Tag Archives: Writing

A Man and His Writing Tweets

For the past several months I’ve been doing a series of daily tweets. First tacos, then monkeys, then daily affirmations, then daily etiquette tips, then incorrect quotes, then fake TV shows, horoscopes, horror, and now writing tips! Enjoy!

You can also follow me on Twitter to enjoy December’s series of Tweets!

Day One – It’s important to stick to a schedule. Try to make it through at least 2000 excuses for not writing every day.

Day Two – It’s important to edit. Use violent metaphors. Kill your babies. Murder dolphins. Cut your arm off. Anger horses. EDIT.

Day Three – All novels are better with a ripped, time-traveling Scottish highlander/vampire who will die if he ever puts a shirt on.

Day Four – Remember: A great novel should have a very ambiguous title. Grass of Change. Shaft of Light. Whatever of Bullshit Town.

Day Five – Write at least 2000 words a day. They shouldn’t all be the same word, though. Don’t just write “murder” 2000 times.

Day Six – You must write what you know. That’s why all books are about people sitting at computers trying to decide what to write.

Day Seven – Eventually, a team of monkeys with typewriters will PLAGIARIZE SHAKESPEARE. Don’t be a monkey, write YOUR story.

Day Eight – All poems should rhyme. All fables should have a moral. All novels should have a slash fiction scene with Captain Kirk.

Day Nine – Remember: A deadline is just the day and time you will be MURDERED if you don’t get your writing done.

Day Ten – Always remember: Writing is lying. Fill your book with outrageous bullshit. Like dragons and emotionally stable people.

Day Eleven – It’s okay if your first draft sucks. In fact, it should. If your first draft is good, you’re probably a horrible writer.

Day Twelve – Some helpful, relaxing writing prompts: fear, deadline, blinking cursor, terror, sweating whiskey, life goals, pantsless.

Day Thirteen – Edit out all your unnecessary, enchanting, juicy, sizzling, quixotic, meaty, perfumed, luminous, mighty adjectives.

Day Fourteen – Writing IS rewriting. It took me sixteen drafts to write this fucking tweet.

Day Fifteen – Important questions about your novel: Is it unique? Honest? Does it have enough sexy amish vampires doing wood sculpture?

Day Sixteen – Pro-Tip: Try sending rejection letters back to publishers all marked up with your notes on their prose style.

Day Seventeen – If you’re not writing fast enough put on jazz music and mime hitting the typewriter return carriage after every line.

Day Eighteen – “Ghost written” means literally written by ghosts. That’s why pages flip & blood shoots out of celebrity autobiographies.

Day Nineteen – Writing is a fire in your soul. It’s an aching in your heart. It’s a knife in your brain. Writing murdered your family.

Day Twenty – All stories should have a beginning, a middle, a knife fight, sex in a bathroom at Arby’s, ponies, cake, and an ending.

Day Twenty-One – Here’s a free sentence to start your noir novel: “He had a face like a traffic accident and I was the first responder.”

Day Twenty-Two – Writing is like sex in that it’s like riding a bike. You do it with friends and you wear a helmet. This is a first draft.

Day Twenty-Three – If you’re having a hard time writing, write a time travel story where future you yells at present you for not writing.

Day Twenty-Four – Writing is just order putting words into so sense of the idea makes. Brain magic!

Day Twenty-Five – Pro-tip: Avoid cliches by smashing two cliches together. For example: “Throwing up in my mouth a little for a friend.”

Day Twenty-Six – Writing is like being a GOD. A lazy GOD who writes for 10 minutes then plays Candy Crush all day and calls it research.

Day Twenty-Seven – Remember the key to a heartwarming novel is a lot of brief scenes viciously mocking those who have wronged you.

Day Twenty-Eight – Holidays are special times for writers to gather with their families & write down crazy shit they say to put in a novel.

Day Twenty-Nine – It’s okay if your first draft sucks. After all, your whole life is a first draft you can’t revise. Wait. That’s horrible.

Day Thirty – Pro-Tip: If you’re not sure how to end your novel, just stop writing mid-sentence and add THE END???

Your friend in writing,

Joseph

If you enjoy my work, check out my brand new comedy and music album FLAW FEST. You can also sign up for my fan list here.

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Filed under Daily Tweet Collection

What did you do, Joseph, what did you do?

I suspect I am not alone in feeling as though I am never really getting enough done. While I try not to procrastinate too much, I do make jokes about procrastinating a lot. When I realize I’m procrastinating, I have a lot of little motivational phrases I say out loud to myself. One of them is this:

“Get back to work, you idiot.”

And if I don’t get back to work, I sometimes follow up with:

“You are a bad and stupid person.”

Then I feel guilty that I’m being so mean to myself and I try to make it up to me by allowing myself to make a joke on Twitter about procrastinating. And the cycle continues.

This year, I decided to actually review my calendar and make a list of (almost) everything I did. Please enjoy procrastinating from your work to read about mine!

January

I worked with John Kovalic on some spec scripts and started writing daily tweets for @DrBlinkShrink.

I did two shows at The San Francisco SketchFest. CineMadness with Bill Corbett and a short version of my geek stand-up/storytelling show, Comedy of Doom.

I performed the role of “Balthazar, D & D Champion” in promotional videos for a company called Awesome Dice.

I co-wrote an internal awards show for General Mills.

I made jokes on Twitter about procrastinating.

February

I launched the Obsessed podcast as both a live show in Minneapolis and released the first episode online. There have been 10 live shows that have generated 16 podcast episodes.

I wrote a sketch for a magician.

I wrote and performed (with Shanan Custer) a commentary about smartphones for Minnesota Public Radio.

I did a story with the spoken word collective The Rockstar Storytellers.

I was one of the entertainers on JoCoCruiseCrazy II. I performed a full length version of Comedy of Doom. I was thrilled to get a surprise volunteer named Wil Wheaton for my Star Trek bit. I also played the role of “Ed McMahon” on Paul & Storm’s podcast with Paul F. Tompkins.

I gave a talk in a bar about zombies and Minnesota geek culture for the Minnesota Historical Society.

I made jokes on Facebook about procrastinating.

March

I performed at the Twin Cities convention Mars Con.

I started working as an occasional writer and performer on Wits. Since March, I’ve written for and/or performed with Tim Meadows, Rhett Miller, Andy Richter, Reggie Watts, Fred Willard, Paul F. Tompkins, Wyatt Cenac, Bobcat Goldthwait, Amy Sedaris, Dave Foley, Mike Doughty, Maria Bamford, and Brandi Carlile. And of course host John Moe, John Munson and The Witnesses, and other frequent Wits performers Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, and Neil Gaiman.

I went out to eat with my wife on her birthday. She mentioned maybe I should write a book.

I made jokes on Google+ about procrastinating.

April

I did another story with the Rockstar Storytellers.

I wrote and did eight performances of a one person stand-up show about vampires, stand-up, and vampires doing stand-up called The Sad Vampire Comedy Hour.

I wrote and performed a short story as part of a Minnesota Public Radio showcase led by Kevin Kling.

I did three performances and presentations about using comedy to discuss history for the American Alliance of Museums convention.

I did not get around to making any jokes on social media about procrastinating.

May

I launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the book version of Comedy of Doom.

I wrote a lot of new material for the book. I edited the material from the stage version. I took photos for the cover and organized all the illustrations for the book. I hit refresh on the Kickstarter page roughly 700 times a day.

My odd little rock band called Math Emergency (composed of a math professor, a public radio producer, a public radio host, and me) played a gig. I played the drums and made jokes into a microphone.

I appeared on the AON podcast.

I made jokes on Twitter about spending too much time on Twitter.

June

I went on my friends’ annual bar crawl. I only note this because, while fun, going to 13 bars in 12 hours does feel a bit like work.

I appeared on the Vilification Tennis podcast where I cemented my reputation as an Axl Rose apologist.

I did another story with the Rockstar Storytellers.

I did multiple rounds of proofing and editing on the book and we sent it off to be printed. Comedy of Doom was officially published on June 20, 2012.

I wrote the pilot for an animated series version of the web comic Least I Could Do.

I made mean jokes about Google+ on Twitter.

July

We sent out all the copies of Comedy of Doom to the kind Kickstarter backers.

I attended the big Twin Cities convention CONvergence. I wrote and performed a one person storytelling and stand-up show about romantic advice for geeks called Verbing The Noun. We’ll be releasing a CD and digital download of the show in time for Valentine’s Day 2013. I did a live Obsessed show with Paul Cornell and Bonnie Burton. I did 10 other comedy panels and a signing for Comedy of Doom.

I went to San Diego Comic-Con. I performed at w00tstock. I had fun meetings, fancy parties, and saw a lot of men dressed as Jedi having a hard time at urinals.

I did another story with the Rockstar Storytellers.

I co-wrote and performed a comedy show called Comedy: The Show with Four Humors Theater on the Centennial Showboat in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I made a quick trip to Los Angeles for a friend’s birthday party. I even wrote something for that.

I made mean jokes about Google+ on Facebook.

August

I wrote, produced, and performed in an hour long one act play called Nightmare Without Pants for the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Here is a three minute live video preview of the show, in which I perform an accidental magic trick with a pair of rip-away pants.

Due to the stubborn forward movement of time I became a year older on August 17th.

I performed and did some comedy panels at Dragon*Con in Atlanta.

I made jokes about Google+ on Google+.

September

I was still at Dragon*Con. For one panel, I was challenged to sing “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” I attempted to do it in the style of Nine Inch Nails. It’s a better song that way.

I did a performance at Space Camp with Marian Call, Molly Lewis, Ken Plume, Phil Plait, and more.

Obsessed was featured on iTunes as “New & Noteworthy” and a “Staff Favorite.”

I co-wrote, helped to organize, and performed in a large awards show for the Minnesota theater community called The Iveys.

I did a podcast with the awesome Len Peralta and became a trading card for his Geek-A-Week series.

I hosted and performed at a viewing of the Doctor Who episode “The Angels Take Manhattan” at The Parkway Theater.

I tried to treat Google+ with a little more respect.

October

I co-produced, directed, and wrote a piece for a theater event called Thirst. It’s a series of short one-act plays performed in a bar. The show had three performances and it was a benefit to fight for Marriage Equality in Minnesota. Here’s the monologue I wrote about Harry Potter and kindness.

I joined The Ladies of Ragnarok (Molly Lewis, The Doubleclicks, and tour manager Dammit Liz) for a leg of their tour. I performed in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Madison. The Ladies also appeared on Obsessed.

I recorded the audiobook version of Comedy of Doom. We’re still working on editing and mastering the hours of audio.

I did another show with the Rockstar Storytellers.

I wrote and performed a ghost story for Torch Theater in Minneapolis.

I played another gig with Math Emergency.

I started a Tumblr account and wrote a thing about Halloween.

November

I used National Novel Writing Month as a motivation to work on some screenplays. I finished plotting and scripting the first drafts of two feature length films. Now working on second drafts.

My wife and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. The traditional gift is iron. The contemporary gift is candy. We gave one another Iron Man Pez dispensers.

I tried to make fun of Google+ on Tumblr, but I felt like I was kicking a puppy.

December

I wrote and performed the short story Adult Santa for The New Standards holiday show at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I did another story with the Rockstar Storytellers.

We (and by “we” I really mean my wife Sara and my graphic designer, Matthew Foster) made Comedy of Doom available on Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and many stores in the Twin Cities.

I wrote a story about the grim superhero The Leaping Lord for Paul Cornell’s 12 Blogs of Christmas.

I started writing a new stand-up/storytelling show that I’ll be performing on JoCoCruiseCrazy III.

I started writing another stand-up/storytelling show that I’ll be performing at the Bryant-Lake Bowl in Minneapolis in March of 2013.

I booked guests for Obsessed through March of 2013.

I wrote some stuff that I’ll perform for my annual New Year’s Eve show at the Bryant Lake Bowl.

I made fun of LinkedIn on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr.

I debated whether or not I should write this. I stared off into space and screwed around on social media. I beat myself up about procrastinating. I forced myself to write this. I read it. I thought about all the amazing creative people I got to meet and work with this year. I ran the post by my wife and business partner without whom none of the above would be remotely possible.

Later tonight, I’ll watch some TV, drink a martini, and think about ways to get even more done in 2013.

I’m going to start by coming up with some new motivational phrases.

I think I’ll try:

“Come on, you idiot, get stuff done so you have something to blog about next year.”

and

“Stop calling yourself an idiot, you jackass.”

And then I’ll hug myself and move on.

Happy New Year’s,

Joseph

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Filed under Comedy Real Life

KATE BUSH and GODZILLA: Obsessed Ep 10

Recorded live at CONvergence 2012, Paul Cornell (writer for DC Comics, Doctor Who, and much more) sings the praises of Kate Bush! Bonnie Burton (Author, host of Geek DIY, Googly Eye fan, and much more) smashes everything with her love of Godzilla! Random audience volunteer, Amanda Nerud aka MsDemeanorMaven, body checks the mic on the topic of Roller Derby! Plus, a brand new OBSESSED theme by Molly Lewis!

AWOOGA! Obsessed is now a part of Feral Audio! Go to Feral now to listen to this episode and subscribe for new ones!

Listen, rate, review, and subscribe to OBSESSED on iTunes.

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Filed under Obsessed, Podcast

All You Can Feel Buffet

For many years, I’ve been involved in a performing arts festival called The Minnesota Fringe Festival. There are many Fringe Festivals across the globe and while my plays have been produced at other festivals many times, I’ve never personally experienced another festival.

On twitter, I recently described the Minnesota Fringe Festival as a mash-up of vaudeville and an all you can eat buffet, but better.

The vaudeville aspect is easy to define. There’s comedy, dance, music, drama, storytelling, stand-up, and strange hybrids. Some year, I will attempt to combine every possible style of performing arts with a show called Mein Kampf: The Musical. It will have singing, dancing, storytelling, probably some mime, and it will be a comedy with moments of dramatic relief.*

The all you can eat buffet is a more bizarre comparison, but more accurate. The festival embodies all that I think is good, and a few necessary evils, in live performing arts.

There are something like 800 performances of over 100 shows. It’s impossible to devour it all. But that whole buffet is spread out in front of you, so you feel like you should keep loading up your plate. Some of the shows will be the best thing you ever tasted, others will be amazing delicacies that are not for you, and just a few will be food poisoning covered in a light Hollandaise sauce.

The sickness inducing plays are one of the absolute best things about the festival. Because the festival is non-juried, anyone can put up a show. A lot of the shows that are difficult to sit through are by young, inexperienced performers. The Fringe offers them a place to learn so the world can later have more awesome, experienced performers.

The first show I did at the festival was far from polished. I got cut in the face with a plastic battle axe while wearing a propeller beanie. I got blood on my hand and when I went to toss a fellow performer a rubber chicken, it stuck to my hand because of the band-aid I had sloppily slapped on my fingers backstage. It was not as entertaining as that makes it sound.

Early on, it was also not the most organized festival. One year, I got my cut of the box office directly from the festival producer. He handed me cash in Loring Park. If you are not from Minnesota know this: At the time, it was not unusual for an older man to hand a younger man cash in Loring Park. It was just not usually for doing a comedy show.

The festival is a well organized buffet now. Audiences stand in line for the beef stroganoff, passionately debating whether or not the macaroni n’ cheese needed sausage or if the meat just made the dish too flamboyant.

The performers and the audiences mingle as they rush from show to show and hang out at bars and restaurants. There is a sense of community, energy, and even urgency. After most theater performances, audiences shuffle quickly out of the theater to go hug their televisions and tell them they were missed. The direct connection between artist and audience at the festival is a powerful experience of the “live” part of “live performance.”

The festival has also had great success getting audience members to write online reviews. The vast majority of them are full of passion and excitement to share new discoveries and old favorites. Some are bitter debates. “It’s called MACARONI N’ CHEESE why is there f**king SAUSAGE in it?” A few are posted by straight-up internet trolls. Artists will find themselves chastised by people who don’t use their real names. We thank you for your incredibly strong, often factually inaccurate, and safely anonymous opinions, Butthead 27 and Theatre Luber.**

Again, the reviews are like a buffet. Some of them are delicious. Others are hard to digest but there’s no way for an artist to learn to stomach a coleslaw stuffed turkey dog without the practice.

The festival has been a big part of my life as a writer, performer, and comedian. It’s given me a place to experiment, succeed, fail, and succeed again. I’ve had a chance to interact directly with the audience, both onstage and off. I’ve met hundreds of other artists. I’ve drank thousands of beers with them. And a huge amount of my name recognition and success in Minnesota (and nationally as a playwright) is because of my performances at the Fringe Festival.

My show this year is a comedy about fear called Nightmare Without Pants. Over the years of doing the festival, I’ve learned what dishes I like to create as a writer and performer. It’s a comedy, but there is meat to it. It’s chocolate with chunks of bacon in it.

If you live in or near Minnesota, and that sounds intriguing to your palate, come check it out. And see as many shows as you can before the festival ends on Sunday, August 12th.

Gorge yourself until you are stuffed full of art, entertainment, and opinions about all of it.

Stay out so late drinking beer and/or pepto-bismol that your television starts to wonder where the hell you are.

Thanks.

 

*This is a joke. I will never do this. Hitler doesn’t deserve the press.

**These are not, to my knowledge, real reviewer names. I changed the fake names of people to other fake names to protect the probably not very innocent.

 

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Filed under Comedy Trip, Uncategorized

Blink Blink Blank

The first Kurt Vonnegut novel I read was Breakfast of Champions when I was in 8th grade. After I read it, I developed this opinion: if you accept that the world is a stupid illogical place, then the world suddenly makes a lot more sense. This has always given me a strange comfort. I wrote this story for a group I perform with in the Twin Cities called The Rockstar Storytellers. Our assignment was to write in the style of our favorite author. Thanks, Mr. Vonnegut. Poo-tee-twoot?

Here is what I know:

Algernon Grimshank was a human being on the planet earth. Like most human beings on the planet earth he had the following problem:

He was very smart and yet most of the time he behaved like an absolute idiot. He knew for a fact that most people behaved like idiots, too, and he suspected most of them were smart enough to know he behaved like an idiot. And yet, he tried to pretend he didn’t, which was of course a very idiotic thing to do.

Algernon Grimshank’s personal idiocy manifested itself like this:
He told people he was a writer.

He would go to cocktail parties and high school reunions and say things like:
“Yes, writing is who I am!”
“Yes, writing isn’t about deadlines!”
“Yes, writing is about truth!”
“Yes, yes!”

Here was the truth:
On any given moment, on any given day Algernon would have vastly preferred to sit on his couch, eat pizza, and stare at a television than lift one finger to do anything even remotely productive.

Many of the idiots on planet earth felt this way. But they all thought it was very important to lie to one another about it.

And so Algernon Grimshank spent a ridiculous amount of his short life staring at things that were blank: pieces of paper, his computer screen, his friends’ faces when he told them his story ideas.

Blink blink blank.

Over the years, older wiser idiots had taught Algernon many glib, cliché catchphrases that would help him become a truthful writer.

One of those phrases was this:
Write what you know.

Here is what Algernon Grimshank knew:
Laziness. Horrible soul-crushing sloth. So, one day he decided to write about that. He did research on his subject by looking up sloth on a website called wikipedia.org.

Wikipedia was an online encyclopedia that any yahoo could edit. Many well-educated idiots doubted its truthfulness when compared to a real encyclopedia that could only be edited by a handful of highly trained yahoos.

This is what the ambiguously educated collective of yahoos knew about sloth:
It is a cardinal sin. Like murder, it merits damnation in hell without the possibility of forgiveness. Algernon found it odd that if you plan on killing another human being but don’t really get around to it—you are just as likely to go to hell as if you actually slit someone’s throat.

Blink blink blank.

Next the website told him sloth was sometimes associated with goats and the color light blue. He noted that a citation was needed.

Then the website told Algernon something so idiotic he doubted its truthfulness.

It said:
Each of the seven sins is paired with a patron demon. The patron demon of Sloth was Belphegor. A demon who was sent from Hell by Lucifer to find out if there really was such a thing on earth as married happiness.

The website also told Algernon that Belphegor was Hell’s ambassador to France.

Furthermore, the website told him that Belphegor tempted humans to be slothful by creating ingenious bits of technology which would waste their time.

Like all demons, Belphegor could only be summoned to earth by throwing a sacrifice of some kind on the floor of your home. The sacrifice required by Belphegor was this: shit.

This caused the following sentence to pop into Algernon’s brain against his will:
The mystical portal between Hell and France is poop.

Finally, the website told Algernon that Belphegor was traditionally pictured as an old man sitting on a toilet. Algernon Grimshank never knew that traditional Judeo-Christian demonological iconography could be this low-brow.

He was curious. He looked around his home for something akin to a big piece of shit.

He picked up a copy of his latest half-finished story and threw it on the floor.

POOF! A puff of acrid smoke filled the room and Algernon found himself in the company of an old man on a toilet.

The toilet-man said:
“Hey Buddy! I’m Belephegor! What can Belphegor get for you? Don’t just stare at Belphegor! Belpehgor is here to help you. You got any questions for Belphegor?”

Algernon threw open the wardrobe of his mind and desperately searched for a few words that might go well together. He said:
“Why are you sitting on a toilet?”

Belephegor responded: “It’s like sitting on the truth!”

Blink blink blank.

“Look, Belphegor made something for you, buddy!”

The demon reached a wrinkled hand into the toilet and threw something to Algernon.

It was this:
A light blue Nintendo 3DS portable video game system. Belpehgor pulled one out for himself. The game loaded in both devices was Tetris. They both began to play.

This is how you play Tetris:
You stare at a blank screen. Eventually different geometric shapes fall from the sky. You use your thumbs to jostle buttons so you can make the shapes connect with one another. Once the connected shapes form a complete line they disappear.

You can’t win at Tetris. It’s just a question of how long until you fail.

Hours passed. Belphegor yelled out things like:
“Yes, I just flipped the l-shape!”
“Yes, I just made six hundred and sixty-six lines disappear!”
“Yes! Yes!”

Algernon was enjoying himself. His eyes burned and his thumbs ached. Pieces of half-digested pizza fell in his gut, piling up into a mass of twisted geometric spires. He felt like an idiot. He should be writing, creating. He wanted to make all his words connect and form lines so he could win his next high school reunion.

He was all conflict and no resolution. His story really should end there. Instead, I am going to do something glib and cliché. I am going to insert myself, as the author, into the story. It’s a lousy trick that reeks of post-modernism.

Here is what I know about post-modernism:
It’s an ambiguous term that educated idiots like to bicker about at cocktails parties. We are currently trying to look smart by debating whether or not post-modernism is dead. It’s difficult to decide since none of us can agree on what post-modern meant in the first place. Personally, I think it means to have the creator comment in a knowing way on his or her own narrative.

So with a poof of light blue smoke I enter the room with Algernon Grimshank and say this:
“Hey buddy, I’m your creator! How can I help you? What can I get for you? I’d like to resolve your problems as neatly and quickly as possible.”

Algernon stares. Blink blink blank.

Belphegor tries to throw me my very own Nintendo 3DS, but I’m ready for him. Wikipedia told me the secret to defeat the demon sloth: zeal.

Each of the seven deadly sins is opposed by one of the seven virtues: chastity, moderation, generosity, charity, humility, meekness, and zeal. Putting them all together, they don’t make a lot of sense. I would not want to be in a room with a generous, humble moderate zealot meekly offering to give their chastity to charity.

Eager to save my protagonist from himself, I launch into a zealous tirade! I say things like:
“Yes, you’ve got to write for yourself, not for anyone else!”
“Yes! Writing is like a fire in your soul and you must release it or you will get burned!”
“Yes! Writing isn’t about coming up with answers it’s about asking questions!”
“Yes! Yes! YES!”

A huge flushing sound fills the room and Belpehgor swirls into thin air–sucked back to Hell. Or France. Yes, let’s go with France. Yes.

Finally, Algernon and I are alone together.

He asks the question we idiots rarely ask one another.

He says:
“Did you mean all that or did you just say that because you thought it would impress me?”

Eventually, these words fall out of my mouth and form lines:
“I want to say whatever I have to to win this story.”

Algernon asks:
“But why?”

I answer:
“So I can tell myself that I’ve done something today. Once I’ve done something I can go home. I can sit on my couch, drink whiskey, and watch hours of television while complaining about how shitty the writing is.”

Algernon asks:
“Will that really make you happy?”

I do my best to answer him truthfully.

I say:
Here is what I know.
Here is what I know.
Here is what I know.

A version of this story is also available in my book COMEDY OF DOOM.
Thanks for reading.

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JOHN CARTER of MEH-ARS: An Ignorant Review

There’s a lot of controversy swirling around the internet about the quality of the recently released film, JOHN CARTER.

Personally, I feel like I’m in a great place to help solve this dispute, because I haven’t seen the film.

I’m like that unemployed friend you run into at the bar when you’re in the middle of a complex and sensitive debate with a close friend. I’m going to plop myself down uninvited (probably sitting on the seat backwards in an annoyingly casual manner) and spew my easy solutions. Brace yourself for an unpleasant barrage that reeks of Leinenkugel’s HoneyWeiss, clove cigarettes, and well-intentioned ignorance.

JOHN CARTER is a movie about a guy named John Carter. He’s played by that guy who played Tim Riggins in FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. So this film is basically TIM RIGGINS IN SPACE WITHOUT HIS SHIRT ON. I’m pretty sure he also wears one of those skirts you see Romans wear in gladiator, chariot race, or Easter movies.

A lot of people are mad that they dropped “OF MARS” from the title of the film which leads me to believe most of this movie happens on MARS.

Here’s the thing about MARS: You gotta handle that shit carefully. People make so many associations with MARS. The candy bar, the God of War, not to mention the planet itself. You put MARS in the title and people would be like, “is this just going to be a movie about a War God eating candy bars that is narrated by Carl Sagan?”

No one wants that.

So I bet this movie is grounded in something we can all relate to–like working retail. I bet JOHN CARTER works at Trader Joe’s. There’s a lady cashier he likes but he doesn’t date her because he’s got a little brother to take care of after their parents died. I also heard he’s maybe from Civil War time. So maybe his parents died in the Civil War, but right before they sacrificed themselves to end injustice, they put TIM RIGGINS and his cute orphan brother in this passageway that looked like the underground railroad but was actually a time corridor. Tap that sweet Doctor Who demographic.

So after we spend about 20 minutes setting up all the human emotion stuff, something computer generated happens at Trader Joe’s. There’s probably like a close up of a big rack of Three Buck Chuck shaking, then it explodes and the bottles come flying at you (because I know the movie’s got a lot of 3D showings) and a monster probably comes out of a space portal.

Odds are the monster is a SPIDER FROM MARS. Like David Bowie’s band except they don’t play glam rock, they’re less bi-sexual, and they’re actual spiders. So, Spiders are killing people on MARS and it’s like the CIVIL WAR all over again. TIM RIGGINS’ orphan brother and almost girlfriend were probably killed by the exploding wine racks, so he’s like, “Screw it. I have to go to MARS to fight injustice.”

BIG FIGHT when he first gets to MARS. Really slows down the plot, but there are a lot of cool shots where a half-naked TIM RIGGINS is jumping through the air swinging sharp things. Then–BAM–jump cut to an extreme close up of his sensitive yet steely eyes.

We can tell he is resolved:

HE’S GOING TO MAKE SURE THIS MOVIE GOES ON FOR AT LEAST ANOTHER 90 MINUTES.

I’ve also heard that the book the movie is based on had PRINCESS in the title. So, either it’s like a funny thing where MARS culture is different and they name their new hero PRINCESS or he meets a new girl who is the actual mf’ing PRINCESS of MARS.

(You would think that MARS would have a president or an emperor or something because MARS is a planet in SPACE, and most movies that happen in SPACE are futuristic. But for some reason, the people on MARS are still rocking a monarch based government system. So it’s like someone stripped the plot and drama from GAME of THRONES and put it in space. Which is bold, but dangerous. Because you could end up with like an army of geeks pushing their glasses up and fighting about whether it’s “SCI FI” or “FANTASY.” Two genres they like, but sometimes when you put them together, geeks get really mad and say hurtful things to each other on the internet.)

Anyway, the PRINCESS is probably like, “it has been foretold only you, TIM RIGGINS of THE CIVIL WAR and TRADER JOE’S, can protect us from the SPIDERS of MARS and lead our savage race.” (I’m assuming there’s an insulting thing about their pre-industrial culture because people keep comparing this movie to AVATAR. And AVATAR was just DANCES WITH WOLVES in SPACE. So, on a political level, this movie should be called TIM RIGGINS DANCES WITH DAMAGING SOCIO-CULTURAL STEREOTYPES ON MARS.)

Now admittedly, I don’t know a lot about the actual character of this new MARTIAN PRINCESS love interest, but to be fair, I bet the screenwriters and director don’t either. I can tell you one important thing: she’s not played by Lindsay Lohan. Because everybody would be making a big deal out of that. I can also tell you she’s attractive, scantily clad, and odds are she’s written pretty poorly but does some cool fighting to try to cover up the blatant sexism.

Any-hoo, then we have at least 20 minutes of TIM RIGGINS getting used to MARS. This is a mixture of humor, weight training montages, and a scene where he is taught to use an exotic new weapon. Perhaps a whip with a knife and/or electricity on the tip. He’ll also fall in love with the PRINCESS and maybe find another young orphan boy to mentor. Also, the evil people will be plotting to basically cause a MARTIAN CIVIL WAR so we can build the stakes to the BIG FIGHT AT THE END.

But before the end, I understand we have like a dream team of HBO TV stars. We’ve got McNulty from THE WIRE. We’ve got Walter White from BREAKING BAD. We’ve probably got the SISTER FROM DEXTER. Hell, maybe she’s even the PRINCESS. That would blow my mind.

Now, if you have McNulty, Walter White, and Tim Riggins in a movie and they don’t do a drug deal, that’s just a waste of American culture. That’s an insult to high quality drama. Like you just walked up to the podium on OSCARS night and slapped the greek drama mask right in the face.

So, I’m going to say McNulty is a war-torn savage who wants to change the monarchy system, but can’t. And I’m going to say Walter White is the main villain. Maybe the PRINCESS’ dad who turned evil, and used the RED METH ROCKS FROM THE CRYSTAL CAVE to become THE SPIDER KING.

Anyway, there’s a bunch of plot convolutions, but then there’s a BIG FIGHT. Walter White gets his stupid hat whipped off his head by TIM RIGGINS and all the audience can think about is COACH ERIC TAYLOR BEAMING WITH PRIDE and mumbling, “Good job, son, good job.”

Here are some of the things that come flying at the screen in 3D during the fight: SPIDER PARTS, MARS ROCKS, ARMOR, BRAS, EXPLOSIONS, RED METH.

Walter White is killed. This happens on like a hill or a castle. So a bloodied but victorious TIM RIGGINS can be higher than everybody else just like Hitler in every single shot in Leni Riefenstahl’s THE TRIUMPH OF THE WILL.

The war torn savages, even bitter drunk McNulty, scream and applaud like they just saw a really great stand-up act. TIM RIGGINS makes eye contact with NOT LINDSAY LOHAN and allows himself one brief smirk. Camera zooms into his eye and exciting, modern music that doesn’t make you think of science fiction in any way blasts over the credits.

Then, there’s a post credits sequence where TIM RIGGINS is training his new orphan brother to use the lazer-knife whip, and we see something in the distance–what is it?

It’s TONY FUCKING SOPRANO RIDING A SPACE ELEPHANT.

This means war, this means sequel, this means the next movie will be called JOHN CARTER 2, but everybody will call it JOHN CARTER, ALSO just to be smart-asses.

Okay, so that’s probably what happens, but is the movie any good?

Well, beyond certain objective structural and technical elements, movies are SUBJECTIVE.

Personally, I enjoyed imagining parts of this film and other things I pulled out of my ass really pissed me off and made me glad I haven’t seen it yet.

Bottom line–if you like fantasy, if you like space, if you have a high threshold for stereotypes, and/or you just want to see a topless TIM RIGGINS wearing a Roman Skirt, then this is a great way to spend two hours of your life that you will never get back.

All in all, I give JOHN CARTER, ASS KICKER OF MARS two thumbs. Thumbs don’t always need to be up or down. Sometimes they can just be. Hanging out, chill and cool, like TIM RIGGINS.

Tim Riggins forever, man, Tim Riggins forever.

Thanks for reading or whatever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A DEAD MAN

Last Halloween, I was challenged to write a scary story. So I wrote about the most horrible thing I could imagine. It’s not “creatures popping out of the dark, make you scream, run, and twist your ankle” scary. It’s horrible explicit gore. But not physical gore. It’s emotional, existential gore. It’s like a pompous French film version of Saw. It’s a story about fear. Please try to enjoy “A Portrait of the Artist as a Dead Man.”

John Ludd died accidentally on October 18th, 2011.  He is survived by his parents and some friends. I guess. When reached for comment, his parents simply sighed. John Ludd had no spouse or partner to contact. He also had no children. He didn’t even have pets.

I guess it’s safe to say John Ludd is survived,  begrudgingly, by his parents and the not insubstantial amount of mold growing in his kitchen.

And, of course, his friends. If you could combine the hundreds of people John knew, taking bits and pieces of all them, they would form one or two actual close friends. I, myself, am writing this obituary because you can only play hot potato for so long before that tuber starts to cool down and you have no choice but to say yes.

Don’t get me wrong, John was a nice, fun guy. He was interesting to observe in exactly the same way a black hole is: from far enough away that you don’t risk getting sucked into the void.

But here I go.

John Ludd was a novelist. He was cooking up a great American novel in his head. But there seemed to be an unfortunate blockage between his head and his fingers because, to my knowledge, not a single word of that novel exists in the corporeal world.

John spent his final days on his smartphone playing a game called Words With Friends. Words With Friends should be called A Barely Legal Rip-Off Of Scrabble With Strangers From The Internet. Of course, that’s not quite as appealing. But then honesty never is.

John held a string of crappy office jobs. He would immerse himself in petty office politics—who got to take a longer break, whose key card allowed them to swipe into the slightly nicer bathroom, how come someone threw out his week old frozen pizza leftovers after only giving him three written warnings but no verbal warnings, and on and on.

It was almost as if he needed to cram pointless crap in his head to make sure the great novel simmering in there never had a chance to come to a full boil.

Still, John was not without his accomplishments. He once scored over 120 points in Words With Friends. Even more impressively, he did this by spelling the word “Jazz.” It must be noted, the game only provides one “Z.” So John, in a display of patience and planning rarely seen in his life, had to hold on to the high point letters of “J” and “Z” until a blank tile came up that he could transform into a second “Z.” Luckily, John immediately took a screen capture of the game or this momentous achievement in his life would be lost to the mists of time.

I knew John, as almost everyone did, as that mildly entertaining guy who hung out at the kind of depressing bar that had a really good happy hour deal on Miller High Life. I would call John a bar fly, but comparing him to a weaving darting creature like a fly would not communicate the anchor like weight with which he sat at the bar. John was a bar hippo.

John had an uncanny ability to know exactly how other people should fix their lives with absolutely no ability to apply the same ideas to his own. He would dole out advice like “remember to keep things in perspective” and “just be the best you you can be,” not to mention rhetorical winners like, “Are you afraid to be fearless?”

Sometimes, after a particularly long rant, listeners would comment, “You should write that down, you could use it for your novel.” To which John would reply, “You’re right. Another pitcher sounds like a great idea,”  and launch into yet another cheap beer infused tirade about the mysteries of the universe.

Alas, in my humble opinion, life is like a “life is like” analogy made at a bar late at night. It only makes sense to people who are drunk.

John always said he wanted to die in an interesting, flamboyant manner.  And, well, there’s no way to sugar coat it, he failed at that, too.

John died as he lived. Just fucking sitting there. There was a slow but deadly carbon monoxide leak in his apartment building. Everyone else got out as their alarms alerted them to a problem. Not only had John removed the batteries from his alarm, he had earbuds in and his iPod set to maximum volume. As far as we can tell, the last thing he heard or experienced was Led Zeppelin III. Which isn’t even a particularly good album.

John did not believe in the afterlife. Which should be a comfort to his atheist friends, I guess. And god knows, atheists could use some comfort. After all, atheists are, by definition, cheated out of the opportunity to gloat. When you die and stop existing there’s really no opportunity to say, “I told you so.”

To be perfectly honest, I used to be an atheist.  But after John died, I just can’t. I mean, the man did nothing. It’s frankly amazing that I have so much to say about someone who did so little. I want there to be an afterlife, so John can DO SOMETHING.

Screw the great American novel! Write a cookbook, a haiku, carve a dirty limerick on the back of whatever tablets god’s cooking up for us in the next century. Just make a fucking impression.

In conclusion, John Ludd was a novelist.

He had a great novel.

In his head.

He once tried to shotgun a beer out of a glass bottle.

There will probably be a small, informal memorial service at the bar during happy hour. Maybe we’ll scratch his name on his favorite stool. And we’ll share memories.

One last memory before I go. John often talked about what he would do after his novel was published and he made a bunch of money. He described this moment as “when his ship comes in.” It always struck me as a pretty depressing turn of phrase for someone who lives in the middle of the land-locked Midwest. But in all fairness, I think a lot of us are waiting for our ships to come in.

Allow me to close by sharing my new personal motto. A motto that is, at the very least, co-written with John Ludd.

If all I intend to do with my life is wait for my ship to come in, the least I can do is move a little closer to the fucking ocean.

Thank you.

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May The Tweets Be With You

As an important writer (who was probably trying to avoid spending time writing) once wrote, “Write what you know.”  The internet tells me this quote is from Mark Twain.  According to the internet, everything ever uttered in the universe tripped lightly from the lips of Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and X where X equals a famous person who died recently.

As a writer, I follow an amended version of this common wisdom: “Write about the stuff you keep thinking about that is preventing you from writing.”  This motto has caused me to write stories, sketches, and entire plays about donuts, squirrels, video games, Kinko’s, kidnapping theater critics, horrible blind dates, the French, legitimate 1099-C tax deductions, whiskey, and much more.

This summer, as a deadline loomed for The Rockstar Storytellers, a spoken word group based in the Twin Cities, I found myself obsessively making jokes about Star Wars on twitter.  Knowing that procrastination is just a really negative word for muse, I wrote a new piece about the plot of Star Wars as told through the twitter feed of the main characters.

The performance in this video, filmed at the sci-fi/fantasy convention CONvergence as part of my geek flavored show, The Comedy of Doom, is the ultimate result.  Please, ignore your writing or other important life tasks and enjoy.

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