Monthly Archives: March 2011

un chien andalou


I would like to begin your weekend with… well, I don’t know how I’d describe this video, but I’ll just let you experience it for yourself. This is my nephew Barnaby, who had found an unopened Christmas present – and my 9-month-old niece Marlena looking on. Dada, anyone?

the brontosaurus is dead, long live apatosaurus



Everyone brags about their kids, but I’m just amazed at the Lulubeans’ voluminous appetite for dinosaurs – we went to the Natural History Museum in NYC today, and she knew almost every single one from the skeletons alone. And while she can read rudimentarily, she can’t read dinosaur names with eight syllables, so the following display of Cretaceous erudition comes from episodes of “Dinosaur Train”, hours of leafing through her Dinosaur Atlas, and making me Google pictures of Einiosaurii:

I can’t tell you how awesome it is to see her drawn to something that used to be the domain of boys, and usually boys 3-4 years older. Next stop: Roy Williams’ secondary break!

zigongosaurus gets us to the chorus


When it comes to our Hollywood lives, I try to have one rule that guides our projects, our pitches and our energy: simply put, “would you be excited to see 2-3 of insert show here waiting for you on the DVR?” In other words, does the mere idea – or feeling – behind the show give you that extra feeling of excitement to watch it?

It’s the show, or movie, that inspires the following kinds of utterances:

“Oh, I’ve been dying to see that one.”

“I can’t wait, I’ve got nothing to do all night except watch three of them.”

“I know it’s silly, but I’m addicted.”

“It’s just so goddamned funny.”

“I need my insert show here fix.”

Yes, the occasional reality show inspires all of the above, but when you’ve got a movie or a scripted series doing it, you’re about 90% of the way to becoming a legend. Right now, “Modern Family” evokes that reaction, as did “House” in its day, and “Battlestar Galactica” for the sci-fi crowd.

You need to look at your project from a million miles away. Step back as far as you possibly can, and put yourself in the shoes of working moms and exhausted dads and hyperkinetic college students and your aunts and uncles, and then imagine yourself as each of them, with a million things they could be doing, and how they would react to the faintest whiff of your show.

When, during the course of this out-of-body experiment, you can still fearlessly say you feel excitement, then you might be on to something. Every show that becomes a hit, or even a critical darling, does so because it possesses at least one element that makes it undeniably compelling, even in the abstract. The essence of it allures.

For “House”, it’s Dr. House. For “30 Rock”, it might be the rat-a-tat-tat between Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. For “Inception”, it was the 2-second glance of the city curling up upon itself. For Lucy, it is Dinosaur Train… I mean, come on, it’s got DINOSAURS and TRAINS!


Buddy the young T-Rex and his adopted Pteranadon mom

I’m not saying every project needs to be converted to mindless colostrum in order to keep the unwashed masses suckling their lives away, and that there’s no room for your passion project about a difficult subject. But no matter what, your job is to find that ONE THING about your endeavor that will make the needle jump the record, make the executive suddenly look up from her pad and pen.

So when “Mars Needs Moms” flopped so badly a couple of weeks ago, people were pointing fingers in all directions. Some blamed 3-D ticket prices, some blamed the animation style, and the editor of posited that “there’s only so much room in the market for family films.”

Anyone with young kids knows that’s dead wrong; if anything, there’s not enough really good movies for families, at least the ones that won’t give your kids three weeks of fuckin’ nightmares. If movies as good as “Up” or “Ponyo” were released every week, there’d still be room for more.

No, the failure of “Mars Needs Moms” is patently obvious when you step back several thousand miles and look at it with through the eyes of a parent holding the hand of their 4-year-old girl: NOBODY WANTS TO SEE A MOVIE WHERE MOMMY GETS STOLEN AND TAKEN TO ANOTHER PLANET. The NYT barely mentions this fatal flaw, but to me, it should have been obvious at the pitch session. The decision not to see “Mars Needs Moms” wasn’t even a conscious one, I’ll bet – it just vaguely seemed like a bummer, so parents rented How to Train Your Dragon instead.

Robert Zemeckis, the director of “Mars”, is someone I’ve always admired, and gets a lifetime pass for having given us “Back to the Future”, “Romancing the Stone” and “Contact”. I’m no rocket scientist, but I know I saw the trailer for “Mars Needs Moms” and thought, “well, that’s one movie Lucy ain’t never gonna see.” And it has inspired me to shape up our next projects into the kind of ideas that beg more before we’ve even begun.

don’t care what the others might say


Pubs and clubs and opening hours

Was all he knew

One arm bandits and Affiliated Members

Women taboo

– “The Affiliated”, XTC (as the Dukes of Stratosphear)

I always thought XTC’s song The Affiliated perfectly captures – in a poetic, tangential sort of way – the essence of brotherhood, in all its grandeur, peculiarity, silliness and power. I’ve been a member of some pretty intense brotherhoods, most notably in college, when I delved into the “secret” brotherhood of Chi Psi, replete with handshakes, mantras and hidden rooms in an old brick mansion that you couldn’t find even if you had the blueprint.

There is meaningfulness in belonging; it’s not for everybody, but when you allow yourself to discard the usual snark and sarcasm that accompanies the “fraternity” concept and concentrate on this one band of hyper-smart geeks and boisterous intellectuals, our Lodge was not about bagging chicks and being elitist fuckwads, it was about having a band of brothers who would not abandon you.

Had his own tankard

And the evening Standard

And a trophy from darts

That he kept over the bar

He’d nothing to fear,

He had his beer

As with anything other people take seriously, it was jaw-droppingly easy to belittle. The mere act of “rush” pushes these institutions into dealbreaker territory for most sensitive folks, and I would have been fervently anti-frat had it not been for a few chance conversations with some of the most brilliant minds I’d ever met. As it was, I fully understood the act of being in a fraternity – no matter how liberal, color-blind, or gentlemanly we may have been – to be disturbingly elitist and/or twee for a lot of people.

That was fine. I fully supported their viewpoint. Likewise, if someone in the Lodge thought it was stupid, I was all for them getting the fuck out. If you’re going to be involved in something inherently tribal and slightly irrational, you had better be in for a penny and a pound, or else you’re just a pot-stirring dick.

Then came her, through the blur

Then came she, made him see

He saw the light before he’d finished his pint

She saved him from the biggest crime in life

(They hated her.)

I bring this up because I just returned from another brotherhood, the cadre of folks who follow Carolina basketball, a group that has carried a torch for an idea that began in 1910. I flew from Los Angeles to NYC this morning, as it was Lucy’s spring break and we had planned this trip months ago. Yet a brisk tailwind brought us here in less than four hours, and I was in time to see the Elite 8 tournament game in Newark.

We lost just like every other NCAA tournament game I’ve ever attended (Tessa won’t even let me go to the Final Four, after witnessing three defeats in ’98, ’00 and ’08) but I truly love this team, and why? Because they have bought into the idea of brotherhood. They understand that they are custodians of a higher concept, unlike last year, when it was all mean-spirited bullshit and “woe is me, me, me” poison.

This year, we had to jettison one more player who looked upon our merrie bande of brothers with disdain and no sense of rigor. Yes, liking a basketball team – or even believing a college sport represents something bigger than the game – is a discipline considered utterly lame by many of you, and I totally get it. But if you’re in it with us, GET IN IT WITH US, and these boys did.

So thank you to our team, our brother and sisterhood, for letting us feel a part of something again, and coming so close to the promised land after a year of dragging through scrubland desert. I thought I had lost my sense of belonging, but you brought it back as exuberantly and as insanely as ever.

They said you’ll never ever see him again

Got a mortgage ’round his neck

And eight screaming kids

But his seat’s always here

If he wants it.


i want an in-the-egg egg beater


Okay, so let me explain a few things so my flibbertigibbet-esque qualities make a little more sense:

• tomorrow morning, early, a “professional organizer” is coming to our house to rearrange my stuff. Yes, it has come to that. Normally, I would have no foreign hands mucking about with my power tools and T-25 star bit screws, but I have to admit, this house move has pushed even my normally-sanguine ideas of creative chaos into despondency. Tessa said it was time to hire the big guns, so I’m exercising and exorcising my control issues.

• we are flying to NYC on Sunday morning, early as shit, for the week of Lucy’s spring break. Normally, her kindergarten class would be rippin’ it up on Daytona Beach for SPRING BREAK-A-THON 2011!!!!!! but instead, I’m taking her to the Natural History museum to look at dinosaurs. New Yorkers, we will be there, so set your Interesting Conversation meters on “purée”!

• I – meaning my wife – may have found out a major theory behind my health issues after attending a conference over the weekend. I’ll expound on it after the weekend, but apparently there’s some blame being shifted onto a few of my mitochondria who aren’t pulling their weight.

• I have long longed for an automatic tire inflator that shuts off when it reaches a pre-set pressure. In other words, you dial your optimum PSI (say, 40) onto a air hose attachment, stick it on your tire, and it fills it up exactly to 40 PSI and then turns off. No more fiddling with a separate tire gauge, no frozen fingers covered in diesel, no more bullshit. And it looks like my prayers have been answered:


• I mean, it pays to dream big, don’t it?

horror is a tsunami without hollandaise sauce


Man, who would have thought researching What To Do™ in the immediate aftermath of a natural or manmade disaster would take so much research? So many contingency plans, it’s like you need a decision tree the size of an actual tree to remember what the hell you’re supposed to be doing.

I’ve got a list of your favorite nightmare scenarios and cobbling together some good advice, but in the meantime, I absolutely must know something only vaguely related. I’m going to reprint a picture of an emergency supply kit that I used last Friday:


I made an offhand comment about it earlier, but now I’ve become obsessed: what the fuck is a WHISK doing in first aid kit? Tessa giggled for twenty minutes as we tried to think of various scenarios in which a whisk was necessary. The page where the photo was published asks these important questions…

“What are you most likely to do when you see a person who trips and falls and ends up with a bloodied face?”

“How about if someone gets caught in a fire or when there is this person who suddenly gets an asthma attack and stops breathing? How will you revive him?”

Clearly, you need a whisk. But how, O gentle readers? I asked Caitlin, our resident infectious disease specialist, and she thought it was for post-disaster pancakes. I asked my old roommate Vic, one of the finest GPs in North America, and he responded “maybe to mix shite with?”

Can this mystery be solved???


UPDATE… mystery solved (see comments)… how disappointing…

much ado since 2002


Apparently we are having quality control issues here at xtcian, as the comments and emails resulting from yesterday’s entry raised the possibility that a sub-par blog accidentally made its way onto our pages. Rest assured that we are looking into the cause behind this lapse in excellence, and will not rest until we find it.

In three weeks, we will be celebrating nine straight years of blogging, and we are proud to be a name you can trust. We’ve been there for good times and bad, for your friends and yes, for your little ones. We’ve gone almost ten years without melamine poisoning. In our near-decade together, we’ve only had to recall two entries, have a safety record of 92.7%, and won the Tesla-Twain Award for Just Right Sarcasm-Idealism Balance twice.

In short, we value your trust. We’ll do whatever it takes to earn it back – one pithy, trenchant, high-larious observation at a time. Xtcian: We Make Your Dreams Your Tomorrow Now At From.


-IW, CEO official portrait (rejected by Board of Trustees as ‘batshit’)

friday i’m in love


I know I’m supposed to be writing about something else (and I’m 4-5 days late to this particular internet meme, since I was watching a sport I like on TV all weekend), but I’m curious what y’all’s response to this video is:

I’m sure many of you have already seen it, and you can do the research if you like (like on Slate or Salon or Rolling Stone or even Wikipedia), but I’m curious what bundle of genuine feelings this 3-and-a-half minute piece of media conjures. I’ll be the first to admit – it’s not entirely simple.

my “go bag” is full of sugar smacks


The last few days have provided a harrowing reminder of just how many things can go wrong in civilized society – not like we needed any more impetus after 9/11, Katrina, Haiti, BP, swine flu, the 2004 tsunami and the like. A few of us were discussing the fact that none of these things seemed to be happening when we were kids. Sure, it was the era of “disaster movies”, but that was the only place you were going to hear about a “tidal wave”.

It begs the overall question: is the world straining under the yaw of its population, or is the 24-hour news cycle just making everything so much more visceral? As I said before, being a parent means staying positive, and that means steering far clear of apocalyptic bullshit, but it also means you’d better have a modicum of emergency preparation.


umm, why is there a whisk in this first aid kit?

So for today’s code word question, I’d like to ask: what crappy environmental or society crisis do you fear most where you live? And after the weekend, we’ll list the three things you can do to help you through each one.

(except zombies)