Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pet Sounds

You know the woman at work with the hamster? That was not a one-time thing. That hamster lives at the office! She has a hamster habitat in her office and he lives there all night long. During the day he keeps her company at work.

Maybe she got tired of it, though, because she moved the hamster's home to another woman's office. Or maybe she is simply generous enough to share the joy. "You didn't know this was a mobile home, did you?" she cooed to the hamster as she carried it.

Today the woman with the hamster brought her dog to work. It was not one of those horrible little purse rats, but an actual, respectable dog-sized dog. Something new for everyone to enjoy. Apparently the office policy is very pet-friendly.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Prediction

In two years, the Mindset List will include the entry: "For them, Pluto was never a planet."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I Am A Wuss

Stephanie’s family doesn’t like Frosted Strawberry Pop Tarts. Frosted Strawberry Pop Tarts are my favorite kind. So when we visited Stephanie’s family last weekend and discovered two boxes of Frosted Strawberry Pop Tarts (they come in the CostCo pack with the Cinnamon ones), the solution was obvious.

I have been bringing the Pop Tarts to work to eat for breakfast. I heat them in the toaster oven in the office kitchen. Yesterday, I used a paper towel to get the hot Pop Tarts out of the oven.

Today, I find there are no more paper towels. There is, however, a box of Kleenex. I hesitate to fall back on Kleenex for napkin/paper towel duty. I reach into the toaster oven and touch a Pop Tart. It is hot. I look around, unsure what to do.

Flashback to Saturday, at Stephanie’s parents’ house:

ME: I made a mistake.

STEPHANIE: What happened?

ME: I put the Pop Tarts in sideways and now I can’t reach them.

[I nod at the toaster, where the sideways Pop Tarts remain below the top of the rather large toaster, despite the toaster having popped them up.]

STEPHANIE: Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.

[Stephanie reaches into the toaster and picks up the piping hot Pop Tarts with her bare hands, placing them on my plate.]

ME: How come you can do that and I can’t?

STEPHANIE: Because you’re a wuss.


End flashback. I realize that I am probably being overly cautious here. Surely I can handle taking a Pop Tart out of a toaster oven. Just ignore the pain. Build up the pain threshold. It’s only for a moment.

I lick my fingertips to prepare. It helps to have moisture on your fingers when you’re about to touch something hot.

I reach into the toaster, prepare to grip the Pop Tart, and my knuckles immediately brush against the scalding hot ceiling of the oven. I yank back my hand.

I give up and get the Pop Tarts out with the Kleenex, which doesn’t seem to be such a terrible idea after all, leaving me wondering why I didn’t just use it in the first place.

I realize my hand still hurts, and maybe I have actually burned myself. I get an ice cube out of the refrigerator and rub it on my knuckles, dripping water on the floor. At one point, the ice slips from my hands and slides across the floor as I attempt to retrieve it. I imagine a slapstick scenario in which my clumsiness with the ice results in other employees slipping, causing a chain reaction of injuries.

I decide I’ve had enough of the ice. As a woman enters the kitchen, I feel compelled to mention how I just burned myself on the toaster. She helps me dig out some burn cream from an old first aid kit in a kitchen cabinet. It comes in a one-time use packet that includes way more ointment than I need, but I don’t want to waste it, so instead I end up getting my hands getting all gross and oily, and then I have to use more Kleenex to get the stuff off my hands while not wiping it off the burned part. The first aid kit includes a knuckle bandage, which sounds perfect but turns out to be huge, and doesn’t stick to my still-slippery finger. After further Kleenex use, I manage to get an ordinary small Band-Aid to stick.

Finally, I go to my desk with the Pop Tart, having squandered my morning email-checking time, and begin to eat.

The Pop Tart is no longer hot.

Germans Are So Hot Right Now

I’m aware that I’m a bit behind the curve in pointing out this trend—when I first noted it, I debated in my head whether it was blogworthy, and the next thing I knew my life had taken off in exciting new directions leaving me with little time for blogging—but German scientists are all the rage lately. BMW has been playing up the German engineering angle for years, but now other companies are making BMW look subtle in comparison.

Earlier this year there were those VW ads with character actor Peter Stormare as a so-hip-he’s-square-and-back-to-hip-again “German engineer”—so German he says “Deutchland”—who, with the help of his German supermodel sidekick, would violently “un-pimp” the rides of hip-hop styled poseurs. (In a whiplash-inducing tonal U-turn, VW immediately followed this campaign with one in which car crashes were played for viscerally upsetting shock rather than laughs.)

It must have worked, because now Dodge wants its own German scientist. If you think that makes no sense, you are forgetting they have the DaimlerChrysler merger to fall back on. These aren’t your average American cars haphazardly slapped together by a half-drunk dropout of a failed public school system, no, they are designed by smart people we can trust: Germans! The German engineering community is here embodied by the kindly Doctor Z, ever-receptive to questions from the average man, who makes feeble jokes for the benefit of visiting schoolchildren and takes nosy interviewers for sadistic thrill rides culminating in a deliberate and terrifying crash.

Okay, so Dr. Z is supposed to be the DaimlerChrysler chairman, not an engineer, but seriously, I didn't realize that until I searched for those YouTube links, so who cares?

Who will be the next carmaker to jump on this German-engineered, precision-tuned bandwagon?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Other Neighbours

Our neighbors downstairs used to be a bunch of nerds. They had a Pokemon poster on the wall and regularly held gatherings in which everyone sat around a card table playing Magic: The Gathering. Who knows, maybe it was even Pokemon. Once I told them I was shooting a fight scene and they immediately offered me the use of their weapon replicas. I turned down the sword but ended up using the ninja blades and the mace. So what I'm saying is, nerds. The residents consisted of a broad-shouldered Asian guy and a schulmpy white guy, both of whom often ventured outside with shorts and no shirt, a look that was no doubt more comfortable than it was flattering. Supposedly a pair of girlfriends also shared the apartment, but they were rarely seen.

After this followed a period in which the shades were always shut, but occasional glimpses through an open front door revealed a bunk bed in the living room. They seemed to be secretly housing extra residents in slave-ship-like living quarters, although I could never tell who the extra roommates were.

Later, the Asian guy seemed to disappear, and some roommates from the apartment in the back of the building (the one that now houses the Laundry Girl) moved into the apartment below. As far as I can tell, the schlumpy white guy is the only remaining resident from the nerdy days. At least one of the guys from the back apartment was one of the Magic: The Gathering guests.

But gradually the whole place has changed. First the bar showed up. Yes, they bought and built one of those stand-alone bars you get if you're a college student and really want people to know how much you like to party. It's super classy looking, and by classy I mean it's tacky and takes up half the room. They've since added a huge shelf full of liquor bottles behind it. They also started spending all their time hanging out on their balcony drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. An empty beer bottle packed with cigarette butts sits on their rickety balcony table, an attractive, ever-present monument to their enjoyment of alcohol and tobacco. I have no idea who lives there now, besides the schlumpy white guy, who has somehow managed to get even white-trashier, despite making unsightly shirtlessness his starting point. But there are somehow always three or four people to populate the balcony like Hank Hill and his friends.

They are there when we leave during the day. They are there when we return at night. It has been like this all year. Are they still in college? Have they graduated? Does anyone have a job? It is a mystery. What we do know is that vapid conversation can always be heard wafting up from the balcony below.

Whereas before we would occasionally find our bedtime disturbed by the sound of loud computer gaming below, we now are occasionally disturbed by loud, massive parties. Recently their chandelier bulbs have been replaced by green bulbs and huge bongs have appeared on the former Magic: The Gathering table.

I don't know what is actually going on, but I think it is only a matter of time before a passing glance through their blinds reveals a crack house and/or meth lab.

Eff Ex

I've really gotten into a couple of FX shows lately.

On the comedy side, there is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The story goes that these three guys from Philly shot a pilot video for $300 and FX bought it, and now they write and star in a show. Philadelphia is kind of like Seinfeld if it were younger and edgier. Practically every episode centers on a hot button topic that's calculated to offend.

Yet the series is clever and tonally sharp enough that it never feels like shock value is all it has going for it. The characters are uniformly amoral monsters, yet they manage to convincingly rationalize their behavior in ways that are logical, if hilariously wrong. On top of that, the performances are great and every episode has a few subtly timed reactions that are worth re-watching with TiVo.

I've also really gotten hooked on The Shield. Sure, it's gritty and dark, but while the drama is intense, it's never heavy. The show is brash, energetic, surprisingly fun and often darkly comic. Characters are complex; not wholly good nor wholly bad, yet still believable as individuals, as opposed to characters who are just arbitrarily good one moment and arbitrarily bad the next, as in the faux-complex Crash.

I am now one DVD into the second season. I rented the first season in a streak, picking up the next disc every time I returned one (and I don't have NetFlix). It's that good.

Monday, August 21, 2006

He Doesn't Bite And He Doesn't Squeal, He Just Runs Around On His Hamster Wheel

Someone has brought a very cute hamster in a hamster ball to the office. The women here are all delighted. Except for the rocker chick girl in the next cubicle. She is too cool for that.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My First Staffing Season

Wait a minute, you're temping? you think to me, your thoughts taking the form of dialogue the way Garfield would think to Jon. (This is assuming you read the post below before this one. If not, you probably didn't know I was temping until you heard yourself think that just now.) You mean, your thoughts continue, that you're not working on a TV show yet?

Well, no. Staffing season as most people consider it ended back in June, but I was still taking meetings all summer. Not a ton of meetings or anything, but enough to keep me busy and to justify putting off getting a job.

It was a tough year for comedy. Drama shows are hot right now, but there are barely any new sitcoms this season, and new shows are the ones that do the most hiring. To give you an idea, CBS has exactly one new sitcom on its entire fall schedule. There is one more they've got in the wings that they are saving for a midseason replacement. Lots of established comedy writers have had trouble getting work and many are even trying to re-establish themselves as drama writers. In other words, yay, Timing.

The way TV staffing works (or at least, the way it has worked in the past--things are ever-changing, with the current move toward year-round programming) is that your representation starts sending your stuff out around January. You get network and studio execs to read your work, so that they'll like it and call you in for a meeting and confirm that you are not a person everyone will hate. Then by the time the showrunners (head writers) of the new shows are ready to meet people you will have plenty of other people who think you are great. Finally, the showrunners read and meet you, and then when they find out if their show is picked up or not, they go ahead and hire people.

I pretty much missed all that, so I didn't start meeting people until June, at which point most shows are staffed (again, not that there were many to begin with). A couple of shows were hiring later, and meeting people well into the summer. I met various executives and, eventually, even showrunners. Ultimately, I didn't come away with a staff job anywhere, but taking the meetings was exciting and I felt promisingly close.

We'll see what happens next year, when I should be able to get my stuff out there sooner and meet with people at the proper times.

It's Hard Out Here For A Temp

You tell yourself that blogging isn't just something you do when you have too much free time. After all, you blog plenty even when you have tons of stuff to do. It's important. It's a priority. You have something to say, so you make time for it.

You are wrong. The thing is, blogging isn't about having a surplus of free time, it's about having a surplus of unstructured time. When you come across a week that is packed with activity to the point that you have things you must actually do, as opposed to letting them fall by the wayside and then making up for it by feeling terrible about yourself, you realize that making time to blog requires effort you cannot muster.

What I am trying to say is that I have joined the working world. Specifically, I have been temping, and so I've been working the hours of a productive member of society, with writing time crammed in afterwards.

Temping is nice because even though you work full-time hours, you don't have to carry the responsibility of your job home with you. For instance, even though right now I'm filling in for Bob Iger for a week, I don't lose any sleep over the fact that my decisions are running Disney into the ground. If it were that important, they wouldn't have hired a temp. Right?

Reading Can Be Fun

I read another book recently. I guess I've read a few film/TV industry-related books this year, but this is the first novel for pleasure I've managed to get through since, oh, probably the last time I crowed about reading a real book on this blog.

I know, pathetic.

Anyway, the book is Prodigy by Dave Kalstein, who happens to be the son of a friend of my mom, which explains why I ended up reading it. According to what my mom tells me about what his mom tells her, Dave Kalstein reads more than I do, which is probably why he just sold the movie rights to Prodigy and got hired to adapt it. So, good for him. If you want to know what I thought of it, you can read my pretentious-sounding review on Amazon.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It's Like You're There

This is what stand-up is like when you are embarrassingly twitchy, have no stage presence, an outrageously fidgety left hand, and a mic stand you don't have the sense to leave alone.

And you are hilarious.

So yes, I finally got the video of my June 24 Triumphant Return to Stand-Up. This is the first time I've seen an actual video of myself performing since I emceed that one Squelch show. That tape, though, I barely watched since you couldn't hear the laughs and it sounded like I was bombing. As for this one, the laughs sound great, but holy crap is it uncomfortable and embarrassing for me to watch. And I say that as someone who loves watching me. Is that what I look like onstage? Here I thought I was this perfect vision of awesome, and instead I am nervous and jittery and talk too fast, especially for the first couple of minutes. But it is good that I know this now, because now I realize just how much work my stage presence needs.

Perhaps you won't notice quite as much. I hope this is the case. Although if it is, that means I look like this all the time. I am not sure which notion is more horrible.

For those readers who live in LA, I hope making this available does not stop those who have not yet seen me live from doing so in the future. Remember, you still have an incentive: to see if I've improved.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Love That Joker

Heath Ledger has been chosen as the new Joker in the Batman Begins sequel, The Dark Knight (what, no "Batman Continues"?).

I had hoped that the rumors that Crispin Glover would play the Joker were true. I always like to see Glover working, he's a genuinely creepy guy, and he's got the perfect sharp chin.

But I think Heath Ledger will work. I still haven't seen Brokeback Mountain, but I just watched Lords of Dogtown, in which he plays the drunk/stoned proprietor of a Venice surf/skate shop, and he's great in it. He strikes me as a talented, chameleonlike actor who can be really intense when he wants to be.