Month: December 2007

100 Things I Learned in 2007, Part II

still the best dog

Wrapping up this fine and crazy year in 50 short-to-medium numbered items. If you have OCD or something like that, you might want to read the first 50 short-to-medium numbered items first.

  1. I may not be a dog person, but I’m definitely an Arnie person.
  2. In every possible figurative sense, my eyes will probably always be bigger than my stomach.
  3. Television? What television?
  4. The shortest distance between two points is often a half-bottle of chianti.
  5. Time crawls when you commit to doing something every day for 30 days.
  6. The strongest proof of global warming may just be a visit to my apartment in September.
  7. Life is better with regularly scheduled Ladies’ Nights.
  8. And TextExpander.
  9. Just because you have seen someone over and over on the internet does not mean they are ready to embrace you as an old friend when you finally greet them during a surprise run-in at the coffee shop.
  10. Especially when they are four.
  11. And you are interfering with their immediate receipt of hot chocolate.
  12. Lead by example.
  13. Podcasts are easier heard than made.
  14. Bank accounts are easier closed than opened.
  15. The price of grinding your teeth at night has more than doubled since 1998.
  16. There may be a wearout number of viewings for Play Misty for Me, but at 50, I’ve yet to hit it.
  17. No matter how evolved I get, from time to time, I will be That Asshole.
  18. Designing album covers is every bit as cool as you thought it would be when you were 10.
  19. Even if the albums are now only 5″x5″.
  20. And will mostly be downloaded anyway.
  21. Despite optometrists’ exhortations to the contrary, you do not actually need to buy a new pair of glasses every year.
  22. If you want something done, schedule it.
  23. You never know where your next job will come from.
  24. That goes double if you have a blog.
  25. Those classes at the Learning Annex are as educational as you’d expect them to be.
  26. That doesn’t mean you won’t learn from them.
  27. The Central Coast is even better when seen from the picture window of your own, private rental home.
  28. Never say “never.”
  29. On the other hand, “no” is a really good thing to say from time to time.
  30. If Malcolm Gladwell does not want to be my next boyfriend, Jonathan Coulton will do just fine.
  31. Or Bob McBarton, if I can convince him to leave his adorable wife and daughter.
  32. Or Dan Savage, if he’d be into batting for the other team.
  33. The point where dreams get truly difficult is when they start coming true.
  34. You can’t quit (or start) until you’re ready.
  35. When it comes to letting my hair go, I’m still a total scrotum.
  36. The best birthday presents are the ones that cost nothing and show up unexpectedly.
  37. It is way more fun to marry other people than to marry, period.
  38. Trying to compose 100-things lists in the WP text editor is like trying to make a pie wearing mittens.
  39. She who doth not invoice, doth not get paid.
  40. Let it go.
  41. Really, just let it go.
  42. I’m serious…let it the fuck go, already!!!
  43. Boobage is a pain in the ass.
  44. People are amazingly good at providing help.
  45. Especially when you ask.
  46. Sadly, nothing much has changed from a management perspective since Upton Sinclair’s time.
  47. Happily, much has changed regarding access to the means of production.
  48. The less you make of the holidays, the more fun they are.
  49. Even if you own, you’re only renting.
  50. When in doubt, put on Django Reinhardt…

Happy new year, one and all!


It may be a while before I post another one of these, so…





Honeydripper: Changing film history, one viewer at a time


Here’s the ugly truth about the current state of independent film: filmmaking may have been democratized by the portable video camera and iMovie, but distribution, the means of getting films by the people, to the people, is still totally FUBAR.

No studio dollars, no big marketing push.

No marketing bucks, no big release.

No big opening, no run.

How do I know this? Because I spent two hours that were, in equal measure, exhilarating and spirit-crushing, with filmmaking duo John Sayles and Maggie Renzi (and, because I’m not above dropping a few names when they’re this impressive, Haskell Wexler, Lawrence Turman and Anne Beatts.) It was part of a small, roundtable/salon-y type thing I somehow fell into (to pervert a line from Animal House, “Thank you, blog!”), which Sayles and Renzi doubtless (in part, anyway) decided to attend to pimp their latest film, Honeydripper, which was wholly self-financed AND is being wholly self-distributed.


For those of you who are completely outside of the Hollywood scene, who might know box office tallies and other useless insider info (something that came up, as well), that is like me saying I’m going to build my own direct competition to McDonald’s out of Legos and gum, and have it profitable inside of four weeks. Seriously. Because…

  • the pipeline is really tightly controlled by mega-chains and distributors
  • the pipeline dictates that (most) movies must open big or die instantly
  • the pipeline is configures so that all but the most outrageously popular films must move along, son, after a week or two

And mainly, because the pipeline is THE pipeline. There are next-to-no “little theaters” for cinema, like there are for stage performances; there’s no off-off-Broadway for movies. And coordinating what is there takes Herculean effort.

Which means it’s difficult for even great, proven filmmakers like John Sayles and Maggie Renzi to get their stuff out there to the audiences who want to see it. Let me state that again: to audiences who want to see it. Sure, there’s Netflix (and it’s great!) and yes, someday, that Internet pipe will be big enough and ubiquitous (provided we don’t blow up the damned planet first) but movies-in-theaters are rapidly becoming, as they put it, the blow-’em-up stuff that will play globally or the few token, anointed indies that make it. Bad news for those of us who like to see our movies big and communally, in the theater.

The good news is, these are some smart, determined people who don’t understand the meaning of the word “impossible.” They’ve been doing the impossible already for years: creating smart, interesting cinematic treats that live decidedly outside of the mainstream. And making a living at it. So they’ve put together their own distribution for their latest film, Honeydripper, which opens in theaters this Friday, December 28. Maggie & John broke down the plan for us over lunch, and I have to say, if anyone can succeed at this very brand new game, it’s them.

We all know how important it is for new films to do big box office on opening weekend, so I don’t need to tell you to get out there and support this Friday/Saturday/Sunday (especially Friday, that’s when I’m going!) But they’ve also put together kind of a grassroots worksheet on other things you can do to get the word (and people) out, and support the film. I’ve uploaded it to my server, and you can download it here. It includes a glowing review from Variety; I haven’t seen the film yet, but the story, about a black roadhouse owner in the 1950s American South who stands to lose everything unless he can pull off a Saturday night miracle, sounds good and fun and full of excellent music.

I’m all for the edgy youngsters making edgy movies about their edgy selves. Hey, I was edgy once! Okay, I wasn’t, but I pro-edge.

I’m also pro- grownup movies made by grownups for grownups (although Honeydrippers sounds like something you could take the kids to, and it is PG-13.) And as through-the-looking-glass as it is, films like the ones John Sayles makes, especially films made now, by the no-longer-young John Sayles, are the fringe films in need of support to get a foothold in this crazy marketplace. These well-crafted, beautifully told, thought and emotion provoking stories are what is really edgy and out there.

If you’re in New York or L.A., get out there, too, this weekend. If you’re elsewhere, check to see when it’s rolling out near you in January & February. Read the PDF. Blog it. Do that voodoo that you do so well.

See you at the movies, fellow hipsters…


UPDATE (12/29/07): Feel-good charmer/fable of the season. It’s gentle and sweet, with lovely music and a life-affirming message. Plus, that kickass Sayles storytelling ability.

UPDATE (01/14/08): Another cool DIY film project here, albeit on a much smaller scale: Fat Head, debunking current dietary wisdom, or what passes for it. Start with Michael Blowhard’s great interview of the writer/director, Tom Naughton.

Image of Danny Glover & John Sayles on the set via Flickr and ©2007 John Sayles.

100 Things I Learned in 2007, Part I

mardi gras

Hard to believe this is the fourth installment of listy, round-up goodness. However, time cares not what we believe, continuing to march the hell on, regardless.

And so, without further ado…

  1. Money might spend itself, but it does not reconcile itself in the QuickBooks.
  2. Goals, on the other hand, neither make nor complete themselves.
  3. No matter how public you go with them.
  4. There is life after land lines.
  5. CFLs do not suck nearly as hard as they did five years ago.
  6. But they still kinda-sorta suck.
  7. Bread + beer – activity = belly.
  8. Fortunately, underwear stretches.
  9. For someone who claims an ambivalence towards blood relatives, I feel awfully proud that five of my boy-cousins made hanging out with me a priority.
  10. There is still no family like family of choice.
  11. Even if they happen to be related by blood.
  12. Nerds rule.
  13. No, seriously, they rule.
  14. Whoever said “Life sucks and then you die” was only halfright.
  15. Thank christ.
  16. Or whomever.
  17. Information designers are hot.
  18. Portland kicks L.A.’s ass.
  19. Seattle doesn’t, but Seattle coffee kicks all coffee’s ass.
  20. The real cost of acquiring stuff is the time spent divesting oneself of it.
  21. That thing I tell myself, about being able to go back to copywriting? Total lie.
  22. When in doubt, do a salute.
  23. Or rearrange the furniture.
  24. Cheese can tell you a lot about a person.
  25. Telling stories is my favorite thing.
  26. Helping other people tell stories runs a close second.
  27. There is no such thing as too much music.
  28. Or books.
  29. Facebook is the AOL of social media.
  30. Twitter, on the other hand, is the tits.
  31. Perimenopause is a lot like having PMS 365 days a year.
  32. Atheism makes an excellent hillbilly repellent in a pinch.
  33. This design business thing isn’t for everyone.
  34. And by “everyone,” I mean me.
  35. The Wall Street Journal publishes an entire newspaper every day.
  36. And by “every day,” I mean every fucking day.
  37. I miss SxSW when I don’t go.
  38. Mid-century L.A. apartments were not built for global warming.
  39. Neither were mid-century women.
  40. The Marines are the second-toughest job you’ll ever love.
  41. President of your Toastmasters club being first.
  42. We all have a type.
  43. Rick’s hamburgers are as good as they say.
  44. If you build it, they will come.
  45. Dental insurance in 2007 is but a walking shadow.
  46. Not to mention a walking shadow, a poor player strutting & fretting and a tale told by an idjit.
  47. There really and truly are no shortcuts.
  48. There is nothing like fan mail.
  49. I can live without everything but truth.
  50. Even the lamb sandwich at Cafe du Village.

Can’t wait for Part II? Have I got your number, brother:




Pushing back


Sometimes it seems like I resist almost everything.

Doing work, certainly. Going to my weekly Toastmasters meeting. Returning phone calls, exercising, taking the recycling down to the basement.

But it doesn’t stop there, the stopping. Oh, no. On a given day, I can usually find myself resisting any or all of the following:

  • brushing/flossing/Rotadent-ing my teeth
  • at all
  • going to sleep at a reasonable hour
  • letting myself take a nap if I haven’t
  • having sex
  • showering
  • peeing
  • answering the phone
  • walking downstairs to pick up the Wall Street Journal
  • actually reading the Wall Street Journal
  • blogging
  • doing my marketing “homework”
  • finishing the last 1/100th of whatever project needs finishing

The odd thing is, with the exception of dental maintenance and phone-answering, I either don’t mind or outright enjoy most of these activities. Hell, I even like talking on the phone when it’s Dawud Miracle calling. And we have us some marathon sessions.

I learned a lot about resistance and procrastination during the Hypnotherapy Project I worked on earlier this year with my awesome friend and hypnotherapist, Greg Beckett. Partly responsible is The Resistor, my name for Steven Pressfield‘s characterization of the art-killing force that enlists procrastination in its fight against creative output (if you haven’t yet, run out NOW and get The War of Art.)

But also responsible, I think, is a young lady who’s been pushed beyond a reasonable expectation of endurance. Frankly, if I don’t give her a break, and have a confab with the rest of the committee to get right with things, we’re going to start having some serious shutdown issues.

So I’m working on a number of things to implement in the next four months, one of which is working less on stuff with a lower ROI and more on stuff that rings my bells. You see, I love working, as long as the work is fun. But this year was characterized by a little too much work that was just…work. It became clear that the plan was flawed when the plan basically got dumped by the side of the road like an unwashed, hitchhiking hippie somewheres south of March.

It’s going to mean taking some gigundous risks. Maybe not to an outsider, but positively outrageous for me. But I’m committing to it. (Gulp.) Committing to not committing, except to what I really want to commit to. Which, right now, is not much of what I’ve been occupied by over the past several years. It will be interesting to see how this year’s edition of Best Year Yet plays out.

Which leads me to the obvious question: did your 2007 go off the rails, or did it unfold with the exquisite combination of surety and serendipity that your mind-like-water self conjured up in December of 2006?

And what did you want? And how did you set about getting it for yourself?

And (here’s hoping I don’t regret this) did you use any special books/plans/tools to get yourself there?

Mastermind group? Plain old list? Goal-setting dominatrix wielding a Palm and a slim switch?


Image by jashj via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.



There are gothic tales of horror all around us, hidden in plain view. I had tastes of several growing up, something about my own, weird upbringing made me very freak-friendly, but I never grokked the way darkness goes hand in hand with light until I moved New York City in the mid-1980s.

You would meet people, in bars, mostly, but occasionally at parties, in bookstores, through friends of friends of friends, whose fabulousness you just knew was incredibly hard-won. I didn’t have a storybook childhood by any means, but there was (enough) money, stability and love to establish at least a foundation of normalcy to provide a reference point to the madness that followed. For example, my own overly-beautiful mother (as far as I know) was never subjected to repeated rounds of electroshock therapy, abandoned by my father when I was an infant or raped by a stranger in front of my eyes hours after we rolled into town on a Trailways bus.

All of these things happened to Jonathan Caouette, the writer-director-actor whose autobiographical documentary, Tarnation, took the film world by storm (four years ago, but more on that later.) Comprised of stills, film and video clips over at least 20 years, and originally edited entirely in iMovie, it’s a haunting, mesmerizing look at what one wrong turn (in this case, falling off of a house rooftop) can do to a delicate soul and everything that touches her.

It’s also a monumentally inspirational take on the power of the human spirit to prevail in the most horrific of circumstances. The film and video that Caouette pieces together to tell his story is clearly the film- and video-taking that kept him sane growing up in, to put it mildly, horrific circumstances. There are smidgins of film taken before even the very precocious filmmaker was ready to pick up a camera, but once those mini-digits were big enough to place “record”, it would seem young Caouette was at the ready and up to the task. Part of what’s so fascinating about the film is getting to see the artist in formation, on both sides of the camera (there’s one particularly compelling bit where he plays a woman in distress to the camera.)

Of course, even his impressive facility with the very simple tool that is iMovie was vastly enhanced by the soundtrack. Like El Mariachi some 15 years earlier, the film was made for peanuts ($218.32 of them!) and repackaged for substantially more. (Note to budding DIY filmmakers: if we can’t hear it right, we won’t be able to see it right.)

But who am I to quibble with the addition of some great songs and high-priced, Sunday-go-to-meetin’ sound editing? At its core, Tarnation is good, old-fashioned storytelling.

And I have never been one to turn down a good yarn…


Image of Jonathan Caouette and his beautiful mother from the film, via WIRED online.

What can you give me for Christmas?

bonanza gift

Having worked my way through various careers (i.e., advertising copywriting, TV writing, acting, graphic design), it’s become clear to me what I am not (copywriter, screen/TV writer, actor, designer).

And, having spent a fair amount of time now writing (on this here bloggity-blog, among other places) and speaking (at my Toastmasters club, although I’m happy to come and talk to your group, if you like), it’s also become pretty damned clear to me what I should be doing next.

There’s just one problem. For someone who’s spent her entire adult life in one form of communications or another, I have a surprising inability to articulate what the hell it is I have to say and what the hell use it is to other people.

Okay, see? That’s two problems. Start talking about myself, and I get all bollixed up.

I realize this is my issue to grapple with, and grapple, I do. I have also enlisted grappling assistance from my marketing coach and my shrink, who, upon hearing my egregious ineptitude at self-summary, immediately volunteered herself for grappling duty.

But I would like to enlist your help as well, dear reader. After all, you, those of you who actually come back here and read these little stories and essays and illuminata on nerdery, most likely have a better handle on why you return than I.

Also, I have found that the odd email that comes in over the transom or the random comment left on a particular post is often more illuminating than hours of cogitation or reflection or self-help exercises. Really. You guys are beyond awesome as a mirror. And the answers that have started coming in since I started focusing on this and asking out loud for help have, well, already been helpful. It’s just time to ratchet things up a notch, I think.

I don’t expect a fully articulated brand statement; I don’t really have any expectations, other than this might be an interesting experiment. But, because ’tis the season and because you are doing me a solid and also probably because, as my exasperated shrink says, I have the LOWEST sense of entitlement of anyone she’s ever treated, I will do this: for every helpful comment (or email, if you’d prefer not to be public) that I receive by this December 25th, I will donate $1 US to Habitat for Humanity, up to a total of $1,000. I don’t really expect 1,000 comments and/or emails, although that would be great, but hey, it’s a great organization and if I’m getting huge blessings, I’d like to pay it forward in an immediately tangible way.

Of course, I hope you know that my ultimate goal is to take the information and help make the world a better place. It’s dorky, I know, but my mission statement (this, I have) is to be a joyful conduit of truth, beauty and love. I’ll keep doing it at ground level, no matter what; I’ve just had a nagging (and growing) feeling these past few years that I should be doing a better job of putting myself out there.

If you’re a genius whiz-bang marketing type and you can sum me up in a genius-whiz-bang mission statement, that’s awesome. If you just tell me why you like reading the blog, or the newsletter, or the acting column, or the design column, or my emails, or any other of my writing, that’s awesome, too. You can also…

  • tell me what your favorite post is (and hopefully, why)
  • tell me how you describe this blog to other people (if, if fact, you do this)
  • tell me when you think I’m “on” and/or when you think I’m “off”
  • tell me which posts best sum up “communicatrix”
  • tell me what the hell a communicatrix is
  • tell me (your idea here)

And if I get no comments or emails, well, that’s fine, too. This is a process, and an evolving one, and what’s supposed to happen will, in its own time. Hell, I’ll probably give a bunch of money to Habitat anyway because I really dig them and Jimmy Carter is one of my personal heroes.

But I just thought I’d ask. Again. Out loud.

If nothing else, it’s one step out of the hole of anti-entitlement.


UPDATE (1/1/08): Another 8 or 10 replies came in via email since the last comment, bringing the tally up to $45. I’m rounding up to $50, and heading over to H4H right now. Thank you, everyone, for playing! And if you’ve come to this late, but still want to contribute, email me: I’ll keep the offer open up to $500 in calendar year 2008!

Image by wallyg via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.