It's after three on a Friday for all you people on the East Coast with jobs, which means you're pretty much just on cruise control. So long as nobody's looking, check out Frisky Dingo.
Maybe you love it or hate it already, but I just discovered it this week, and man, does this show ever crack me up. It's from the creators of Sealab 2021 and airs on Adult Swim most nights, I think.
I'm one of those annoying guys who doesn't have Tivo or cable, and until recently used to go around saying "I don't watch TV," which is total bullshit. Most of you people that say you don't watch TV are bullshitters, too -- what do you think Youtube and Sopranos from Netflix are? Just get out of the closet and move on, I say.
I digress. This show is HILARIOUS -- from About.com's profile:
Killface is the most evil villain of all time, and he's determined to destroy the Earth by propelling it into the sun. But when you're running a business, even if your goal is to destroy the planet, there are a lot of boring details -- media buys, budgets and marketing. Doing everything he can to stop him (or at least keeping up appearances) is Awesome X, the alter ego of billionaire Xander Crews. But Xander has some ambivalence about stopping Killface; doing so will cut into his toy sales.
Here's the first half of the first episode on YouTube:
I like to work out at the Muscle Beach in Venice when I'm in LA. It's ground zero for the bodybuilding scene that spawned California's current Governator. Mostly I enjoy it because I like lifting weights but hate being in the gym, so it's nice to get a bit of fresh air and sunshine. As an added bonus, it is the most ridiculous thing that I can think of.
When I'm there, one of these kids is not like the others, if you get my drift. A balding nerd in blast-shield orthopedic sunglasses and jeans, surrounded by glistening muscle-heads talking about a "good pump."
Doing something ridiculous in all seriousness is really, really good for you. True strength comes from repeatedly, demonstrably not caring about what other people think. Once you can do that, the world is yours, man, for real. Doing something "as a joke" doesn't count, either. If you're doing something as a joke, you're still doing it -- just give in and be part of the parade.
Getting outside my comfort zone is pretty much my favorite thing to do. I never feel like I belong, even when I'm surrounded by friends and family ... that's my paradox. Being on my own in a new, strange situation is both comfortable and invigorating, and man, you meet the most fascinating people.
So I'm there, just me, some average schlub with a peanut butter wetsuit underneath his t-shirt and jeans, surrounded by all these glistening, pumping maniacs, most of whom are incredibly friendly. The vibe I got, totally not the one I expected, was that if you're here and working, welcome aboard. This one bodybuilder in a zebra-striped loincloth was the friendliest guy I'd ever met in any gym situation.
He spotted me, helped me rack plates, made a little chit-chat, and posed for photos for a phalanx of Japanese tourists every time they asked. Every time he got close to me, they put their cameras down and waited politely until he was done with the average guy that would have ruined their photo. Once he moved away from me, it was click city.
Here he is:
"They're shooting some movie or something over by the paddleball courts, man," he said. "I hate that shit. If you look, you'll see a trailer or something that they keep all the people who think they're better than us in. They call those people 'talent' around here, but I ain't sure what they're talented at exactly except maybe sitting around. Yeah, you can take my picture."
He gave me his best muscle pose:
"Seriously, bro, what happens is when those guys are on break, a couple photographers scurry over here and take pictures when you're not looking. Then next thing you know, your photo's in a magazine somewhere and you're not getting a dime for it, 'cause once they're gone, how are you gonna know, you know? It pisses me off something serious. I just get here, listen to death metal as loud as i can, do my thing and go home, know what I mean?"
With that, he turned and walked away ...
Conversations like that CAN'T happen when you stay inside your bubble.
Right after that pitch meeting yesterday, I was pretty dejected. I was walking to the car, thinking all sorts of dark, grumbling things about how it wasn't fair that the world was so unfair, and that last time I checked smart was a good thing, so what exactly the fuck is wrong with too smart, and on and on, the sorts of things everyone thinks as a defense mechanism against rejection.
Then I saw this dog:
It's the gayest dog in the world, possibly the gayest dog EVER. Here's a shot of the dog, held by his owner:
And man, I cheered right up. I mean, if there's a place in the world for a little white dog with a pink heart dyed on its ass, there's a place in the world for me. That fluffy little drag queen was a bolt from god, a reminder that the world is weird and nothing makes sense, EVER ... and it's best that way.
I said it before and I'll say it again: when you're a moody motherfucker like I am, a dizzying high is right around the corner, and the tiniest stuff cheers you right up.
There is definitely a tech bubble happening right now, and it can't last forever. That bubble is definitely big enough to contain one starry-eyed blogger with an idea for a streaming tv show. However, it does not yet contain a company that wants to pay that blogger and his partner for their streaming tv show idea.
So yeah, they didn't take the pitch.
And sure, I was bummed for a little while. But 24 hours later, I'm forced to look at the facts:
1) We'd never pitched a show before 2) We'd never written a treatment before, and those suckers are HARD 3) In the beautifully frank words of the exec who met with us "This concept is too smart for our audience."
So, back to the drawing board. Now that I think about it, if we'd gotten some sort of deal it may have been worse. Getting what you think you want right away without even understanding it completely is really, really bad most of the time. See 'The Monkey's Paw' by W.W. Jacobs.
The exec that met with us was really great, though. She took the time to explain a lot of things that we hadn't thought of and offered some really helpful, valuable advice. Really, she could have split in ten minutes but she spent an hour or so with us, and once I got over the sting of rejection I appreciated her input immensely.
So whatever. I'm going surfing today, metaphorically dusting off my chaps and getting back on that fucking horse tomorrow.
My friend Eliza has pitched some TV shows in her day, with hilarious and spectacularly disastrous results. She's the one in the black jacket:
I'm in a coffee shop on Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California. People have been talking about how COLD it is, but it's not. These people that are crying about the cold are soft like rotten avocados, spoiled by too much sunshine and yoga.
I flew out here last Wednesday for a meeting -- my writing partner and I are pitching an idea to a Web media company out here, and frankly, I'm thrilled. I' have no idea if they're going to go for it or not, no idea if our idea is even a good idea, but holy creeping Jesus is this ever exciting.
We spent two days locked in my friend's apartment, rehearsing and tightening, working out a story treatment and editing, revising, revising. We snuck out for coffee and a trip to the Santa Monica Trader Joe's and otherwise it's just been "Would our character do this? Why? how's that relate?" We're creating a world, or the groundwork for it, laying down riverbeds and fossils and hoping someone will pay us to populate this silly litte reality we've come up with.
I'm nervous. Really nervous. Nervous good, like before a great date or the terror I felt as a teenager in a packed nightclub right before the Ramones hit the stage. Something is about to happen one way or the other. It may knock my glasses off and grind them to dust, like that first Ramones show did, but it's going to change me forever.
We may get laughed out of this company's offices. Our jokes may spawn little more than tight smiles, or the death knell of all great projects "Hey, this sounds really great. Keep up in the loop and let us know what you develop!"
But I don't even care. I mean, I do, in that I would really prefer for this thing to fly. But I don't, because I've gotten a taste of a ew kind of writing and the life that comes with it ... and I'm here to tell you that it tastes pretty good.
I drove up to Santa Barbara yesterday, ostensibly to visit friends, but really to calm my nerves. We ate fish burritos and hiked on the beach, watching the sunset and talking about everything everywhere and nothing at all. Then it got dark and I headed home, just me in the car ripping south along the 101.
This Ramones song came on and everything in my whole life synched up. I'm doing what I wanted to do, writing, travelling, LIVING. It may not last, but what ever does? Right now I can feel the ferris wheel ticking around, and the view from up here is pretty incredible. I've got goose bumps as I type this and I can't stop jigging my leg. My stomach is a hard little nut and my tounge's playing speed-metal riffs against the back of my teeth. The meeting's in forty minutes and if I don't die beforehand, I think we're pretty well prepared.
My apartment has had an incurable cockroach problem for some time. When the exterminator comes they just move out for a few days, leaving only the slowest and stupidest ones to perish in clouds of ineffective poison. Then they all come back and keep on partying.
I should have known this. I really should have. But the exterminator had come recently and things had really quieted down in the kitchen. So when I left that peanut butter jar to soak so I could wash and recycle it easily, it was with a peace of mind that was naive, shallow, and short-lived.
When I came back home later that day, I was treated to an experience so revolting and pure that I was almost excited. The sight on my kitchen counter, in that jar full of peanut butter water, may well be the nastiest thing in the whole wide world.
I spend a lot of time online, and I've got a dark sense of humor. My friends and I all have squalid, feral senses of humor and sit around being super-gross every chance we get. So the bar's pretty high, is what I'm saying here. Goatse is old hat, and we're all a little desensitized by now.
To stumble across something that clears that bar and busts the filters, making the stomach do a slow roll like a lazy whale heading for the surface -- it's almost refreshing, fulfilling like a new sensation or long-forgotten song. It's like hearing the Spin Doctors on the radio and then following it with Zeppellin. You always knew Zeppelin was awesome, but man, in comparison!
A long- dead disgust waking up -- or a feeling of pure revulsion -- really makes you take notice. The moment itself is awful, but you get a sense of clarity and keen appreciation for life and beauty. Once the moment passes, the air is so clean, and flowers smell so sweet.
Soulwax is, in my mind, the greatest bunch of mashup artists in the world -- their latest album, Nite Versions is a mashup of ITSELF, a remix of previous Soulwax work that is even better than the original stuff. Here's a video of a previous incarnation of one my favorite songs:
A camera in its eye enabled it to "see" and make eye contact with people. It could make rudimentary conversation about the world around it, as well as discuss Philip K. Dick's work in terrific detail, but often totally liberated from correct context. David Hanson, the Philip K. Dick (PKD) robot's creator scanned hundreds of Dick's novels, journals, short stories and other nonpublished writings into the android's brain, housed in a powerful laptop.
This is all true. Here's the Dickbot, if you don't believe me:
PKD was a tremendous hit at Wired's NextFest, 2005. Several months afterward, David Hanson and his astonishing creation were on a flight from Dallas to San Francisco. PKD's body was travelling separately, but his "brain" and head were part of Hanson's carry-on luggage. Hanson had not slept for several days, and immediately passed out upon buckling his seatbelt. Hanson was shaken awake by his plane's crew in Las Vegas for an unexpected plane change.
He had been traveling for weeks, pulling all-nighters in a race between his work as a roboticist (he also made a much-discussed robotic head of Einstein); as the founder of a fledgling company, Hanson Robotics; and his doctoral work. But unlike his creation, Mr. Hanson is, apparently, distressingly human.
"They woke me up, I got my laptop from under my seat, and being dazed, I just forgot that I had the robot in there," said Mr. Hanson, referring to the head in a black, American Tourister roller bag, left in the overhead compartment. "
He rushed off in a sleep-smeared stupor, only remembering that he left the head behind sometime after his second liftoff. The airline claimed that they shipped the head back to him, but a package never arrived.
If my life were a body of water, right now it is a fish-packed Montana stream. I used to feel stagnant, lying on my back at the bottom of a murky pond but now I'm out in the thick of it and things are getting exciting.
Shhh. I'm not trying to spoil it, either.
But if that rushing river is full of flopping brown trout and this blog is my net, some big guys have been slipping through the holes.
Like, for example, the blogging summit put on by the Washington Post this week. The Post is trying to integrate its coverage into local online media, which is a big fancy way of saying that they want a bunch of frustrated neck-talkers like yours truly to talk directly to their readers. So they invited a bunch of us out to hear their plans and openly critique them.
And we sat right there in front of a nice little buffet and got to Q&A a panel made up of some bigwigs in the Post's online media division. I got to ask Marc Fisher a thing or two about electronic journalism's uneasy hybridization with print media. And boy, did I ever feel smart hearing those words come out of my mouth, on a microphone and everything! And even smarter when he actually took me seriously!
Some of my blogging peers must have felt even smarter than I did, because they were all UP on that microphone. Not naming names here, but I mean, damn. Some folks were just enthused, some folks were super-enthused, and some folks were just bleating bags of hot gas. It could be argued that duh, what do you expect when you get a bunch of bloggers, people who BY DEFINITION have more opinions than social skills into the same room, but still.
It was a real personal victory for me to have Jim Brady's ear for a minute or two as well. Jim, you see, is the editor / VP of Washington Post online, and I was so busy either shooting my own mouth off or sucking on a glass of bourbon that I forgot to tell him this:
The Washington Post is a terrific, tremendous institution in the Simmermon family. The Post brought me in with Calvin and Hobbes and by fifth grade I was reading about D.C. crime while the rest of my peers were still having trouble sounding out the latest Sweet Valley High installment. My mom goes to 7-11 in Norfolk, Virginia to get a Post every day, and the only thing that has EVER stopped her is the hurricane in 2003.
My mom loves to clip articles and give them to my sister and I. She's a bit of a saver, too, so we've got piles of newspapers all over the damned place. If you guys ever need a back issue, you just go ahead and let me know, we'll dig one up for you.
But because the Post has done such a great job of translating itself online, the paper piles are dwindling. My mom still buys a paper every day, but she e-mails us links to relevant articles, and now the papers only hang out for six months or so before reverting to compost right there by the sofa.
So thank you, Jim Brady, Marc Fisher, and the rest of the WPNI staff, for putting in so many long hours to keep my parents a little bit safer in case of an accidental fire.
I was also terrifically flattered that the main-stream media took this blog, my labor of love and frustration, seriously enough to ask my opinions. And while I might unveil a blogging strategy a little differently than the Post is going to, their initial offering is very well-thought out and bound to succeed. I think. I'm a writer, not a strategist.
Okay. That's it. Something smells funny, and I think it's clumped at the end of my nose. But I was serious, all the same ...
The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store in Park Slope is a front, an elegant sham and a beautiful hoax. If this store had been around when I was seven I might have moved in completely, coming home only to quickly inhale a meal and racing back with imagined super-speed. I'm 30 now and still considering it.
The store itself claims to sell all manner of super-equipment, including canned chaos, an apprehended mini-blob, various grappling hooks and secret identity products. They offer capes in all colors and even have a cape-testing area where you can stand on a steel grate and flick a switch that powers several fans, causing said capes to furl and flutter.
The signage in there is omnipresent, dry, and freaking hysterical:
My favorite display, hands-down, was the Super-Skeleton:
This link will take you to a Flickr set of photos from the store.
The store itself is a cover for the 826NYC program, a nonprofit that offers free homework help to kids between the ages of 6 and 18. White-hot literary superstars Sarah Vowell and Dave Eggers are on 826's board. The 826 program itself is an outgrowth of McSweeney's, and their brand of bone-dry hipster comedy permeates the place. Proceeds from the sale of superhero equipment and memorabilia fund the 826 program. The store also sells a full complement of McSweeney's-related releases including Eggers' latest book, recent issues of The Believer, and pretty much anything the McSweeney's press has cranked out.
But real magic at the Superhero Store isn't the grappling hooks, the capes, the Secret Identity Kits, all of which would blow a kid's tiny mind. It's that there are NO kids in the store itself -- or there weren't when I was there. You can hear the sounds of kids laughing and talking bubbling from behind the walls, off doing something better, even better than messing around with superhero gear.
I got a volunteer to let me past the store's secret door and into the reading room itself. The atmosphere was magical. Kids were coloring, drawing, writing and LOVING it. There were no toys, to GameBoys, no electronic devices, just kids flexing their imaginations in a way that will never die.
Everywhere you look, at every available desk, table, or couch, there are two people—one student and one adult tutor—hunched over one piece of paper, getting the words just right. It's just plain beautiful.
My previous post about Hugh Jackman at the Whitney has been linked to from a Jackman fan forum in one of the weirdest referrals this blog has EVER seen. Check out the discussion for yourselves.
Even though it's the Web, and copy-paste is totally normal, it's strange to see my words republished in the forum ... and stranger still to see the word "shit" starred out, misspelled, or otherwise danced around. I lived in Australia for nine months and I never once met a single person that even seemed to think "shit" was a bad word.
That post got more than the usual amount of comments over the weekend, mostly from Jackman fans who thought I'd done the right thing by not taking/posting a photo. And while I generally like it when the public confirms my suspicions that I am, in fact, awesome, I have to wonder ...
If there is a community that exists solely for the purpose of discussing a celebrity's life (note that in the link above, I am called to task for misidentifying Jackman's kids), do they really think someone who doesn't take photos of said celebrity is all that great? Because you know these folks would pounce on any photo they could if they were given the chance. It's only human nature.
Anyway. I've been on a bus for five hours and hiking around New York in a pair of played-out Chuck Taylors. My dogs are barking, people. More soon ...
The Whitney's elevator beeped and we all shuffled off on the Picasso floor -- at the entrance to the Picasso and American Art show. Some guy, buried in the crowd, was standing there reading the entire text of the show's intro, aloud.
There's always somebody trying to read something too loud at every art show.
Except this time, it was a little different. The guy reading aloud was Hugh Jackman, reading to his kids, and I am not lying.
It took me a second to grasp it. The cool thing is, nobody was looking at him or Deborah-Lee or paying them much of any mind at all. Suffice it to say that at least one of his kids was not the least bit into Picasso, much more excited about sprinting around the gallery. When he got scooped up and asked to behave, he complained, loudly.
I thought about offering Hugh Jackman a plastic bag and sharing my disciplinary tip with him, but thought better of it. They moved ahead in the gallery.
You know you'll be at an art gallery and off in another room someone's kid will be hollering all loud and you'll think "PLEASE. Would somebody just break out the narcotic lollipop already?"
This time I caught myself thinking "Dag, Hugh Jackman. Get on this, please." But you know what? He did. He scooped the little screamer up and they went off into the stairwell for a bit of quiet time, and it totally worked. They had nannies, friends, etc with them, and he could have passed that task off to someone else. But he didn't.
I have no idea why that makes me like the guy, but it did. One of the world's biggest movie stars was frazzled by his squirrelly toddler and dealing with it with good cheer.
At one point, I was checking out a Kiki Smith piece and I turned to walk away and nearly bumped into him. Our eyes caught each others' for a second -- his said "Come on, man. Please be cool here -- we're just trying to have a nice time."
We nearly collided again, in the lobby, on the way out. Jus ton the same cycle in the gallery, I guess. He had his toddler high over his head, looking up and laughing at her ... and his fly was very, definitely all the way down.
"Mister Jackman," I mumbled quietly, almost in his ear. "Your fly is down." He looked nervous for a second, seeing a stranger that close, then looked down to confirm my statement and broke into a huge grin, saying "Shit, thank you!!"
The whole afternoon my camera had been itching. If I had a photo for this post, it would have been a shoo-in for Gawker, TMZ, other celebri-tainment sites. I'd have gotten apeloads of visitors, maybe gotten a bump in actual readers, too. And you couldn't have blamed me. Maybe.
But something about the guy being so normal, affable, and that nervous look whenever I almost bumped into him a few times ... I couldn't bring myself to do it. So yeah, I'm doing the right thing here and preserving a privacy that he is sort of choosing to give away by being a public figure in the first place. And as usual, the high road doesn't carry a lot of rewards. But I feel good.
Now though, now that I've taken the high road and written a whole blog post about myself and what a great guy I am ... what does THAT mean, exactly?
I was at a party full of strangers, fell into it sideways through a friend of a friend on the way back from the subway on New Years' Eve. We were sitting on a tiny bed in a tiny apartment in Williamsburg somewhere. Someone fired up the computer and we were watching a girl's website, embedded videos of her toddler daughter singing the ABCs.
It was absolutely precious. I was going to mention it, but was interrupted by a partygoer who said:
"Oh. My. God. That is SO cute. If I hadn't been doing coke all night, I'd want to conceive a baby right now!"