Monthly Archives: October 2011

herbivores can eat zagnuts

10/31/11

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Allow me to introduce you to the Parasaurolophus, one of the “duck-billed dinosaurs” of the Hadrosauridae family – an herbivore that defended itself by blowing a series of notes so loudly through its trombone-like crest THAT IT SCRAMBLED THE BRAINS OF THE T-REX. It is also a very cute dinosaur, leading to fan art like this:

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So of course, Lucy wanted to be a Parasaurolophus for Halloween, and who am I to dash a wee one’s dreams? She already had a candy holder for the job, and drew a sketch of how she wanted to look:

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While I tried to get everything ready on Halloween day, she had a parade at school – and since you weren’t allowed to wear your costume to class, we had to think of Outfit #2. Something that could be done easily in a few minutes. So I got a khaki vest, a straw pith helmet, and those beige shorts they make you wear at crazy private school. Behold the paleontologist:

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she would like you to notice the magnifying glass, rock pick and paintbrush for delicate sand work

I had costumes planned for all three of us – I was going to be a Quetzalcoatlus, Tessa was to be a “Mom”-menchisaurus – but I just couldn’t figure out the sewing machine in time (bobbins can chupar mis huevos) and was lucky to pull anything off at all. But with face paint, Manic Panic and helium, we were off to the lands of Polysorbate 60 and corn syrup:

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And so the foxes tore into the meat the bears left behind, as the oviraptors did when the Yangchuanosaurus had had his fill, and so on, back into the sweet, sweet mists of time.

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nom nom nom

10/30/11

I just got through an 18-hour recording session in the studio, and have to design and make three insane costumes in time for Halloween this evening AND have a script due, so I will make this a code word entry…

Okay, so I get some of you don’t like coconut. That is no reason to extol the virtues of shit like Bit o’ Honey or Mary Janes, which are the candy equivalent of ZERO KELVIN. Be that as it may be at it is, please list your seven favorite easily-available candy brands. I shall go first:

1. Mounds (Bounty in the U.K.)

2. York Peppermint Patty (yummy, but way less fat calories)

3. Three Musketeers (ditto)

4. Kit-Kat

5. Lik-M-Aid Fun Dip (lasts forever)

6. cinnamon Chiclets from gum machine

7. Welch’s Fruit Snacks

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made with real fruit juice!

the simplicity of flintstones chewables

10/26/11

As you have showed me yours, I will show you mine; these are the supplements I’m currently taking based on scientific evidence and strong research recommendations from my doctor(s):

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• Omega 3 Fish Oil – The new research has made my normally mild-mannered psychopharmacologist truly excited. There is ever more increasing evidence that Omega 3 not only helps with basic heart health, but depression as well. Omega 3 has both EPA and DHA as active ingredients, and EPA is the important one for depression. You want a supplement that will give you at least 1000mg of EPA a day, even if it means taking 2-3 big softgels. I use this brand because it’s the most potent.

• Vitamin B2 – Also known as Riboflavin. Tessa attended a conference a few months ago that delved into adult fatigue and lethargy. Which, of course, is ironic given that she suffers neither – but she brought the research home and I’ve acted on it.

A number of doctors have uncovered evidence that much of the over-the-top tiredness that some of us suffer comes from a slight mitochondrial impairment at the cellular level. Basically, our mitochondria (the battery of our cells) aren’t producing the energy they should. After running a number of tests and trials over the last few years, they now recommend some specific supplements that have helped patients enormously. One of them is B2, and another is…

• Co-Q10 – This one helps blood pressure as well, but if you’re in it for the lethargy game, two different doctors told me you should take at least 400mg/day, which is why I’ve been busting the 600.

• NAC – In the “two birds, one stone” department, NAC (N-Acetylcysteine) not only solves the “antioxidant” requirement for the mitochondria treatment, but it has shown to be effective in mental health as well. Awesomeballs!

• Niacin – Since my cholesterol crept over 200 last year, I’ve started on this. Lots of research back it up, and the “no-flush” version won’t make you turn red with sweat about 15 minutes after taking it.

• Vitamin D (not pictured) – A no-brainer at this point, especially since I’m a redhead living in LA, I never go out in the sun. I don’t take much Vitamin D, just a nip.

You may also see a jar of Creatine Monohydrate in the back, which is also a mitochondrial suggestion, but I keep forgetting to use it because it comes in a powder. There’s something about mixing a powder into a drink… if it’s not Strawberry Quik, I don’t get the point.

Might someone be reading this, 50 years from now, and react the same way we look at old ads for asbestos? Perhaps, but we are doing the best we can with the info we’ve got in late 2011, you smug future motherfucker, so DON’T JUDGE ME!

oh for the love of

10/24/11

Tessa and some of our friends went to a ladies-only function this morning with the amazing Kirsten Gillibrand, and while it was by all accounts a rousing success, apparently things fell apart – LIKE THEY ALWAYS DO – during the Q & A session. Inevitably, a couple of women got up to the microphone with no intention to ask questions, but merely to blather ad nauseum while the rest of the room died a million deaths.

I have no doubt bitched about this before, but THESE KIND OF PEOPLE RUIN PUBLIC EVENTS. I’ve seen it happen every time even a slightly famous person allows questions from an audience that ought to know better. Invariably, some motherfucker with an agenda hijacks the auditorium and begins to spew his/her unique brand of half-baked bullshit – holding hundreds of people hostage, wasting the time of a public figure who has none, and guaranteeing no actual questions get asked.

It got so bad at the UCLA series (especially during the Mary Oliver reading, when a guy had to be booed out of the building) that they wisely spared Neil Gaiman the misery, only allowing questions to be submitted in writing, and then vetted mercilessly.

This is what it has come to, you lard-throated blowhards: you have ruined spontaneous public discourse. We can no longer ask questions of our cultural leaders because someone didn’t pay enough attention to YOU during kindergarten, and you need to Hold Forth on your beloved belly button.

Let me tell you what “Q & A” stands for; it stands for YOU FUCKING SHUT UP AND LET SOMEONE ASK AN ACTUAL QUESTION AND LET THE SPEAKER ANSWER, RATHER THAN AFFLICT ME WITH WAVE AFTER WAVE OF STUPID FEELING.

Still having trouble with this one? I have provided an easy-to-use Clip-N-Save™ list of The Top 10 Things Nobody Wants to Hear From You, just in case you feel the urge to start pontificating. I’ll go in reverse order of intensity:

10. Why you’re not racist

9. Shit you did in college

8. Nagging health issues

7. Your trip to the Far East

6. Your Spiritualism, Explained

5. Cat stories

4. Anything after the fourth minute of your soliloquy

3. Last night’s dream, in detail

2. Something cute your kid said incorrectly

1. Holding forth during a Q & A session

I hope that clears everything up!

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think differentlyish

10/23/11

I think everyone is taking away the wrong lessons from the death of Steve Jobs.

There’s a fair amount of armchair quarterdoctoring going on about his death, especially after some biography leaks that revealed he diddled around with alternative therapies for nine months after getting the diagnosis of his neuroendocrine pancreatic tumor. According to some folks with knowledge in the field, Jobs’ prognosis would have been close to 100% success if he’d had surgery when it was discovered – for a brutally sad explanation, go ahead and read this short piece.

Not wanting to “open himself up”, Jobs instead tried fruit juices, herbal remedies and other schemes — “some of which he found on the Internet,” according to the new biography. I don’t need to tell you, this is the kind of thing that pisses people off. It’s one thing to go holistic when you’ve got either a major annoyance (sinus infection) or a crazily-inoperable disease (brain cancer), but to let an easily-treatable issue metastasize? That shit drives folks crazy.

I don’t pass judgment on Steve Jobs because I’ve never gone through what he went through, but the idea of never having surgery strikes me as insane. If I’d followed that advice, I would have been struck down at 5 years old with my appendix bursting.

In Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote Stop Blaming Steve Jobs For His Death, which – I think – misses the point entirely. First off, it’s not exactly mean-spirited to blame Jobs for his too-early demise; it’s merely factual. The statistics don’t lie for this kind of thing. He fucked up, and people (like his wife) tried to tell him from the get-go. This isn’t a personal attack, it’s just running the numbers.

Secondly, although one could argue Steve Jobs’ surgery refusal was moronic, it is inseparable from what made him so fantastic. Why do you think this man didn’t get surgery for a very treatable disease? Because of long-held mystical beliefs and spiritual soul searching? Well, sure, but that eventually fell by the wayside and he got the surgery, albeit too late.

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No, Steve Jobs opted for “natural” remedies because of his ego. He truly believed that he could outrun cancer, or that his powers of magical thinking were so great that it would somehow shrink and disappear. He was an exceptionalist; he believed the rules didn’t apply to him, and if he wanted the homeopathic remedies to work, they would jolly well work.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it was Jobs’ ego and hubris that allowed him the power to conjure magic, to revolutionize the way we connect with technology. It was the power of unshakable belief that created the Lime iMac, the music player without buttons, the swiping tablet that has changed the ways babies react to media. The man who demanded Barack Obama personally request to meet with him is going to change the world, and is probably going to die young because he thinks he can outwit cancer.

We only want to see the best in people, but we keep forgetting that all strong character traits have a darker side. Every tarot card has an inverse reading; not an opposite, but a different outcome based on the same attribute. We adore the parts of ourselves that may be killing us, and hate the parts that secretly keep us alive.

do not touch that dial

10/20/11

On Monday, we covered The Germ that makes writing TV so worthwhile and amazing, but just because you’ve got a good Germ doesn’t mean you’ve got a show worth spending six months (or years) crafting. The initial spark must lead you to a big overarching idea for a show that will continually make you feel… well, kinda turned on.

In other words, it has to pass The Smell Test of immediate interest. When you tell a family member the idea in fifteen words or less, not only do they have to be instantly piqued, you have to be convinced of it anew.

When I was 12, I spent the summer with my cousin Mark in Arcadia, California. Back then, the local station showed back-to-back episodes of the old Twilight Zone show in black & white every afternoon at 4, and we consumed it like starving mongrels. Even though the show was already ancient by then, our lives revolved around it; Mark hurried back from football practice, and I juggled around my office duties at the catering company just to make sure we could watch it together, eating homemade Mormon tortilla chips and green salsa.

Since then, I have always looked for THAT SHOW, the one that made you less depressed just knowing they were making more for you. The show that stacks up on your DVR when you go on vacation, allowing you to consume it like chocolate chip cookie dough upon your return.

The TV show that emanates from your Germ must have the possibility of becoming this very thing. It has to have an element to it so captivating – or a twist so alluring – that it damn near writes itself. And the Smell Test starts with the “pitch”, or that quick description you told your family member in 15 seconds (or the network exec in 20 minutes).

Lemme give you two examples. One of the shows we wrote and sold was this: “You know the Griffin & Sabine books, where a lonely artist gets a postcard from a woman who can see what he’s painting, even though she lives in the South Pacific and they’ve never met? Imagine that mixed with a paranoid political thriller using math, love and the ideas from The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and you’re almost there.”

Or let’s go even simpler with our idea from the season before last: “Three detectives in New York City get an object delivered to them each week that doesn’t behave like it should.”

I mean, I’m sorry, I’m off to the races with both of those. If done right, I’m turned on.

Trying to determine what shows pass the test – and which don’t – is hard, because it’s mostly just a feeling. It’s like explaining why you think a certain woman is hot, regardless of her looks. When yesterday’s commenters answered why they watch TV, their reasons for watching one show or another may be called “entertainment” or “education” or “addiction to story arc”, but really, it all comes back to this: TV is not a crutch, it’s a crush.

If you – my smart audience, spread throughout the country – were to hear the crop of shows premiering on television this upcoming season, you would be able to predict their success rate with about 85% accuracy within the first 10 seconds of hearing the pitch. It would be as easy as rating a bunch of dudes as “hot or not”.

Not only that, but you’d even be able to peg certain shows as “successes you would never watch”, because you could see the inherent draw for others. I’ll go even further: I think you could easily pick the shows that will have a much-watched pilot followed by a plunge and quick extinction, as well as the ones that would be dead on arrival.

The problem is this: the longer you stay in this business, the less you’d be able to predict. Your perspective will gradually get out of whack, and you’ll start second-guessing yourself, followed by doubling down on false notions.

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This is why we don’t intend to stay here forever – and while we’re here, try to stay as innocent as possible. Again, I’m venturing into the land of the twee and precious, but I try to think of shows the way I thought of “The Twilight Zone”, the way I desperately heaved my way through the paper route so I could get home to watch “Mork and Mindy”, the way I loved those three guilty pleasure words: “Previously on ‘Alias’.”

Despite all I’ve seen, and all the gossip I know… despite the shows I loathe, and the demoralizing “inner circles” that cocoon around all the networks… I still love television like a kid. I have seen enough exciting things to know that the only real spiritual death you can have in this business is the same as anywhere else: to spend your life constructing something you would never enjoy.

and have a coupla brews

10/19/11

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As part of an ongoing conversation (and personal research), I’ve got a fairly easy question for you lot today: when you distill it to its basic elements, why do you watch television? What basic quality does it fulfill?

No worries if your answers are short, un-profound, or based on any emotions you’re not proud of. But your answers will go towards a larger theory I’m working on…

the miracle gaze

10/18/11

I was going to use today to continue explainin’ the next phase of TV writing after Monday’s blog, but a couple of cultural things happened that stole away my flibbertigibbet-like powers of laser focus. The first is something you might have seen already, called Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street:

Very rarely is something accidentally so complicated – this video was obviously made by a dude hoping to drum up both Beavis-like chuckles and a few phone numbers from lefty lasses trying to change their country. However, it has gone viral precisely because it does that and so much more. Normally a cogent essay is needed, but because it’s a school night, I’ll stick to bullet points.

• Yes, it’s sexist. It gleefully employs the Male Gaze, which always sets up an inequality between the viewer and the object (hence “objectification”). This is made worse by the title of the video, which puts it in no uncertain terms.

• And yet it’s almost… sweet. As far as sexist things go, there’s hardly any cleavage or any of the usual jiggly mayhem. This video is better for gender inequality than, say, “My [Motherfucking] Humps” or the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders.

• It’s also oddly well-made, and any casual observer (or focus-group participant) will tell you what you already know: it could be an excellent P.R. tool for the OWS movement. In fact, if you had the same images and soundtrack – and panned down to reveal a new antidepressant rather than face-painting and anti-capitalist ideology, you might come away wanting the drug.

• The title ruins the video, but if it weren’t for the title, none of you would have clicked on it. If the video was labeled “Women Inspired By OWS Movement”, would you have given a shit?

• Near the end of the video, the Egyptian woman says “there are people fed up with being exploited… genuine passion never dies out.” She very well could be talking about how she herself was being exploited for the video, and how the “genuine passion” for hot chicks never dies out. That quality of meta-irony is a rare feast.

And in other news, fellow Tar Heel Lauren Myracle – a bestselling author of young adult novels – found herself in a terrible position last week. Her novel Shine was accidentally given the National Book Award meant for Chime, and she had to give it back. Unfuckingbelievable, to be sure, but Lauren handled it with the kind of grace you’d expect from someone from the era of Dean Smith.

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I knew Lauren in a passing-by-“howdy!” sort of way at Carolina, and hung out with a lot of her sorority sisters (as did many of you, no doubt), but always observed her as a stand-up, effortlessly sweet girl with a fantastic name I hoped to use later in a script. Obviously she got way too famous for that, but I’m psyched that she will come away form this with more fans and book sales, smelling like a rose despite the kerfuffle.

Her books have been banned for content, often dealing with YA gay and lesbian issues, making her one of the decade’s most frequently-challenged authors, according to the ALA. That rocks so hard, I can barely stand it. Go Lauren, go YA fiction, and Go Heels!