm telling everyone to get off my lawn. I'm not. Not at all. If you want to engage me as a person, chat, trade ideas, stop, collaborate, and/or listen, I'm in.

But if you're asking a crowd of complete internet strangers to link to you or Like you or retweet you or introduce you to Steven Spielberg, sight unseen, then please just stop. It's tacky. I know everyone is doing it, but you remember those lawn ornaments that looked like an old lady bending over in her bloomers? Everyone was doing that, too. That didn't make it ok.

I guess what I'm saying is, if you don't like my stuff, don't Like my stuff. Let's all keep our honor intact and fight the good fight.

I recently read Stephanie Palmer's Good in a Room, and it was the first time in a long time (or maybe ever) that I'd read a book about networking that didn't make me feel like I was learning how to seduce a game show host.

I highly recommend it.

(And no, she didn't ask me to.) 

Image: renjith krishnan /

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Writer, Sell Thyself

I've hit a bit of a wall the past couple days.

If you tuned in for last week's hair-raising episode, you know that our hero (that would be me) is now unemployed and working to get his creative career back on track after about 20 months of not-so-fulfilling work.

And that's nice, isn't it? It is downright precious.

Now comes the part that I knew would take me out at the knees, the part that I've been dreading from 100 yards off and am now facing, its dripping putrid maw mere inches away from my somewhat less putrid maw.


Jeezus, the mere term provokes a gag reflex, doesn't it?

Dear world,

I am awesome.


That's about the size of it, huh? Convince the world that you are fantastic while secretly wrestling with the deep and highly personalized doubt monsters that tell you otherwise. These monsters know where I live. They know all my weak spots. They can poke me with their scaly little fingers and I'll go rigid and silent while the world walks by, oblivious.

It's not that I haven't been working on a plan. I have. Build up my website. Get more samples online. Crank out some new spec screenplays. Query producers. Gently re-enter the game writing market. It looks great on paper. But in my head it goes more like this:


Which is not entirely productive.

Anyway, working on it. Tips and suggestions and swift blows to the head would be appreciated.

(Found the picture online in 2000. No idea where. If you own it or know who does, lemme know. My internal dialogue is the raccoon. I'm the dog. In case that wasn't clear.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Into the Wild Blue Thingy

So, you know that scene in the movie where the guy rips off his tie and says "I quit!" and then he goes off to fight crime or become a spy or something?

I basically just did that. Except I don't wear a tie. And fighting crime is hard when you cringe away from every punch and scream "Not in the face! Not in the face!"

But aside from that, it was just like that.

Okay, it wasn't really like that at all. Except that I did leave my job, and now I am boldly facing the future with what I hope is the barest minimum of pants-wetting.

So what happened?

It's a weird sensation to watch your own life slip away from you. You do the same thing, day after day, knowing that you're not really moving in the right direction but somehow rationalizing it, like maybe at some point you'll be able to tack into the wind and make up lost ground. Or water. Lost water. Whatever.

Only, the where and how of that little TBD miracle remains a bit vague. And the reason I think it's vague is because you're kidding yourself. I mean, I was kidding myself, at least. I have no idea what you're doing.

But I was kidding myself.

Maybe it was fear of failure, or the seductive quality of the path of least resistance, but I wasn't tacking into a damn thing. I was in a rut. And if there's something I believe about ruts, it's that you can rut yourself right through old age and into the grave. Like a really poorly-designed flume ride. 

I always felt like, if I just had the chance to step outside my own life for a while, catch my breath and get my bearings and just look the hell around, I could figure out what to do. What to really do. Dooooooo.

I'm not sure how else to emphasize that word, but it's the heart of the whole enchilada (I apparently now eat organ-meat enchiladas...). What I was doing before was writing, technically, but it left me feeling frustrated and empty. It didn't feel like what I supposed to be doing.

Now I've stopped doing that, which feels great. And I believe, honestly if a bit shakily, that I can succeed by writing what I want to write, and how I want to write.

Well, my money is officially in the space previously occupied by my mouth. I have a family to support, a house to keep, and a lot of big ideas about how my career is supposed to go. We will see if all of these things converge nicely on the horizon, or if I will soon be panhandling at a corner near you.

Like Indiana Jones, I'm making this up as I go along. Unlike Indiana Jones, I don't look like Indiana Jones.

But I do have friends. I have been shocked and humbled and then humbled some more by the number of people who have cheered me on, sent me unsolicited recommendations and references, or told me that they just knew I was wasting my talents before.

If there's one thing this whole situation has taught me, it's that I've got amazing people all around me, and I am truly grateful for them. I have good people in my life. I love my people. I clearly have done something right.

Also, my wife, who has every right to freak the hell out, has not freaked the hell out. She's got my back. Sweetie, when you read this, I want to say that I won't let you down.

I guess that concludes my declaration of independence. Wish me luck. 

(Photo courtesy my amazing wife.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fun With Headlines, Kim Kardashian Edition

Here's a fun game!

Today, I noticed the headline "Kim Kardashian Flees Australia" on my news feed. It was listed in a long line of other headlines, but the way it was positioned made it seem like a sub-header from the previous story.

So I thought it said this:

Giant Crack Glimpsed in Antarctic Ice Sheet; Kim Kardashian Flees Australia

Which made me realize that almost every headline in the news today is improved by suffixing it with "Kim Kardashian Flees Australia."

Seriously! Try it!

Polish Films, Muppets Fill Special Screens; Kim Kardashian Flees Australia
Awaiting Nukes Report, US Questions Iran's Intent; Kim Kardashian Flees Australia

"Monster" Greenhouse Gas Levels Seen; Kim Kardashian Flees Australia

Michael Jackson Manslaughter Case Goes to the Jury; Kim Kardashian Flees Australia

House Committee Subpoenas Solyndra Docs; Kim Kardashian Flees Australia

Perry Adviser Denies Knowledge of Cain Allegations; Kim Kardashian Flees Australia

G-20 Urges Europe to Quell Crisis as Greece Government Teeters; Kim Kardashian Flees Australia

Apple Acknowledges iPhone Battery Issue; Kim Kardashian Flees Australia

Republicans Block Another Part of Obama Jobs Plan; Kim Kardashian Flees Australia

French Paper Satirizing Islamic Law Hit by Arson; Kim Kardashian Flees Australia

(Okay, maybe this is only funny to me...)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Samuel L. Jackson is... Willy Wonka!

Photoshop by Silverhair1960 for
Have you ever wondered what Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would be like with Samuel L. Jackson cast as Willy Wonka? 

Yeah, I hadn't either until a friend of mine made a random comment the other day... so then I wrote this:

Charlie: Where are we going, Mr. Wonka?

Wonka: Where are we goin? Where are we GOIN? How about you get in the muthf**in' elevator, and you find out when we get to the muthaf**ka? That's where we're goin.

Charlie: But what about the other children?

Wonka: Charlie, lemme spell this out for you. You ever come up on some river that was floodin' its banks?

Charlie: Y-yes?

Wonka: Well those other children? Those are like the stones you step on to get to the other side, before that river washes your ass downstream.

Charlie: You mean, you're just going to leave them like that?

Wonka: Leave them like that? Charlie, those corrupt muthaf**kas always been like that. I just revealed their true forms: "But on the day that Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from the sky and destroyed them all. Exactly so will it be on the day that the veil is lifted from the Son of Man."

Charlie: Ummm…


Wonka: Here's our floor!

(No, I hadn't seen that image before I wrote this. The internet simply contains all possible outcomes to all possible human action. Especially the ones that involve Photoshop.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Things that need a new diaper, according to my 21-month old son

My toddler is obsessed with diapers. I suppose that's a normal part of being a toddler; the body functions in weird and wonderful ways, and hopefully this will all segue nicely into some trouble-free potty training.

Him: "New diaper. Put on."
Me: "Later, buddy. You just got a new diaper."
Him: "New diaper. Now!"
Me: "How about we give you a pretend diaper?"
Him: "Real diaper. Now!"

It's not just him, though. Everything needs a new diaper, all the time. Here's just a partial list of things that need a new diaper on a daily basis, according to my son:

  • His stuffed monkey needs a new diaper
  • His stuffed giraffe needs a new diaper
  • His stuffed anything, really -- they all need new diapers
  • Characters in books need new diapers
  • The fan needs a new diaper.
  • The numbers on the microwave need new diapers.
  • The car needs new diapers. The car actually goes through a lot of diapers. I mentioned it to our mechanic, but he couldn't find the problem.
  • The characters ON HIS DIAPERS need new diapers. Trippy.
Luckily for us, we can usually appease him with pretend diapers. We wave our hands over the new-diaper-needing object/concept, make some whooshy noises, and hand the imaginary diaper to him.

"Put this in the pretend trash."

He throws the "diaper" over his shoulder.

"Good job. Now what?"

He'll point to the desk: "New diaper. Now!"

(Photo by jeti87)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Think.... or Butter!

Occasionally, I have brilliant ideas in my sleep. Here's the one I had last night.

Imagine a game show, a little bit like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. You answer questions, and as the dollar values go up, they increase in difficulty, eventually reaching a million dollars and MOST EXTREME DIFFICULTY.

Only, instead of lifelines, you have butter. Rich, creamy butter. Salted or unsalted -- it's your choice.

If you can't answer a question, you can move on to the next dollar amount by successfully eating a stick of butter. You only can only do this a few times, though -- say, five. And each time you "Go Butter," the amount increases. So the first time, you eat one stick of butter. But the second time, you have to eat two sticks of butter. By the time you get to the fifth time, you have to eat five sticks of butter. After that, you're on your own (both in terms of answering questions, and medically speaking.)

I think EVERYONE in AMERICA would watch this show. It is going to be huge. And laugh if you must, but when you turn on your TV next year, and you see the words Think... Or BUTTER! splash across the screen, know that I am sitting in my mansion somewhere, having the last laugh. While enjoying a nice cool bar of unsalted.

(photo by superfloss)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Blind and Blinder

Lately I've been thinking about the screenwriting industry.

Not that screenwriting industry. Not the one where people actually write and sell screenplays to get made into movies.

No, I've been thinking about the other screenwriting industry; the one where people pay lots of money for classes, workshops, books, seminars and coaching so they can learn how to write.

It's not limited to screenwriting, of course. Pretty much any type of writing has its associated industry of writing education. I've seen workshops and whatnot for poets and novelists and game writers and song writers and you name it. I suppose they probably exist for things like technical writing, but I don't think to the same degree. Who aspires to be a tech writer? Damned if I know.

But teaching people to write is a big business. I have no idea how big. There's probably no easy way to track it, but if I had to guess, more people make a living off the "teach you how to write" industry than actually make money by actually writing actual stuff.

A lot of people want to be writers, for whatever reason. I'm one of them. And probably, most of us will never "make it," not in the fame and bright-lights sense of the term. For every JK Rowling, there are probably 10,000 hacks sweating away over their laptops, dreaming about a big break that's never going to get broke. I have the creeping sensation that I'm one of them, too.

Is there any real value to this writer education industry? How much do we get out of it, collectively? I've taken some classes and seminars that I've enjoyed, and I've read some books that I got a lot out of. But I can't shake the idea that a large part of this industry is just a parasite that feeds on the dreams of would-be writers.

Lord knows I've spent my own share of money on this stuff, some of it very unwisely.

I wonder what would happen if every aspiring writer in the world just boycotted the entire writer education industry and spent their money on vacations and museum memberships and bicycles. We could all live the good life instead of chasing down the fame monster and trying to get it to eat us.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Was Going to Write About...

I read an interesting review in Salon this morning, in which critic Andrew O'Hehir runs through the new Conan O'Brien documentary, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop. The review basically confirms one of those things you vaguely worry about with someone like Conan O'Brien -- that deep down, beneath the nice guy persona, fame has done to him what fame does best: turn him into a jerk.

Then I was going to talk about my own experiences growing up ad wanting to be famous, change the world, surf around on crowds signing autographs, and so on. I was even going to talk about Lady Gaga.

But FUCK THAT, because Windows needed to reboot. And what Windows wants, Windows gets.

I come not to trash Windows, or Microsoft. I worked at Microsoft for years, and I have nothing but good things to say about my experience there.

I'm also not here to get into a Windows vs. Mac pissing match, because honestly, even through the application of theoretical physics, I could not care less. They're two giant corporations and neither one of them needs me to like them. We've got Macs and PCs in our house, and I basically use whichever one is closest to my swollen, lazy ass at the time. So until one of them incorporates a user-seeking hovercraft into the OS, it's not going to matter much to me.

No, what I'm going to say is, for several teeth-grinding moments, I thought to myself "Maybe I should start using a typewriter."

I used to use a typewriter. I mean back, wayyyyy back, when I was like five. Literally five. My dad had a behemoth IBM electric typewriter that he either borrowed or stole from work, and I would sit happily in front of it, typing little stories into the bottom half of a sheet of paper, then adding crayon drawings to the top half. Then I'd use a three-hole punch and some yarn to bind pages together (along with a construction-paper cover, natch) and voila! I was zining before zining was cool.

I don't remember much about the books I used to write when I was five. As far as I know, none of them exist anymore. I do remember that one of my stories was about a flea-breathing dragon. I also remember that before I brought one of these stories into show-and-tell, my older brother and his friend recommended that I add a twist to my character, in that he smoked grass.

Since I was five, I thought they meant grass, like the stuff in the lawn. I knew my dad smoked cigarettes, and the idea of smoking blades of grass was just the sort of silliness that cracked me up at that young and tender age. So sure, I added it. I mean hell, all I needed to do was untie some yarn and pop in a new page.

I read that story at school. I remember my teacher asking me where I got the idea about smoking grass, and I told her that my brother John had suggested it. She nodded, and I never heard anything else about it. But I have to imagine she tracked him down in his fifth-grade class at some point that day.

Anyway, this was pretty much just one big digression, huh? Brought to you by Windows 7!

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Horrible Reading Habits, Revealed Via Kindle

I love my Kindle. I remember vividly swearing (that is to say, both my memory and the swearing were vivid)  that I would never get one because I would never be willing to trade in the tactile pleasure of an actual physical book. I would never compromise the pure, aesthetic reading experience.

Y'know. That bullshit.

Here's the thing. There's really no tactile pleasure involved in carrying around a dozen books, much less the thousands of books that a single Kindle can handle. I get to bring a library with me on the bus, people. A library.

So, anyway, since books on the Kindle still cost money, I've not only been catching up on my reading, but I've been catching up on my reading of the classics. There are tons of free, Kindle-ready books out there that you can download for no charge. Namely all the books you were supposed to read in high school. Or college. Or ever.

Which brings me to my point: every time you finish a book on the Kindle, it invites you to tweet the fact to the world, or to share it on The Facebook. This is probably something I will never do, because:

A: It will reveal all the books that I'm just now reading that I feel like I should have read before now. I mean, I'm nominally a writer here. I feed my wife and kid with words. Not in the literal alphabet soup sense, but you know what I mean.


B: It will show just how damn slowly I read the books that I should have read like a million years ago.

I mean, I thought I had read like a hundred books in the nine months since I got my Kindle. Then I counted.

Twelve. I've read twelve books.

I feel like an idiot, honestly.

I know this guy (and fellow writer) named Richard Dansky, and the guy reads books like I read soup labels. He writes book reviews, and sometimes he has to start over because he's just finished another book in mid-sentence.

There! You hear that? That was him finishing another book right now.

So, anyway, don't hold your breath for my tweet about Anna Karenina.

Though, spoiler, she dies at the end.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Social Network Class Note Meme

The Joker stops by to mess with Mark's head in the Social Network.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Sarah Palin History Hour

My Fellow Americans,

As most of you know, today sure is an extra special day in American history. It was on this day in nineteen forty-(inaudible) that the Allied troops launched the mama grizzly of all beach assaults on the Kaiser's armies, which was known as D-Day, with the D standing for "Doggone it You Nazis, Enough is Enough Already!"

On that day so many centuries ago, American troops lined up with troops from other countries such as Britain and the Iraq and gave those pasta-eating Germans a good old U.S. of Ass-kicking. Brave American heroes such as Sgt. Nick Fury, President Ronald Reagan, and Tom Hanks did their darndest under the leadership of General George Washington to cross the Delaware and make that perilous landing on the beaches of Norway.

And it's a good thing they did, for if they hadn't, the spread of communism would have spread unabasted, covering the world with an evil crimson glow, kinda like one of those Sherwin-Williams paint logos. But instead of a paint can, it would be the hammer and wheat-cutter thingy, and instead of paint it would be the red, red blood of freedom-loving people everywhere. And bald eagles.

But with a little pluck and American know-how, our boys in blue easily won the war that day, and forced Hitler to renounce his famous oath: Ich bin ein Berliner.

Ich bin indeed, Hitler. Ich bin indeed.

Today, we must remain as vigilant as ever, which is why Todd and I spend at least 13 hours a week patrolling the Aleutian Islands. Like any blue-collar American family, we rely on nothing but our rugged individualism, our trusty Winchester 30-30 rifles, and our Sikorsky 300C helicopter, which we call Stinger, which was a name we had in our back pocket just in case I got pregnant again.

We haven't tagged and bagged any commies yet, but rest assured that if we see any of those pinko freedom-haters crawling through the scrub toward American soil, our wolf-hunting skills will not go to waste.

In conclusion, I'd just like to ask God to bless all 47 of these United States, and to quote the famous Paul Revere in saying: I'll be back. 

(Also, please be sure to tune in for syndicated reruns of Sarah Palin's Alaska, broadcasting every Thursday at 3am on a local access cable channel near you.)