Friday, December 23, 2005

An Exact* Transcript of a phone conversation between me and Kammi Kazi

And by exact, I mean EXACTLY . . . as I remember it.

Though we work on the same floor of the same office building, right down the hall from each other, my friend, Tough Cookie teammate, and co-worker, Kammi Kazi, and I have fallen into the worst habit of calling each other from our desks. Usually, I don't actually walk to her desk unless it's REALLY IMPORTANT -- and yes, by important, I mean gossip that will take more than a minute or two to discuss over the phone.

This is a prime example of what we two grizzled Derby Dolls tend to talk about:


Guess what I’m eating right now.

The pumpkin bread?

Kammi makes this really, really amazing pumpkin bread, which she brings in for the people at work when she's in the holiday mood. She gave me the recipe, but unfortunately the reception of this recipe coincided with the "discovery" that I would need to lose all the weight I had gained in the last three months in order to get back in Derby Doll shape, so I hadn't been able to make it -- though obviously I didn't let that stop me from enjoying the loaves she made.

It’s soooo yummy. I came into the kitchen and saw Mercedes [the office housekeeper] putting it out. And it was like, “Yay!” I would’ve taken two pieces, but she was looking.

What are you doing at work so early?

This conversation is taking place around 7:15 in the morning. Normally I get to work around 8. 8:30 if I'm running late, which I usually only let happen on days that end with a "y".

Well, I’ve got to leave early. I’ve got a 3:45 appointment at the DMV. I lost my license.

Oh no.

Yeah, it’s so stupid. I have no idea where I put it and I looked everywhere.


And it’s even worse, because you have to physically go into the DMV to pick up a new license.

Yeah, that sucks.

Going back over this conversation in my mind, I wonder if Kammi is making sympathetic sounds of listening while doing other things. I wonder this not because I think Kammi an awful person, who won’t give her undivided attention to listening to me whine, but because I do this all the time. And it makes me feel like less of an awful person who won't give her undivided attention to listening to her friends whine when I imagine other people doing the same to me.

And normally, I’d try to go without a license rather than standing in line at the DMV…


But it’s Christmas and I’m terrified I’m going to get pulled over in one of those alcohol testing drag net thingies they do.

Well, you know, if you’re ever driving on the highway, and you see one of those signs that says there’s drug or alcohol testing up ahead. Don’t get off at the next exit. Because that’s actually where they’ve set up the net.


Don’t ask me how I know that.


I’m betting it’s a story. A really long one.

Anyway, here’s that pumpkin bread recipe -- it really is yummy:

Pumpkin Bread
3cups sugar
1c. oil
2c pumpkin
1 1/2tsp cinnamon
1tsp. nutmeg
2/3c. water
3 1/3c flour
2tsp baking soda
Mix all together and bake at 350* for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean and sides start to pull away from the pan. Makes 3 loaves.

Winter Solstice

Yesterday was Winter Solstice

And I went to sleep early.

Even in California, I resent the winter, and can’t wait for the spring.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Mo Daily Show

Daily Show Update.

From the yet to be announced (or even written) play, The Inner-Struggles of a Black, Female Daily Show Fan.

(while surfing on my laptop)
Hey, check it out. The Daily Show FINALLY hired ANOTHER female writer. Her name’s Rachel Axler. Yay!!!

Samantha Bee’s really pregnant. She's probably going on maternity leave.

(with a sad sniff)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Jeans of Champions

Today, I emailed the head of our department and asked if we could wear jeans to work with our Christmas sweaters for the Holiday Potluck, and he said yes. And now everyone is acting like I’m a huge hero for asking. I mean people have literally been coming up to my desk and thanking me all day.

This is a problem, for two reasons:

Much like some inmates prefer to keep their heads down and not to socialize with the general prison population while they serve out their sentences, I don't really like to talk to the other people at work. Also

I’m listening to Breakfast of Champions right now, and I’ve discovered that there’s nothing worse than being interrupted during a Kurt Vonnegut story. Checkit:

Stanley Tucci: (the actor lending his voice to this audiobook): Leon walked into the bar and picked up [recurring character’s] book. He had taken a speed-reading course some years before, so he was able to read very quickly. *

Co-Worker: Hey, Ernessa.

I take off my earphones.

Me: Yes?

Co-Worker: Is it true we can wear jeans to tomorrow’s potluck?

Me: Yes, that’s what Dave said.

Co-Worker: Wow, really?

Me: Yes, really.

Co-Worker: So what happened? You asked, and he just said yes?

Me: Yeah.

Now I'm holding one earphone near my ear, trying to signal that I'd like to go back to my Ipod now.

Co-Worker: Wow. That’s great. Well, I’m definitely going to wear jeans tomorrow.

Me: Yeah, me, too.

Co-Worker: Thanks!

Me: No problem.

I put one earphone back in and start to turn back to my computer.

Co-Worker: Seriously, thanks!

Me: Seriously, it was no problem.

I put the other earphone back in.

Stanley Tucci: Leon began to beat his mistress, believing that she had only slept with him, so that he would buy her a KFC. *

Me: What the fuck???

Now imagine this scenario happening all dang day, and you’ll know why I went home in a seriously bad mood during the “happiest time of the year.”

Plus, I’m still sore from Monday’s practice.

Poor Betty Disable.

*Of course this prose is only an approximation of Mr. Vonnegut's brilliant text.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My Favorite TV of 2005

Perhaps it’s become apparent in recent blogs that I’ve totally fallen off the TV addiction wagon. If not, here’s further proof :

1. Boondocks: Best new show on television. Brilliant and political and subversive and controversial. It upsets me that one of the most intriguing shows on television is tucked away on Cartoon Network.

2. Battlestar Galactica: So many other people have this on their list, I feel that I don’t having anything to add to the discussion. It’s kind of like writing a paper on Shakespeare at this point. What else can you say, other than "That's right! What he said!"

3. House: My new Law & Order and the first medical procedural drama that actually seems to work. I love that I can watch this any time and anywhere, and I’m working on not minding that horrible soft light they always put on Sela Ward. Though I’m dying to know if the powers-that-be on that show or ageist or if she’s insisted on it in her contract.

4. My Name is Earl: Hella funny. I mean hella funny. So funny it actually made me write the words, “Hella funny.” I can’t believe Jaime Pressley didn't win the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a comedy. She definitely deserves an Emmy.

5. Veronica Mars: I've never liked Nancy Drew, but man, I dig this chyck.

6. The Shield: Glenn Close – Michael Chiklis, I mean what more is there to say. Plus, CCH Pounder!

7. Nip/Tuck: How can something so delicious also be so well-written? It’s like really tasty, non-fat cheesecake. One would think it couldn’t be done…

8. America’s Next Top Model: What? I said what? You know you snooty bitches watch it, too.

9. Desperate Housewives: One of my new pet peeves is men who complain about how much they dislike this show. Shut the fuck up, we don’t complain about that slut, James Bond, or that psycho, Scarface, you like to hang out with. I shouldn’t have to keep on defending this show . . . or Oprah.

10. The Office: This show would have been higher on my list, but as an office worker, sometimes this show can be really, really true – and that’s not funny.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Betty Disable

Today I went back to practice after a three-month absence and 10+ pound weight gain.

This morning, I had been thinking about doing a blog about how gaining the pounds felt terrible on my conscious but looked great on my chest.

But now I hurt. Like everywhere.

I’ve always been more of a sprinter than an endurance runner – Seriously, the last time I ran a non-treadmill mile, I was in the 6th grade. And even at the height of my roller derby fitness, jamming during practice rendered me all wheezy if I had to do it more than once.

During my absence, which was at first due to business, and then due to laziness, I was somehow managing to convince myself that I was letting the lessons of roller derby really sink into my bones.

I found out today that this wasn’t the case. I could only hang with the pace line for five-minute stints. Not only could I not do the sideways stop our coach was trying to teach us for most of practice, I realized that I would have to re-teach myself power slides and transistions (turning from front to back while skating really fast).

By the end of practice, I was really snotty -- I mean literally snotty. The most disgusting and undocumented biological fact about roller derby is that often when you skate outdoors and above your fitness level, your sinuses just open up, and by the time you're finished with warm up, green stuff is rolling profusely out your nose. Also I was sweaty and cold and really ashamed of myself.

I’m hoping to get back to Kid Vicious status in the next few months. But for now just call me Betty Disable.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Customary Bloggers

Today I went to a reading of Customary Monsters, a play written by my friend and fellow CMU Dramatic Writing Program survivor, Kyle Wilson.

Afterwards at the reception, we got to talking about our respective blogs, with another friend and writer, Debra Boyle, pointing out that I hadn’t updated mine in a really, really long time.

I immediately felt bad, because, I, too, often suffer from the horrible malady of Boredatworkitis, and I know it’s hard when the blogs that I read regularly aren’t updated. Once, when one of my favorite blogs, Overhead Lines, took like a whole week to post new entries, I nearly wrote the blogmaster an angry email. But then I realized it was the holidays . . . and I hadn’t updated my blog either . . . and it’d be lame.

“Yeah,” I said to Debra and Kyle. “I think I’m just going to start writing new entries and back dating them.”

So I started doing that, and now I feel I like it much better. Blogging for me has become like writing a memoir – which I’ve always been good at. As opposed to a keeping a diary – which I’ve never been able to do. Somehow even as a stupid teenager, I knew my teenage thoughts were too inane to record. I would start writing something like, “I really like Billy Henderson” – and then I'd stop to write yet another unpublishable novel about high schoolers in psychologically abusive relationships with vampires – don’t ask, I thought it was really romantic at the time.

Plus, it gives me time to reflect and really think over the events of my life. I’ve been loving writing about being depressed when I’m happy, about lovely times when I’m sad, and about being really insane when I’m only a little insane.

Does this violate blog ethics? What are blog ethics anyway? Lemme know what you think.

Yesterday – and by "yesterday" I mean February 2, 2006, I received a really nice email from my ol’ college bud, Johanna. Here’s the bit that kind of pertains to this post:
And I TOO take time to read your bloggie frequently (something about these temp jobs...they encourage blog overload), though I remain deeply confused as to why I can only see entries from a month ago. Today, for example, I can see an entry from Friday, Dec. 9, 2005. And while I'm sure your Christmas fudge was delicious, I'm curious as to what's happened since...oh...the new year came. And all. :)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Couple's First Christmas Party

Here are the top three highlights:

3. I made white chocolate Christmas fudge with cranberries and almonds, which everybody said they loved . . . after I shoved one of the plates of fudge (placed in five locations throughout the party) at them and said, “Have you tried the fudge? No? Well, you should. I made it from scratch. No, I mean it, you’ve got to try it. I said, TRY IT. Yeah, there you go. How do you like it? You love it? Wow! Gee, thanks. Well, I’ve got to go mingle, but you’re not going to toss the fudge as soon as I turn my back are you? Because CH has a basement that not a lot of people know about. Why are you backing away? I’m not threatening you, darlin’ -- I’m just saying you might want to finish the fudge…” Anyway, remind me to post the recipe next Christmas.

2. For the first time, all my friends from my separate undergrad, graduate school, Derby Doll, and artistic lives gathered together under one roof . . . and then separated into their respective groups in different parts of the house. The Segregationists of the Year award goes to the Writers & Assorted Artists, who disappeared to the deck above the garage a mere hour into the party and only came down at the end to do Alize shots and take pictures in front of the tree.

1. Before the party, CH and I watched A Year without Santa Claus, which I had somehow never seen. After a careful academic viewing, I concluded that this movie had been cheated not only out of an Emmy for TV movie of the year, but also out of a Grammy for the Heatmeiser/Coldmeiser gem.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My Favorite Movies of 2005

God, I’m sick of introductions to lists. So without further ado, here’s my Best of 2005 Movie list.

1. Me and You and Everyone We Know: My absolute favorite movie of the year hands down. Made me realize the beauty of being an artist again. Plus, the kid that plays the youngest brother is hella cute.

2. The New World: So. Fucking. Beautiful. I didn’t quite know what to do. I’ve never been disappointed by a Terrence Malick (Badlands, Thin Red Line) film, and I’d say this was finest effort yet. And Malick’s natives show up the ones in King Kong for the simple puppet characters they are.

3. Speak: Ridiculously well-done for a cable movie. It broke my heart and made me proud to have once been a girl at the same time.

4. Serenity: So much fun. And well-written. Afterwards, I commented to my fellow friends and playwrights, Clark and Rob, that you could write a book on Joss Whedon structure.

5. 40-Year-Old Virgin: Front to end laughs. Best comedic ending of 2005.

6. The Family Stone: I cried like a fucking baby. I still get a little teary just thinking about it. So unexpectedly good.

7. Battlestar Galatica: Though it originally aired on the Sci-Fi channel in 2004, I didn’t have the pleasure of viewing this movie until Summer 2005. It immediately blew my mind and captured my imagination. Made me consider the reality and hard work of government in a way that my civics class never could.

8. Kung Fu Hustle: Most visually satisfying comedy since Amelie with fantastic action scenes to boot.

9. Syriana: It’s depressing because it’s true (though sorta fictitious). Anyway, it made me want to become an expat – I mean even more than I already want to.

10. Brokeback Mountain: Best human drama of the year in my opin.

Now an excerpt from my latest inner-dialogue mind play, Confessions of a Trifling Blogger:

You the Reader: Ernessa, if this blog dated December 8th, why come you mentionin’ movies that didn't premiere til the end of December (i.e. New World, King Kong) ?

Me, the Blogger: Sssh, don’t worry yo’ pretty lil’ head about it, baby.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What You Say?

My friend and fellow playwright, Sallie Patrick, wrote one of her very first blog entries about her love of quotes. And I’d have to agree.

Having gathered this list throughout the year, I'm somewhat surprised by what did and didn’t make it. None of the songs I’ve quoted will appear in my upcoming Top Ten Songs blog. Only one of the books I’ve quoted made it on to my top ten books list. And as much TV as I watch, only one thing from that medium appears on this list.

It’s strange how a quote can worm its way into your heart and conscious, staying with you long after you’ve forgotten or ceased to care about the larger work from which it was weened.

The Best Bitter Stuff:

Love’s an excuse to get hurt. And to hurt . . . Do you like to hurt? – Bright Eyes, “Lover I Don’t Have to Love”

I wish I could buy back the woman you stole. – Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, “Y-Control”

It’s not fair how a woman never has to think about shit to keep from coming. Vic, Choke, Chuck Palahunik

There are people in this life who believe being the biggest victim will get them the biggest pork chop at the dinner table. – Hosanna Clark, What You Owe Me, Bebe Moore Campbell

The Spirit’s in the Words:

I am my own priest. – Hosanna Clark, What You Owe Me, Bebe Moore Campbell

God is change. – Lauren Olamina, Parable of the Talents, Octavia Butler

All that you touch you change. – Lauren Olamina, Parable of the Talents, Octavia Butler

Belief initiates and guides action or it does nothing. – Lauren Olamina, Parable of the Talents, Octavia Butler

Half of me is ocean. Half of me is sky. – Tom Petty, “Walls (No. 3)”

Have I Mentioned I’m a Tortured Artist . . .

Nobody becomes an artist unless they have to. – Mother, White Oleander, Janet Fitch

Imagination uses what it needs and discards the rest. Mother, White Oleander, Janet Fitch

Don’t cherish anything. The artist is the phoenix who burns to emerge. Mother, White Oleander, Janet Fitch

Every writer has a splinter of ice in the heart.” – Graham Greene as quoted by P.D. James on NPR

What do I myself think of this particular book? I feel lousy about. But I always feel lousy about my books. – Kurt Vonnegut, Preface, Breakfast of Champions.

…With a Day Job:

“Hard work” is a misleading term. Physical effort and long hours don’t really constitute hard work. Hard work is when someone pays you to do something you’d rather not be doing. Any time you’d rather be doing something other than the thing you’re doing, you’re doing hard work. – George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?

Weirdly Brilliant Quotes from Weirdly Brilliant People:

You should take all [that bitterness] and put it in a play. -- Kyle Wilson

A man goes into a marriage thinking, “Lord, I hope she don’t never ever change. Everything will be alright if she just don’t change.” And a woman goes into a marriage thinking, “Lord, I hope this man change. Everything’s going to be alright if he just makes some changes.” Truth is, ain’t neither of them going to be getting what they want. Those really aren’t very realistic expectations. – Ernest T. Carter (yes, my father)

If you can, try not to quote yourself. You’ll just come off looking like a self-absorbed asshole. – Ernessa T. Carter

And the Random Rest:

An unspeakable beauty announced itself. – Specimen Days, Michael Cunningham

We call them stars, but the ones that shine the brightest are actually planets.” – Liz Phair on NPR.

The boy was as beautiful as Eve. – Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

So it goes. -- Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

Don’t judge me! – My Name is Earl, Brett Butler as Earl’s ex-wife’s mother-in-law, after it’s discovered that she’s been lying about wheelchair bound, needing dialysis, and a gambling addiction to which she lost Joy’s new car and her husband’s business.

When I get depressed, I take a little pill, and I cheer up again. And so on. – Kurt Vonnegut, Preface, Breakfast of Champions

You want to know who I am? Who am I? I am who I say I am, and tomorrow someone else entirely. Mother, White Oleander, Janet Fitch

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

An Exact* Transcript of a Cell Phone Conversation with my Sister

And by exact, I mean exactly as I remember it.

So the other day, I'm riding in the car with CH and he says his favorite Notorious B.I.G. song is "Mo Money, Mo Problems" because he said "it's absolutely true."

Oh my God, that's so true!


So, so true!


Truly, truly, true! Seriously, I was just like thinking the same thing yesterday.

Having just balanced my pitiful check book that morning :

Really? Because I was just thinking that the only people who say "mo money, mo problems" are people who've forgotten or don't know what's it's like to be poor.

Sigh . . .You know, Ernessa, when they pay you a lot of money to do something, that means they want more out of you.

As a person who doesn’t get paid a lot for her seriously unstressful job, talking to a family member who gets paid a lot for her weirdly stressful one, I take IMMEDIATE and TOTAL offense.

I can't believe you just said that.


There are people who get paid like absolute shit to do the most stressful jobs.


Do you really think you work harder than a coal miner? Hmm, do you?


Cuz you don't.

I'm just saying money has its share of problems, too

I know that. Really I know that. On my worse days, I’m probably happier than Donald Trump. Smarter than Paris Hilton. Much less evil than George Bush.

And I'm a ton less stressed out than my sister, the person who had to cancel her Thanksgiving trip home, while everyone else got their holiday because she’s an Operations Engineer, the one in charge when things at the chemical factory go apeshit – like they did the day before Thanksgiving.

And my problem list only has 35 entries. Still something mean and stubborn in me makes me answer, “And I’m just saying I don’t agree.”

She gets quiet and changes the subject.

And when the lovely self-righteous anesthesia wears off, I’m grateful that the perfect answer to my assertion that “Mo money doesn’t equal mo problems” never occurred to her:

She could have just said “How would you know?”

That would stung me so bad that I would have had to repeat the story to everyone I know with a hint of chagrinned pride in my voice. Like the roller derby story. Have I told you the roller derby story? Well, here it goes:

Back in April ‘05, the Friday before my second roller derby match, I was talking to my sister on the phone. It was 7pm here.

My shy chemical engineer of a sister, who doesn’t have much of a social life, always asks me about all the social things I have planned for the night, before she gets off the phone.

I rarely say, “Nothing,” and I do believe this is why she keeps me around. Actually I know this is why she keeps me around, because when I decided not to date for three months, she was the only one who didn’t encourage me in this and in fact accused me of being boring a mere two weeks in.

Anyway, during this same non-dating period, she asked me what I was going to be doing with my Friday night. And I told her I was really sore from all the extra practice, so I was going to soak in the bath, and then put on a ton of Ben-gay.”

Without missing a beat, she said, “Strange, I was just talking to Grandma, and she said that’s what she’s doing tonight, too.”

I was so stunned, all I could do was laugh. But maybe that was for the best, because even now, when I think back on it, the only answer I can come up with is, “Well, I’m watching Farscape on Netflix, too. Grandma doesn’t watch Farscape. Grandma probably doesn’t even know about Farscape.”

And I don’t think that would have been much of a comeback.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sunday Perfect Sunday

Sunday I woke up and two thoughts immediately occurred to me:

1. Tonight was the night that the 10 minute play I had written in 48 hours would premiere as part of the White Elephant Play Festival.


2. I wasn’t going to freak out.

No, I wasn’t going to freak out, even thought the 10-minute alien play, which I sent off with total confidence on Tuesday, was not looking so great in the cold pre-show-actually-getting-seen-by-people morning light .

And yes, the director had called me three days ago, asking about the appropriateness of the aliens laughing at extinct human race, apparently not realizing how scientific and serious these aliens were supposed to be, though I had written the quite explicit alien description of “serious to the point of innocence” in the very first frickin’ stage direction – but I wasn’t going to freak out.

Everything would be fine. And even if it wasn’t going to be fine, there was nothing I could do about it, because unlike a proper play, this whole thing was totally out of my control – so I wasn’t going to freak out.

Or hyperventilate.

Like I started doing when I thought about all the things that could possibly go wrong and being embarrassed in front of the few people I had actually invited.

“I don’t think you should go,” I said to CH as we were looking at trees in Boy Scout lot in Glendale.

“I don’t know what to say to that, since I’m obviously going,” answered CH.

So I decided to just let it go. To not even think about it. To completely clear it from my mind.

“I mean the great thing about L.A. is no one expects good theater when they come out to your event,” I observed to CH while we were unpacking the ornaments we had gotten for the tree. “So if it’s terrible, people won’t be upset with me, they’ll just—“

“It’s not going to be bad,” said CH. He sounded kind of tired.

“How do you know?”

“Because you’re a good writer,” he answered. Still sounding really tired.

“So’s Stephen King,” I pointed out. “And he’s written some really, really crappy books. What’re you going to do if it’s terrible? I think you should dump me. There’s no reason to date a terrible writer.”

He paused. Mind you I had warned him repeatedly in words and with my last play that I was really neurotic. But I think he was just now starting to really get the magnitude of my affliction.

“It’s not going to be terrible,” he finally said.

“Dude, you’re going to feel really bad if it does turn out to be terrible."

CH then gave me like my kazillionth hug of the day and tells me to stop worrying.

So I did.

I focused on enjoying the perfect California weather and our perfect tree on this perfect, perfect Sunday.

“I think we should both just stay here and not go to the play,” I said to CH, two hours later at the CMU annual holiday party. We were eating hor d’voures, and they really were yummy, despite the rising taste of total hysteria in my mouth.

“Stop it,” he said.

“No, seriously…”

“You have to go,” he said.

“No I don’t,” I answered. “I don’t have to do anything but BE BLACK and DIE.”

And, yes, I said it that dramatically, because my terror was so great, it had come to this. It had come to cliché.

After nine hours of my non-stop Woody Allen impression sans the icky adoptive daughter aspect, CH finally started ignoring me.

I admired him for lasting that long. And as he changed the subject, I finally took a hold of myself. I decided for once and for all that I would control my fear and not allow it to control me.

Seriously, like I had read Jane Fonda once say, “Courage is fear that’s taken a really deep breath.”

So I took a really deep breath.

And I said sorry ahead of time to all the friends that came out that night for my play.

And I somehow managed not to faint when the director said, “We’ll see,” with a wan smile before the show.

And I drank two Jack & Cokes before the curtain went up.

And I wondered before my play started how it was possible to be so cold yet sweating at the same time.

And I finally made the connection between the term “cold sweat” and what I felt every time I watched a play I had written performed in front of an audience.

And then I decided to never ever write anything again, because this emotional shit wasn’t worth it.

And then the play went great.

The actors playing the aliens were totally serious to the point of innocence.

Everybody laughed – even me . . . once.

Afterwards, the director, gave me a happy hug.

And all my friends called me a big, fat, liar.

“Honey, it really was great,” CH said to me later that night as we were putting the lights on the Christmas tree.

I just smiled and said, “Thanks." Like no big deal.

I mean, seriously dude, it was just a play.

Much more importantly, the tree turned out really nice. Check it out:

Friday, December 02, 2005

Speaking of Seth MacFarlane...

Does anyone else find it strange that Seth MacFarlane has created not one, but two long-suffering cartoon sitcom housewives that have substance-abuse laced pasts as big ole ho bags?

I mean . . . it’s kind of weird. Because either he’s really lazy and couldn’t be bothered to create an original wife for American Dad, which is bad.

Or like Wes Anderson, he has a few parenting issues he’s trying to work out through his art.

Hey, Seth, I’ve got Oedipus on the phone, and dude, he says you’re really creepin’ him out.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Carpe Yearem - Best Books

Yay! ‘Tis the first day of December, so you know what that means: The obsessive countdown to the end of the year is on, baby!

So this month, instead of enjoying the last days of the year, I’ll be analyzing the ones that have already passed with the religious fervor of the Best Week Ever crew on speed.

In other words, I’ll spend most of December being a typical American.

First up, my top ten books of the year.

Just so you know, this list isn’t compiled from books that were actually released this year – just the books I read this year.

Yes, I know I’m a tad self-involved.

No, that’s not going to keep me from posting this list anyway.

Yes, I'm going to keep this yes-no bit going.

No, I’m not proud of myself.

Yes, I am starting to feel a bit like Seth MacFarlane.

So in particular order:

1. Colors Insulting to Nature by playwright Cintra Wilson. It’s funny because it’s really cynical – and true. It somehow made me feel both better and worse about being a wannabe. If you’re in any way associated with the Biz, you must read this yesterday.
2. The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. Listening to this book made me remember everything I like about myself and the world – which is pretty hard, since I’m cynical.
3. Big Love by Sarah Dunn. Every recovering female Jesus freak in America needs to read this yesterday.
4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Somehow these British, boarding school clones revealed more about human relations, than most books I’ve read about actual humans this year. So pissed that the Island’s (probably deserved) dismal box office will keep this book from becoming a movie anytime soon.
5. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. I suspected that rogue economist, Levitt, chose his co-writer because they kind of have the same first name, but this little book turned out to be hugely intriguing. Plus, knowing about the depressed economics of most gang members is the only thing keeping me off the streets.
6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Once I got past the fact that the author is a dead ringer for my friend Kyle Wilson (see the freaky resemblance below), I totally loved this doggie murder-mystery told from the view point of an autistic narrator.

Which is which?

7. The Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler/The Traveller by John Twelve Hawks. In a world where economics drive authors to put out a book a year, often with total disregard for quality, Octavia Butler continues to be one of the best sci-fi writers of her generation. And she’s always worth the wait. The Traveller isn’t nearly as well written -- Think Michael Crichton on a bland, even more ham-handed day – but this debut science fiction manages to feel like a very real take on modern times. It made me want “go off the grid” and move to the desert.
8. The New Rules by Bill Maher. Bill Maher is obviously a really obnoxious asshole with really good politics. If I met him on the street I’d probably despise him. But this book is like weirdly fucking funny and it makes me really fucking love him.
9. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn: This book completely traumatized me. I still can’t really put the experience of reading it into words. Tim Burton holds the movie rights, but I don’t think even he will ever be able to get this made.
10. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini/Life of Pi by Yann Martel: Two books that actually deserve all the hype they’ve gotten.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

New Pet Peeve #1

New Pet Peeve #1

If I hear one more radio announcer say, “Happy Whatever,” like having three whole holidays to possibly account for has made him weary with the weight of the PC world on his shoulders, I’m going to write a letter.

Not really. I never actually write letters, just threaten to. But I am writing this peeved blog, which is just as good, if not better—

Anyway, could everyone just say, “Happy Holidays,” and get on with your lives? Because when people say, “Happy Whatever,” it just makes me think that Americans are actually lazier and more self-involved than people throughout the world already give us credit for.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The White Elephant in the Room – Part 3

I woke up this morning, got in the shower, and suddenly the 10 minute play I’ve been trying to write for the 48 Hour White Elephant Festival was there. Sometimes it’s like that. One minute you don’t have a play, and the next you do.

I was listening to NPR on CH’s shower radio, and they were talking about how we grow the flu virus in hen’s eggs. And I thought to myself, “I wonder what the aliens will think of that?”

For whatever reason, I have always worried about what the aliens will think of us when they see and hear the stuff they find floating around in space about us – not to mention what they’ll think if we do finally manage to make ourselves extinct and they excavate the planet. I wonder if they’ll cluck their tongues over our short-sighted policies. If they’ll judge us for our rampant materialism. If they’ll label us the Neanderthal species.

Some people have their neighbors, the Jones. I have the aliens.

But as I recently told my friend, Kaboom, one of the best things about being a writer is there’s nothing such as a bad/crazy idea, thought, or experience. It’s all MATERIAL that will one day be harvested and honed into something, that hopefully you, as a writer, can feel makes the bad experience, guilt, or intense alien worry entirely worth it.

Tonight, I came home from work and wrote the whole thing from front to back with a quick rewrite. I even managed to get it in on time despite the allure of a new episode of “House,” which meant putting off my weekly every-character-other-than-House impression.

Just in case you’re wondering, here’s how it goes: Imagine me with a worried look on my face, asking an imaginary House every single dang week, “What if you’re wrong, House? Then the patient will die!”

Monday, November 28, 2005

The White Elephant in the Room – Part 2 – 0 pages

24 hours into the 48 Hours I have to write a play for the White Elephant Play Festival, I have:

1. Sent out an evite for the holiday party that CH and I are throwing at his house on December 9.
2. Watched all the Houses, Bones, and CSIs in CH’s Tivo backlog.
3. Told CH, his mother, my sister, my best friend, and whoever else has been unlucky enough to ask how I’m doing, that I have no idea what I’m going to write about for the 48 Hour Festival.
4. Finished reading Melissa Bank’s (of The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing fame) new novel, The Wonder Spot. It’s been six year’s since her debut novel sold like hotcakes and helped fuel the American Chick Lit craze). And it’s really good. It also makes me nostalgic for the late nineties, when chick lit used to be smart.
5. Gotten angry at Jennifer Weiner (of In Her Shoes fame) for not only never writing another novel as well-thought out as In Her Shoes, but also for the hours of my life I lost reading, Goodnight, Nobody her trite, exceedingly self-indulgent, thoroughly unexamined foray into murder-mystery, mom lit. My hate burns like an oil well.
6. Downloaded from I-Tunes
a. D4L “Laffy Taffy”
b. Three Six Mafia “Stay Fly”
c. Tegan & Sara“Where Does the Good Go?”
d. Beyonce & Slim Shady “Check on It”
e. Franz Ferdinand “Do You Want To”
f. 112 “U Already Know”
g. Roxy Music “Avalon”
h. Bruce Springteen “Born to Run”
7. Listened to 6’s a – f on repeat way more times than my audiologist would probably recommend.
8. Wondered if an ear doctor would really be called an audiologist.
9. Had an eye exam and bought new glasses. Yay, insurance!
10. Wrote exactly 0 words of the 10 minute play that’s due tomorrow at midnight.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The White Elephant in the Room – Part 1 – 0 pages

Tonight, I left CH and his mom for the night, so that I could go to the Unknown Theater, and draw a prop and actors for the White Elephant Plays, a 48-Hour play festival, which I was asked to participate in after Brett Webster, the Unknown Play Project's director, attended a performance of Grown-Ups on the Playground.

The way it was staged, six directors brought along six, anonymous wrapped Christmas presents. We writers then had to choose a present, which would then inspire our 10-minute holiday-themed play. And whosever present we chose would also be the director of our play.

This was supposed to be an off-the-cuff, crazy experiment of a project. So of course I had been thinking about what I was going to write about for days. And I pretty much had it all figured out.

Then I opened my present and found a wine glass. With a lipstick stain on the rim – in other words, a prop I could in no way work into the plot I had already written out in my head.

My heart sank.

Dude, I’m fucked.

Thanksgiving Gabble Gobble

I don’t really have that much clever stuff to say about my holiday. So here’s a bit of a rundown:

Drove with CH up to his grandma’s place in Santa Maria. She’s a really good cook and made a sweet potato marshmallow thingy that almost made up for me not having sweet potato pie this Thanksgiving. Almost. But not really. CH announced that he doesn’t really like sweet potatoes.

After much deliberation, I decided that I loved him anyway.

His grandmother brought out that these cool stereoscope glasses and these even cooler sepia-print stereoscope pictures of 50’s Germany. Now I had never heard of, much less seen stereoscope glasses before.

They looked kind of like this.

And when you look through the lens at the special stereoscope photos, you see a 3D picture of such integrity I felt I could walk into the ones without people in them. People end up coming out a little 2D in stereoscope. Like an early version of the green screen.

CH’s mom flew out from Texas, and she was really cool. A bit of a character with white hair (which I’ve become unaccustomed to on women over 60, after living in L.A. for three years.) and really sharp eyes.

Afterwards we drove back down to L.A. and lazed around like ticks on a Thanksgiving dog. She made clam chowder, which I’ve never eaten outside of a can at home. It was really, really good.

Last, but not least, we all went to see the Festival of Lights, which dazzled me. I felt like an 80’s kid again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Is one of my favorite shows on television.

And I’ve tried and tried and tried not to mind, but after six years, I feel that I just have to say:

It seriously bothers me that one of the seemingly smartest, most liberal, most progressive shows on television

Has a writing and correspondent staff made up entirely of white men.

And Samantha Bee.

Who I believe is 10 times cleverer than Robert Corddry, yet gets about a tenth of the air time that he does.

Maybe less.

Organizations with more diverse of a staff than the Daily Show’s core team:

The current Republican Administration.

The 700 Club team.

The Jane Austen Society.

The Fox News Team

About every single organization of the Daily Show’s size and power in the United States of America.

Even their “special correspondent” Lewis Black …. Is White.

I mean, come on.

Even more disturbing, other liberal or progressive shows that have about the same amount of diversity as "The Daily Show."

1. Real Time with Bill Maher: no chycks, no people of color.
2. Left, Right, and Center: All dudes and Arianna Huffington. When Arianna (the progressive) goes on vacation, she's not substituted. In my eleven months of listening to the program, Bob Scheer (the Left) and Tony Blankley (the Right) have always been replaced by white men, when they have to take a vacation. And as far as I can tell, a person of color has never darkened their microphone.

That all said, super congratulations to The Daily Show’s newest contributor:

Nathan Corddry.

Yes, the little brother of Rob Corddry.

Way to go, Daily Show.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Giving up the Ghost – 8,500 words

I’m good at self-delusion. One might even call me The Master.

I mean, no one ever has. Called me The Master of Self-Delusion, that is. But I imagine if you asked a couple of my friends, they’d definitely say that I have my trifling moments.

But you see, what seems like “trifling” to others is really evidence of my huge facility for self-delusion.

I continuously overestimate myself.

I really believe I can get to Santa Monica from North Hollywood in thirty minutes. And I would've made it on time, if it hadn't been for that dang traffic.

I know that if I put something off until tomorrow, I’ll actually do it tomorrow.

Every night, when I lay down at 11pm, I honestly think that I will get up at 7am the next day and get to work on time. Half the time, I believe I’m going to get up earlier. Tomorrow might be the day that I work from 6am – 3pm. If my co-workers ask why I’m there so early, I’ll say, “Dunno. Just woke up early…”

Despite the current state of the NASA program, I continue to believe that I will take a space vacation to the moon or another planet some day.

When I sit down with my latest Netflix disk, I seriously figure that I can watch one episode of Battlestar Galatica, and get right back to writing.

Every time I start a novel or play or script, I believe this will be the one. The one that will flow out of my typing fingers in a matter of a mere 168 magic, angstless hours that fly by like happy music. The one in which I will have complete confidence. The one that will fly off my yet-to-be-acquired agent’s desk. The one that will pay for my B.A., my M.F.A., and my summer home in New Zealand -- though I suppose it would technically be a winter home. Because, you see, when it’s winter here it’s summer there. And I would probably go there during our winter, so that I could look at lush green landscapes and be at peace there, instead of completely Russian like I am during my winters here.

I believe in God.

I read my horoscope closely.

Still, it occurs to me that trying to write a quality novel in 30 days is insane.

So I officially give up, trying to meet the National Writing Month deadline today at 8,500 quality words.

Thank you all for reading. When I do finish my novel sometime in 2006, I’ll definitely let you know – I mean, unless, my agent secures a deal of such magnitude for my debut novel that I have to sign a contract, promising to keep the deal super hush-hush until it can be announced by my proud publishing house with a full spread ad in Publisher’s Weekly.

Yes, folks, The Master.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Beverly Hilton Dahling

This is actually a story from last weekend, when CH was still in town. It was Friday night, and CH was not out-of-town but across town working a charity gala for Big Brothers/Big Sisters at the Beverly Hilton.

Here’s a really deep and intrinsic fact I’ve discovered, since starting to date CH: Everybody needs lights.

No, dude, seriously: Everybody needs lights. If we destroy ourselves in a nuclear war and revert back to caveman status, it will be somebody’s job to provide the fire at caveman events.

Everybody. Needs. Lights.

Anyway, because the event was going to midnight, the entire lighting team got put up at the Beverly Hilton, so we talked about me coming round to the hotel for a little in-town mini-vacation.

But then we decided against it, because I was due down in Long Beach for a 5am track set-up for Jesse James’ (of West-Coast-Chopper-married-to-Sandra-Bullock fame) No Love Party, a charity event for which all the Derby Dolls who had actually attended practice in the last two months (i.e. not me) were skating.

So no Beverly Hilton.

But then on Friday night, CH called and said the hotel had overbooked, and since he was the last person in his team to get in, they ended up giving him the only room available – a Penthouse Suite.

“Wow,” I said. “Is it as nice as the Wynn?”

“It makes the Wynn look like your apartment,” he answered.

So I packed an overnight bag and went to the Beverly Hills Hilton.

First of all, it should be noted that I don’t have fancy-schmancy tastes. I don’t demand finery. I’m the kinda of gal if you try to hand her silk, she be like, “What’s wrong with cotton, fool?”

You see I like cotton. It breathes easier.

But even I have to admit the penthouse suite was kinda nice.

Here’s the list:

1. Not one but two toilets – one in a bathroom that had
a. Gold-plated fixtures
b. A television
c. Marble floors and
d. Travel-sized L’Occitane products
2. Not one but two large flat-screen TVs
a. One in the bedroom, which boasted one of the best beds I’ve even born witness to. Dude, it was like sleeping on a cloud.
b. And one in the living room, which had the deepest, most comfortable couch upon which I have ever lain. I felt like Bacchanalias – especially when I saw the room service menu.

I napped in the cloud until CH returned from his event. Then we ordered room service, which apparently happens often, because the bell guy looked fresh and alert and totally non-plussed about bringing us food at 12 in the morning.

Then we slept some more on the cloud, until my alarm went off at 3:30am.

I wasn’t happy about being up this early, but at least I had the bathroom to make up for it. As I got ready, I composed a languorous blog entry in my head. I noted that I was starting to sound more and more like a novelist every day, thinking deeper thoughts, taking more time with my words and literary actions.

I didn’t wake CH on my way out, deciding I would send him a text message around 10am. Something short and clever and precise.

I was very proud of myself for my romantic exit, until I realized, I had forgotten to get a parking pass for the garage. I called CH, apologizing profusely for waking him up. He told me to go to the check-out desk, and see if I couldn’t just charge it to the room.

It’s been a while since I stayed in a hotel, and had to get out under my own steam. I mean awhile. And apparently between 2000 and now, hotels started letting you charge everything under the sun to your room.

This had been the case in Vegas, but I had assumed this was one of those special Vegas-only dealies, like being able to smoke almost anywhere you dang well pleased.

I got my parking squared away with the desk clerk, who was also somehow completely lovely, even though it was 4:30 in the morning. They must take a course or something when they’re hired on at the Beverly Hilton.

As I walked to the car, I let the warm feeling of having had an exotic experience sweep over me. I now understand why Fred Astaire kept an apartment at the Waldorf Astoria. What a way to live.

And so what if the parking thing had set me back a few minutes? I still had a half an hour to get to Long Beach.

Then I realized that I had left my car keys in the room.

Unfortunately, the Penthouse suite at the Beverly Hilton is set off from the rest of the hotel. You don’t just have to have a hotel cardkey to get in your room, but you also need it to get into that particular section of the hotel.

This meant CH after not being able to find my keys (they had slipped underneath the cloud bed), had to get up, put on a hotel provided robe, come let me in to the suite portion of the hotel so I could get my keys. At 4:30 in the morning. After working a 10am – midnight gig.

I felt really, really bad.

“Why didn’t you take the key I gave you?” CH asked.

“Because I didn’t want you to get in trouble at checkout.”

CH stared at me.

Apparently, you don’t have to give your room keys back these days either.

I’ll remember that for the future.

Later that day, after I had helped put up the track and decided that yes, dangit, I wanted a power drill of my very own, and taken a nap in the back of my car, and made awkward, apologetic conversation with all the Derby Dolls I hadn’t seen in months, and called CH to apologize for waking him up twice; I realized that I had forgotten to send my clever text message. I gave myself a mental slap on the forehead for this, cuz it would’ve been good one. Would’ve gone sumthin like this:

Hey darlin’,
Thanks for the Hilton. Steal Everything.
Love, etc

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I got 35 problems.

And a bitch ain’t one.

A bitch is actually two – or three. But that’s a whole nother blog.

The nice thing about being aggressively alone, broke, and bored with a huge writing deadline on the horizon, is that it gives you plenty of time to focus on what’s really important – or as the Dalai Lama might say, “Time to reflect.”

Or as I might say, “Time to really drive yourself crazy.”

Somehow, I always manage to put a stupidly romantic spin on reclusion. I always imagine myself wearing a long hippie dress while sitting at my writing desk in front of a window with the afternoon sun, shining down on me. I’m in a country cabin. My hair looks perfect, my brow remains unfurrowed. I am at peace.

Mind you, it has never gone down like this. The few times I have managed long writing sessions, I definitely haven’t worn a dress – mainly because I tend not to shower when I’m really deep into the writing spirit, so a ratty T-shirt and old underwear are usually my writing uniform of choice. I add sweatpants and my Carnegie Mellon zip-up hoodie to the mix in the winter.

Lets not even talk about my hair, which just kind of sits tied up in a tenuous Medusa pile on top of my head, out of the way and without regard to fashion. It looks more like a hostage than a hairstyle.

Also, as I’ve mentioned before, writing isn’t exactly a peaceful activity.

I tend to think of it like this:

If I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a schizophrenic.

No really.

A lot of writing has to do with dealing with the words, stories, and people in your head without the use of psychotropic drugs.

If I’m really into a session, I speak along with my characters as I write, take on their voices and the voice of my inner-editor, “No, that dialogue won’t work,” and "It will sound better like this." and "Just tell me the truth!" and "I'm serious, don't fuck with me."

If you saw me on the street in this state, you’d give me change.

So since that’s me writing, I consider real life kind of lovely. It provides distractions, gives you people to talk to, and keeps you from having to focus too much on yourself.

However, I’ve been alone for four days now, and I’m starting to feel a little crazy and worried and anxious.

But you can only wallow in these kind of feelings for so long before it becomes neither romantic nor fun, so this morning, I wrote down every single problem I have from the really romantic ones (I work more than three hours a day) to the chronic ones (I like stay broke) to overarching theme ones (I’m undisciplined) to the itsy-bitsy ones (I need to make eye and dentist appointments)

And to my surprise I felt a lot better. I’ve always found the only way to get rid of a story that keeps running through your head is to write it down, and as it turns out, it’s pretty much the same thing with problems.

I mean they’re still problems, but now they’re down on paper. And there are only 35 of them – frankly, I thought there’d be a lot more. Anyway, now they’re less threatening and crystal clear. And best of all, now I can somehow see that they’re – no it couldn’t be, but it is – they’re actually . . . solveable.

So I made a vow to look at my problems every single day and do something that works towards solving them. And suddenly I’m back to being just a little (as opposed to completely) insane. Or as I like to call it, “Good ole me.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pacific Recluse - 7,500 words

Okay, I didn't get as many pages done as a I wanted to yesterday, but I am starting to feel good about what I'm writing, and that's good.

Even better, after finally accepting that I would never hear from my absolute favorite public radio show, Pacific Drift again, I found a NEW EPISODE in my downloaded podcast. Luckily what I do is so incredibly boring it puts me in a only-slightly-lucid-coma-like state, or I would have had a heart attack.

The episode was themed around Fear, and it featured among many others:

1. A former Mexican Mafia member turned state's evidence.
2. A kid that has to walk home from school in South Central every day.

and closest to my heart:

3. A deeply neurotic, hypochondriac writer, who doesn't have insurance.

Brilliant, I say, brilliant! In fact It was so good, I almost forgave them for for abandoning me all Summer and frickin' Fall . Almost.

But it does kind of feel like getting back together with an ex that did you dirty. On one hand you're glad to finally have 'em back in your life. On the other hand, you're wondering what you're going to do if you get done dirty again.

Gurrrl, I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My Salinger Impression - 6,500 words

CH is out of town again -- this time for the XBOX launch party in the desert.

Apparently, gamers are flying, driving, and being shipped in from all over the world to play new XBox for 30 hours straight. Even more surprisingly, there's actually a high demand to do this among people over 18, which is how old you have to be in order to get into this event.

I don't play video games due to an unfortunate decision on my mother's part. She had a choice between a RadioShack Tandy and an Atari or Nintendo, and she chose the Tandy "because it was more educational."

Needless to say, I suck at most video games today.

But I suppose it's for the best, since I don't really need anymore procrastination tools in my life.

Speaking of which, I've decided this is the week I'm going to turn this whole writing thing around. I was a little concerned at first, because I'm halfway through the month and have only written 6,500 out of 50,000 words but if I stick to a super-strict schedule of only sleeping, working, eating, and writing 2900 pages a day for the rest of month, I'll be fine...

Why are you laughing?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Vegas Baby! - Reading Instructions

Though totally separate travel blog entries, the Vegas chronicles read better if you start at part one.


Vegas Baby! - Part 5

The Big Gamble:

On my 21st birthday, my Aunts Mildred and Sara took me to what we in black St. Louis call “the boat.” This is strange, because there is in fact more than one floating casino boat on which you may gamble in St. Louis. It's also strange, because they took me to Harrah’s, which is not a boat, but a piece of legal trickery disguised as an island.

They gave me $40 with which to play. After about an hour at the slot machines, I hit big with a $100 win on a 25 cents bet, played for 20 more dollars, and went back to college with $80 tucked in my happy little pocket.

In other words, I’m not a real gambler.

In Las Vegas, CH introduced me to Pai Gow Poker at The Paris hotel’s casino. This game is awesome for people like me, because it’s pretty low risk, about $10-$50 a hand, depending on where and when you play, and the way it’s set up allows for you to sit at the table for a pretty long time before your conservative spending limit runs out.

Basically, your dealt seven cards, and you have make the best two hands you can, with one hand being made up of two cards, and the other being made up of five. If both your hands beat the dealer's hands, then you win. If only one of your hands beats the dealer's hand then you "pass," meaning you don't lose or win, just play again.

If you’re like me, and have never played poker, this is an awesome way to learn what’s what.

And the best bit is that if you’re not sure what the best two hands are, you can ask the dealer to advise you, and s/he'll actually give you good advice, because there is no house advantage (they take 5% to make up for this.)

At Paris, I got an amazing hand and ended up winning $150 on a $10 bet with a five dollar side bet. We played for about five more minutes and left about $135 richer than when we’d first come in.

But then after Avenue Q we lost it all at the Venetian on Pai Gow and roulette.

Ah well, as it's been said time and time again, the house always wins.

But at least we'll always have Paris.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Vegas Baby! - Part 4

The food:

Dude, I’ve gained about ten pounds over the last few months, and I blame Vegas for most of it.

If you, like me, don’t really gamble and don’t really shop, the eating is the best thing about Vegas -- behind the the orange hotel rooms at the Wynn.

Here are some particularly foodariffic moments:

1. For the first time in my entire life, I did not have to wait for a table at the Cheesecake Factory, mostly because the Cheesecake Factory at Caeser’s Palace is ginormous.

2. The Wynn’s Red 8 is the best pan-Asian food I’ve ever had, and I’ve been to almost every country on this place’s menu. If you go, try to the Spicy Indian Noodles. You’ll never be the same.

3. After seeing the Blue Man Group, we ate at a little Mexican restaurant on the faux canal at the Venetian. During the dinner the gondoliers, most of which sang opera as they pretended to paddle their engine-powered gondolas down the 150 meter canals. I think I can safely say, “Only in Las Vegas.”

4. The buffet at the Wynn is called “The Buffet,” and thus, CH and I treated it as such. We employed serious optimization strategies, which we rigorously planned beforehand. We resisted the temptation of the carbs (no pasta or rice or breaded meats), and created a tier system of attack.

First trip we went for the foods that were expensive or not easily prepared at home. This was the crab, lamb, boar, three-types-of-salmon, halibut trip. Then we went for all the lesser dishes – basically anything that didn’t involve pasta or rice. On the third trip we allowed ourselves rice in the form of all the sushi we could eat.

Then we immediately hit the dessert, so that we could pack it in before our stomachs realized that, wait a minute, we hadn’t saved room for dessert. It was a war so well-fought, I asked CH to take a picture halfway through my dessert plate. Stopping for a picture turned out to be a terrible mistake, though. Alas, my stomach finally caught up with my reality and the food below, sadly, never got eaten:

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Vegas Baby! - Part 3

The shows:

We booked tickets for two shows, which I’ve been wanting to see in the same way forever.

In college, I always meant to catch an off-off-Broadway Blue Man Group show in New York, but alas, never got around to it.

In grad school, I read and heard amazing things about the puppet musical, Avenue Q, which was supposed to be Sesame Street on acid. But alas, I didn’t catch it while it was on off-Broadway. And I didn’t catch it when it went to Broadway. So I was really happy when I heard about it’s controversial move to Las Vegas – instead of doing a nationwide tour, they went straight into the theater at the Wynn.

However, every time, we went anywhere near the outside parameter of the Wynn, we heard the same few phrases of Avenue Q’s title song: “We live on Avenue Q-uuuu-oooo! Your friends do, too! Here on Avenue Q-uuuu—oooo!” Just these few phrases over and over again. By the second day I was thinking puppetcide.

Luckily, Avenue Q turned out to be a lot better than the annoying loop playing outside the hotel. To my surprise, Q turned out to have a really strong book steeped in 20-something angst.

I’m steeped in 20-something angst, so of course, it had me at go.

Though there were a few problems, including a somewhat shoddily drawn main female character, who made such amazingly illogical decisions where the main male character was concerned it was embarrassingly obvious that

1. This character was a bit of a plot puppet (sadly, no pun intended), doing whatever the writer needed in order to move the story along in a certain direction.


2. The writer was a man.

But the entire beginning and most of the end was such a good time. Plus, Gary Coleman is a major character. So I eventually forgave the shoddy middle.

As for the Blue Man Group, I will say this to the deep, deep cynics out there. Despite their glitzy new home at the Venetian and their bigger and better effects, The Blue Man Group is not a tourist trap and in fact, remains one of the best examples of interactive theater and performance art that I have ever seen.

From the beginning to the end I felt I was in the presence of true art and it made me ashamed of what I do as an artist.

So yeah, I liked it okay.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Vegas Baby! - Part 2

The hotel:

The Wynn has a complex history. But in short, Steve Wynn, the guy who dreamed up the Bellagio and the Mirage got forced out in one of those dramatic corporate takeovers, and the Wynn’s his comeback.

So at least until something bigger and better comes along, that’s where all the cool kid conventions and tradeshows are going because it’s new. And the people that hired CH must’ve thought they were cool kids -- even though they’re a car company known for their practical compact cars -- because that’s where they put him up.

The Wynn’s whole dealy is luxurious exclusivity. So the stores are more upscale – no Gaps, no Starbucks, no nuthin’ you could actually find in your local mall. The light show is avant-garde, bordering on artsy. And it’s located away from the Strip, so that the regular public can’t sully it with its beady, plebian eyes.

Still, even with my socialist, anti-materialistic leanings, there was one hard fact that made it impossible for me not to love the Wynn:

The base color of this hotel’s entire design scheme is orange.

Yes, girl, orange.

For any of you who haven’t met me, my favorite color in the whole wide world is orange in a huge, huge way.

There were other perks, too:

1. Warhol flower prints on the hotel room walls.
2. A large plasma HD flat screen television in the bedroom that swung on a pivot so that you could watch television from where ever you are in the room.
3. A small flatscreen television in the bathroom.
4. A bathroom that was bigger than my studio apartment without the kitchen.

5. And this spectacular view:

Dude, it was like everything above the first floor was designed just for me.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Vegas Baby! - Part 1

As promised, here’s a big of a travel blog of my trip to Vegas.

The Reason:

My boyfriend (who will be referred to as CH from now on) got a six-day gig in Vegas, and decided it would be cool if I met him out there towards the end of the job, then we could stay on for the weekend.

I had never been to Vegas before, and was looking forward to it, because from all I had heard and seen, Vegas is a completely tacky and glittery thing. And I love tacky and glittery things. I think I may have been a bird in a past life.

The airport:

I was surprised to see that the airport in Vegas had slot machines. I was also surprised that you could smoke in many more places. The smell reminded me of St. Louis somehow – I had left for college before non-smoking laws caught on everywhere (except Vegas, apparently) in the late 90’s.

There were huge signs, advertising Vegas shows everywhere in the airport. Soon I would find out that everything is big in Vegas. It’s like Texas’s sluttier (yet smarter) little sister.

I got excited when I saw signs for Blue Man Group and Avenue Q – both shows that CH had gotten us tickets to see.

I wasn’t so excited to see signs for the upcoming Carrot Top show. CH would tell me later that they were bringing him in for the Midwest tourists. “They love him,” he informed me.

As much as I sometimes hate the big city, this fact made it abundantly clear why I left the Midwest at the age of 18.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Me, You, and Every Word I Count

I know I keep raving on and on about how much I love Me, You, and Everyone We Know, but I want to remind all the artists out there who read my blog, but for whatever reason still haven’t seen this movie: It’s out on DVD and totally worth watching.

Actually, I was watching it again last night, and got hit with a sudden wave of inadequacy, because right now, I most certainly am not like this movie.

That is, I don’t find art in every single thing I do. In fact, I’ve been feeling lately that I’m not even finding heart in anything I do.

Lately, an idea hits me, and I immediately think, “What markets would that be good for? Would I be able to sell that? Is it even worth my time and effort?"

And I wonder, when did I become so very stingy about my art? When did it become a chore as opposed to a medium of self-expression? And how do I get back to that time when I wrote about whatever interested me with total disregard for market?

The word count on my National Novel Writing Month novel is about 4,500 right now.

That’s about 25 pages. Double-spaced.

And I still have 45,500 words to go.

I’d be further along, except my main character is kicking my ass.

You see, I find the story of an ugly black teenager growing up in the South with a tragic crush on the most popular boy in school and a really sad obsession with Molly Ringwald movies vastly interesting.

But the main character wasn’t so sure. In fact, this weekend I swear to God, she sat up like a corpse in a scary movie and asked me:

“Who the hell will want to read this, Ernessa?"

"I don’t know. I mean . . . I'd want to read it.”

She stared at me. “Okay, you and who else? Because last time I checked, there was no African-American fiction like me anywhere."

And I was like, “Dude, I’m just trying to reach 50,000 words. Please shutup."

I mean anywhere. You are going to spend a whole month of your life (before rewrites), working on something no one but your friends will ever see. Again. Aren’t you over doing that yet?”

At this point, I’m like hyperventilating. But still, I’m trying to defend myself.

"Other people may like it, may read it. I mean you’ve got that universal ugly duckling thing going for you.'

“Yeah, and that would be cool if I were an actual universal ugly duckling. The completely nice victim of all the beautiful people’s cruelty. That’s what people want to see. I’m just exceedingly odd.”

“Yeah, well, the main character in Sheila Callaghan’s Crumble, which everybody loved, including me, was exceedingly odd.”

“I can’t even believe you just let them words come out your mouth. You know that bitch is white! Them folks can get away with anything. When’s the last time you saw an exceedingly odd black character?"


"And if you say Urkel I’m going to slap the taste out your mouth. You know I'm not talkin about caricatures.”

I hang my head. “Okay, never then.”

“That’s right never. So what are you doing?”

Jesus, I’d had some fights with my main characters, but I had never had one put forth such a persuasive and concise argument. I mean, she cut me in all my weak spots: race, career prospect – I can’t even bring myself to quote what she said about my writing ability in comparison to Alice Walker’s when I tried to cite The Color Purple.

Let’s just say I crawled into work this morning, deeply depressed and seriously bruised.

I reread what I had written so far and wondered how I could retool it for mass consumption, and got more depressed.

Then I listened to the “Books” NPR podcast, while white author after white author passionately extolled the virtues of their books -- many of which actually seemed to be written for reasons outside of market share.

A black female author was introduced at one point, and my heart sped up – but then it turned out to be a book about race, written from a fresh angle. She catalogued many of the white men she’s encountered good and bad. It seemed interesting and therapeutic -- for her -- but alas, not what I was looking for.

I sighed, and began composing a “Why I decided to give up on National Novel Writing Month” blog in my head, and decided to write it up during lunch after I returned my books to the library.

And as I drove to the library, I was just so over writing. I wanted it to be fun again, like when I was a teenager and wrote about whatever I wanted.

I asked myself, how can I get there? How can I get back there? I felt like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

Then it occurred to me: I could just keep on writing.

I mean, maybe my lost writing innocence is in this unpublishable wonder of a book somewhere. Maybe it’s hiding behind word 33,463. And wouldn’t that make it all worth it?

Then I heard Judy Garland say to Mickey Rooney, “That idea’s so crazy, it just might work.

Because in the end, I suspect part of being a true writer may be hearing a really good argument against a thing and writing it anyway.

Anyway dudes . . . I’ll keep you posted.

New Blogs on the Block

Dudes, I know, that's a terrible title. But it's Monday, and I've spent all my creative energy wrestling with my novel. I really couldn't come up with anything else.

But believe me when I say, these two bloggers deserve better:

Cybele May has an awesome candyblog, which I try not to read, because it always gives me terrible cravings for sweets I can't get without money and/or effort.

She's also a playwright and has a writing blog called fast fiction-- which is awesome, because she's actually tracking her word count for National Novel Writing Month in a clever, analytical way as opposed to the desperate, neurotic, she-could-jump-off-a-cliff-at-any-moment way to which I've committed -- see upcoming posts.

The other blogger is also a playwright: Sallie Patrick, who I've been wanting to see start a blog forlikeever.

Anyway, my wishes can be your desserts if you check out her blog, The Fish in the Percolator.

She'll tell you about how she named her blog, where to get a Wonka Golden Ticket, and all sorts of other random stuff.

Weirdly enough, she's yet to mention that like the song, she's actually long and tall. But maybe that's another blog...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

2006 Silver Bullets

Hey let me tell you, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a good attack. Give me time and an ear, and I’ll tell you exactly what’s wrong with just about anything you could name.

But lately I’ve noticed a trend:

CNN’s Anderson Cooper getting applause for finally doing his job and attacking the Bush administration for it’s terrible inaction during Hurricane Katrina.

Bill Maher’s HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher is better than ever this season. Proving that getting booted from broadcast was the best thing that ever happened to this guy, his political and cultural attacks are funnier, smarter, and truthier than ever.

Good Night, and Good Luck bookended the movie with a speech, in which Edward R. Murrow’s attacked Americans for having been made complacent by TV. And yes, as the movie none too subtly points out, 50 years later, that same attack rings true.

Well . . . I’m happy to see the media's finally coming out of its post 9-11 daze. I look forward to watching Bill Maher every week. That David Strathairn should at least get an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Murrow.

But I can’t help but feel that there’s something missing…

You see, I’m missing in the current American dialogue what I’m missing in the Democratic Party.


About four or five years ago, before Esquire, my favorite men’s magazine, sold it’s soul to the Maxim devil, they did a themed new year’s Silver Bullet issue. Basically they put forth articles, interviews, essays, and quotes about how to solve current problems.

And right now I’m thinking that’s an idea good enough to steal.

So with that in mind, I’ve decided to launch a new blog called 2006 Silver Bullets.

The goal of the blog is to come up with 2006 solutions to problems big and small by December 31, 2006.

So if you have a solution to anything, and you want to put it out there, please go to the 2006 Silver Bullets and find out how to get it posted.

If you have a blog, and you have readers who might have solutions, please post a link to 2006 Silver Bullets in your links section.

And then we’ll see how it all turns out.

But dudes, today I feel like the beginning of a movie you know nothing about, but like within the first five minutes. Way optimistic about all the good stuff to come.