Monday, February 27, 2006

Less than five days to go at this job. One of the people I will miss here is Nick. A while back I drew a bumper sticker for him and his horny pet rabbit, Pudge.

Last week Nick & I went in on the California lottery. I never play that thing, but the jackpot was over $200 million. And he said if I gave him cash he said he’d buy the tickets. Today he mysteriously didn’t come in to the office. I was sure that bastard won the whole enchilada and ran off with my half. Then I looked online and saw that there were no winners (it’s gone up to over $250 million). Too bad I already sent him this threatening cartoon.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Our office photocopier also acts as a scanner. So if you're monopolizing the machine by scanning in a document (or often in my case, a clandestine cartoon), you need to notify someone who might come looking to make a copy. A piece of paper declaring "Scanning -- Please wait" was too mundane. So, yeah, this is one of the silly ways I have to entertain myself at work to get through the day. But not for too much longer...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I don't know if what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas... but my money sure did.

Tonight I was invited to go play poker again up in Burbank, but I'm done traveling long distances just to piss away my payola. Plus I'm tired. Gambling's hard work.

After a long night of playing dice at the Venetian, the Bellagio, and after so many free drinks who remembers where else, at least I'd get to sleep late at the hotel. We high rollers had expected to get comped for breakfast; now we'd have to wait in the long lines at the buffets later. C'est la vie, as they say at the Paris casino. Or at New York, New York, fuggedaboutit. Or at the Wynn, "We don't have a theme and it's a fifteen dollar minimum to bet. You in or what?"

So later, back in my much-cheaper hotel, I pulled the heavy curtain over the window, blocking out all the light. The room was in complete darkness. Even the next day, I was happy and spacing out within my black hole.

And unlike my apartment, there wouldn't be noise from the neighbors and their yippie dogs and faulty car alarms. My cave would be in complete silence.

Well, okay, being a few stories up over the Strip, I could faintly hear the sound of the street. But it didn't bother me. Wh-wh-wh-whooooo! I was too hungover to pay much attention. Yep, I was enjoying my forty-winks, not even noticing the cacaphony coming from the corner. Wh-wh-wh-whooooo! I could sleep right through that staccato whistling... Wh-wh-wh-whooooo! No matter how often I heard it. Didn't bother me one wh-wh-wh-what the hell was that?!

I pulled the curtain back but couldn't see anything. If I could've leaned out I might have be able to figure it out, but the big window was sealed shut. However, the bathroom window wasn't. That little pane of glass opened up and from that view, I could see the whistler -- it was the guy working down at the taxi stand. He wasn't so much whistling for the cabbies; he seemed to be trying to get the attention of his friend and fellow valet at the casino across the street. Every thirty seconds. Wh-wh-wh-whooooo!

As loud as it was, his friend didn't hear him. And the guy didn't hear me as I shouted to stop whistling, that there were big shot craps players (in a little slump at the moment) trying to sleep. But he didn't stop.

So I threw a bar of soap at him.

It descended, bounced off the awning, drifted from the cool Nevada desert winds and... ooh. Missed him by that much.

The guy didn't even notice at first. Kept pacing up and down the parking area, doing his thing. And then finally at one point, stopped in the middle of the driveway to scrutinize a tiny hotel-issued vanilla-scented disc laying there.

It wouldn't have hurt him too bad, just given him a nice bonk on the head. Maybe cause enough damage to make him forget how to put his lips together and blow. But alas, the dude just shrugged, stood back up and went at it again: Wh-wh-wh-whooooo!

"Fine! I give up," I said. "I'll get dressed and go gamble some more."

Friday, February 17, 2006

So the writing gig. Details. Let's see...

The basics are: I'll be going full-time for the reality show I worked on last summer. It got picked up for another season and production starts in a few weeks. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'll be writing snarky voice-overs for a silly program aimed way outside my demographic. And I'll be loving every minute of it.

I really enjoyed working in TV again, even if it was in a limited capacity, so as last season ended, I talked to some people at the production company about future opportunities. That in itself was a bit of a challenge -- talking to them, that is. Because I had been kind of a ghost. A poltergeist with potty-mouth.

Working part time, I wasn't physically there at the network. I'd pick up the tapes of each episode from the late-night editing team, write my raunchy VOs from home (or at the day-job), e-mail them in, then discuss and revise them with the head of post-production over the phone. They had replaced Jared, the post guy, with Gene, and I wound up going weeks without ever meeting the dude in person. It was like collaborating with a blogger... who worked in the same town.

So I made a concerted effort to get my ass in the door and meet my co-workers face-to-face. Took a day off the day-job and went into the other one.

I picked the right day to do it, too. They were having a staff meeting and I got to meet everybody. The executive producer introduced me and the room applauded and complimented me on my voice-over lines. One of the editors said something like, "You write those? Damn, that shit is nasty!" Ah, flattery.

For that reason and many others, I liked the vibe there. Young creative people with a good sense of humor. Beats hanging with the biddies and suits at the office. At the network, they were discussing handling a problem on the shoot (some of the cast members had gotten into a fist fight and one had to leave in an ambulance). See? Things go wrong everywhere, but the crises in show biz are at least interesting. And if the problems aren't solved, we don't have a show. At the office, the difficulties run along the lines of some asshole corporate stooge in a snit because the footer on his precious document is slightly off.

At that meeting, it was announced that some of the staff would go onto another show the exec. prod. was doing. Since a smaller crew was needed, not everyone got hired, but those who didn't were given champagne and gifts and arrangements were made for the EP to help them get work elsewhere in the future. Pretty sweet environment.

The associate producer's been really helpful with my writing career for a while now. So we met and talked about what opportunities might be available for me. It seemed promising -- they liked me and my work, it was just a matter of time, and we stayed in touch. I tried not to call too often and ask if that file inside the cake was on its way to the prison mailroom.

Over the next few months, I kept my eyes open for other gigs, but things generally slow down during the holidays. So I worked on my writing and got updates from the supervising producer: The show got picked up again. They got an order for a full season. They okayed a position for me, coordinated with the budget people. We discussed my responsibilities: I'll be at the network with the post- people, watching and writing the VOs for all the episodes, plus some other creative aspects of the show. We agreed on a salary. I got my start date. I did a jig.

Now, there are a few downsides to this situation. First the small stuff: As fun as it is, I will undoubtedly get burnt out writing these punny raunchy innuendos. It got a little old last season, and I only wrote half the stuff. But it still beats shuffling papers for a living, and I welcome the challenge of finding a way to keep these commentaries fresh. Also, it's hard enough to work on my own writing endeavors while slaving at a desk all day, but after writing all day, I'm not sure how much creative energy I'll have. And that ties into blogging. Blogging became almost mandatory for my sanity at the office gig -- I knew how to prioritize: "Yeah, boss, I'll make those calls as soon as revise this, uh, spreadsheet. Yeah. Now... let's see who's got a new post today..." Soon, I may not have the time or the privacy... or the bored-outta-my-skull necessity to blog as much. But I'm not too worried about any of this; I'll work it all out, satisfy my blog jones somehow.

Also, no benefits. Not that my health insurance is that great at my job now, but I'll have to COBRA or find my own coverage. I've gone without it before, had to run to the ER for a minor thing and got slammed with a huge bill. Learned my lesson. Damn, I hate all this grown-up responsible shit.

My biggest concern, however, goes to the nature of freelancing. It's project-to-project, which is great to keep things interesting. Heaven knows I've needed to shake things up lately. But in a few months, when this season's over, Mikey's on the street, baby.

I've been down this route before, too. A few years ago, I had a great job writing for a TV show. It was a stupid cop car chase thing, in a shitty office cramped with two other guys with a window facing a brick wall. And I couldn't have been happier. Again, I was working creatively, getting paid to come up with clever quips within the confines of the medium, and having fun with my friends.

When it was over, I thought, cool. I'd take some time, collect unemployment for a little bit, do some writing, get some exercise, go to Europe, and then get another writing gig. Whatever happened, I was never going back to that corporate hell.

Never say never. Three days after the show ended, my mother had her stroke and I was spending all my time with the family. When I finally had a moment, I tried to find work, but guess what? The Writers Guild threatened to go on strike and Hollywood kinda put the squeeze on projects and thus it was tougher to get a job. The producers of that cop show had to take work as writers, and where did that leave us writers? After a year of temping, and then my dad's death and more family drama, I needed stability, so I bit the bullet and went back to the boring office business.

But before you think I'm being all negative about this, trust me, I'm excited and hopeful. The helpful associate producer has been freelancing forever and told me that this production company is the closest one could come to a sure thing. The network loves the executive producer, and as evidenced above, the EP is loyal to the staff.

If I have to go back to corporate, so be it, but I'm already looking for ways to keep the momentum going, move onward and upward once this job is done. And in the meantime, I hope and plan to enjoy every minute of it. As another bonus, one of my friends from that cop show will be working at the network, on a different program, and another friend will working for a company a few blocks away.

And speaking of a few blocks away, the distance is another issue I was considering in comparing the new gig and the old one. See, my present office job is salaried annually, whereas the TV one is weekly. I figured out that I'm making almost the same amount, but, actually, it comes out that the office job pays about $15 more per week than the new one.

But -- the office is a 25 mile roundtrip commute (with LA traffic, that equates to over an hour of creeping along in my car). The writing job is so close I can walk or ride my bike if I want. In any case, I won't be driving more than 5 miles roundtrip each day. 20 mile difference. Or a gallon of gas per day. Or about $15 per week going to Mikey not Mobil. So not only will I be spared that dreadful commute, do the math and I'm breaking even on the salary, too.

Yes, I know I'm a geek. But a happy geek.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Why is today the greatest day?

A. That Hallmark holiday nonsense is behind us.
B. Got my betting strategy perfected for upcoming Vegas trip.
C. Gave notice at my job to start full-time writing gig.
D. All of the above.

Answer: D.

D, as in da'ss right, dude. Damn right.
D, as in details to come soon.
D, as in definitely the greatest day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

While a Nor'easter blanketed the Atlantic seaboard with snow, here in LA, it was warm and beautiful as always. I went to photograph the sunny February beach weather, but saw I still had lotsa old random shots stored in my digital camera. I'll save the gloating for when the east gets hit with frigid Smarch weather.

This was taken just outside my apartment -- I wish all the other pricks in my building were as quiet.
I also wish this stealth shot of Santa came out better. Xmas day at the San Francisco airport, he looked like the real deal -- full gray beard, friendly face and jelly belly filling out the red suit perfectly. But would St. Nick buy a bagel with schmear from Noah's? I didn't ask him when I saw him on my flight later. Instead I said, "Giving the reindeer a rest?" He gave me a big jolly smile and a little candy cane.

My cousin in San Francisco, exhibiting her sophisticated subtle wit.

Marietta, Ohio. The purpose of this organization, I think, is just to meet and don silly hats and wacky outfits. Kinda like the United Nations. (Ba-dum crash!)

Aww, don'tcha wish Baby Gooch could stay that cute forever? Well, you can't stop time, even if you feed the kid my wristwatch.

Besides, I'm sure it doesn't taste as good as my homemade pecan and chocolate pecan pie.

Portland, Oregon. My friend Mike and his friend Mike's little girl, Hannah, a.k.a. The Blue Tongue Group. It's a bit blurry because I was trying to do something fancy with the exposure.
wix1 wix2
I've still got a lot to learn about using this digital camera, but it beats the days of borrowing my friend's grainy webcam.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

As if you needed any further proof, here’s…

A Few Reasons Why I’m a Total Geek

• There’s a guy I run into every now and then, and when I do, he extends his arm to greet me. As I go to shake his hand, I realize he’s got his fist out. He wants to do that fist-on-fist greeting. Y’know, where two guys touch knuckles instead of their open palms. It looks kinda cool when others do it but I always feel awkward at this act of male camaraderie. I looked it up; some call it a dap, but that could also stand for double anal penetration, so perhaps that's why I'm hesitant. I’ll give you a firm handshake, maybe even a warm hug, but I can’t seem to master the “Wonder Twin Powers Activate!” thing. I imagine punching fists would hurt, but I don’t wanna be wimpy about it either. And are our knuckles supposed to be lined up? Or do we connect at the space between the joints, like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle? And if so, whose pointer knuckle goes on the outside? Ultimately, I think the most important question is: Can’t we just nod and say hi?

• Yesterday a girl caught me checking out her boobs. But I quickly explained that I was just admiring her T-shirt. I mean, she did have a nice rack and all, but it was covered by a flashy retro-style cartoon print. She smiled and said, “Yeah, ‘Underdog’! He’s cool, huh?” Yes, but that wasn’t really why I was staring. I knew there was an anagram of superhero’s name, and as the word “grounded” came to me, I realized I’ve been playing too much Scrabble and Literati lately.

• I’ve memorized things as a kid, and they’ve become mantras in my head long after their usefulness. For example, a name game to get to know the new students in junior high school was fun, but now, do I really need to be able to list all the kids in my 7th grade English class? And from my math classes, I thought solving quadratic equations would be easier if I knew the square roots of all integers up to ten. I’m not looking this up as I tell you that 2 is 1.414213562, 3 is 1.7230508, and 4 is… uh… One of the more fond memories stuck in my brain is a list of commuter stops on the Long Island Railroad. Maybe I enjoy hearing it because it meant I was going home, or maybe I just liked the conductor’s NY accent as he declared, “This is the 7:15 train to Ronkonkoma, making stops at: Jamaica, Hicksville, Bethpage, Farmingdale, Wyandanch, Deer Park, Brentwood, Central Islip and RrrrronKONkoma!”

Monday, February 06, 2006

It's about time people started speaking out against cartoons. They've always been offensive -- not just the political ones in Danish newspapers, but the daily strips we have here in the U.S. You just need to open your eyes.

Here's a few examples:

Marmaduke: That uppity pooch taking the guy's couch is really a thinly veiled allegory for Zionism in the Middle East. See, the Israelis are the dog and the sofa is the West Bank, and the dude is supposed to be the Palestinians... c'mon, it's obvious! Is it any coincidence that a Dane did that controversial cartoon about Islam, and Marmaduke is... a Great Dane?!

Speaking of comic strip pets, you think Garfield is just a lazy fat tabby cat? We're talking Communist China, people! Garfield has bloated to over a billion citizens, and without any individual incentive, it's no wonder he hates Mondays. Jon, his goofy ineffective owner is the Maoist doctrine that tries to keep the people in line, while lasagna is the temptation of a free-market society. Oh, and Odie, the lovable peaceful dog who's always taking Garfield's abuse? Ever hear of Tibet?! Free Odie!

Dilbert isn't a commentary on corporate politics; it's an indictment of Hinduism. That's the third largest religion, and if you study it closely, you'll see a direct correlation between Dilbert, Dogbert, Catbert and the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. I'm onto you Scott Adams. Just hope I don't tell the whole subcontinent about you and your blasphemous curly-tied office drone.

I can go on and on.

Popeye: the Navy's involvement in the war on drugs (what do you think spinach really is?) and perhaps an argument for gays in the military. (What straight guy would go for scrawny whiny Olive Oyl, anyway?)

Even my own works. Click on the "Dry Inks" heading on my sidebar, and you'll get a listing of dozens of doodles clearly designed to be a metaphor, insulting the beliefs of the Amish people. Yeah, that's right. What are they gonna do about it? They're not supposed to be using computers anyway. Hell, they're not even allowed to have zippers, let alone zip drives. Dost thou got a problem widdat, Jebediah?!

In any case, I'm imploring you: Join the fanatics. Get your panties in a bunch! And ban cartoons! They're evil!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Lately, I’ve been visiting Surgical Strikes a lot, and Dan Tobin’s funny posts inspire me to be creative with my comments. More so than I’ve been on my own blog. A writer friend of mine called it “alley-ooping”. One guy comes up with a clever idea, and sometimes the other guy takes it to the hole. And sometimes the other guy should just leave well enough alone.

Like when Dan posted about how they poorly censor the foul language of movies on the non-pay cable stations (“mickeyfickey” “Mr. Falcon” “golddarned”), which reminded me of how they often poorly translate movies on DVDs, especially the expletives.

I’ve seen Shaun of the Dead a million times, so one time I decided to play the DVD with the Spanish language option. I knew the dialogue well enough and was curious to see how they’d translate some of the racier lines. In the first scene, Shaun explains to the group that he always brings his flat-mate Ed with him to the pub, because Ed doesn’t have many friends. Then Ed steps over and says, “Can I get any of you cunts a drink?”

In Spanish: “¿Algunas personas quieren una cerveza?
Which roughly translates to “Anyone wanna beer?”

Pfft. The joke is lost. And I didn’t get to learn how to say the “c-word” en español.

The other advantage to commenting on Tobin's site is he’s already set up the situation. For my readers to appreciate my song parody below, I’d have to tell you that Dan’s a rabid Red Sox fan, hates the Yankees, especially because Johnny Damon went from Boston to New York, and the Sox replaced him with Coco Crisp, a player from Cleveland who was named after a Kellogg’s cereal. Got all that?

So when Tobin mentioned his favorite Beatles songs, I composed "A Dan in the Life":

I read a blog today oh boy
About a Boston man who hates the Yanks
And though the man has iffy tastes
I just had to re-tor-ort.
Johnny Damon’s in New Yor-or-ork.

Dan blew his mind at Fenway Park
He had noticed that the line-up’s changed.
A crowd of retahhds checked Coco Crisp.
They’d seen his face — surreal.
Nobody was sure if he was from Cleveland or a breakfast meal…

I love to… egg… you… on…

(’cause I’m the egg-man, but that’s a different song)

As I told Dan, there ain’t no oop without the alley.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Lois Lane told me about a cartooning opportunity. Mike Belkin, who has a daily strip called "Unfit", was looking for a new artist to depict his comic ideas.

I appreciated Lois thinking of me and informing me of this opportunity, but truth be told, I'm not that great an artist. I think my comics are amusing at times if the concept is good, and I somehow portray the idea well enough. Then again, maybe I'm selling myself short. I mean, look at Matt Groening. His "Life in Hell" cartoon is a buncha buck-toothed rabbits and expressionless guys in fezzes. And that led to "The Simpsons" and now he's richer than C. Montgomery Burns.

Besides, that kinda attitude is what makes me procrastinate and not do my "assignment" until the night it was due.

While I was watching "Flight 93" on cable Monday night, I did what Mike Belkin asked: I took one of his past strips and redrew it in my own style. Because I was rushed, I only did it in pencil -- didn't ink it -- leaving lots a sketchy jagged lines as I scanned it in.
Mike Belkin was extremely kind in his e-mails to me so I started feeling encouraged. He said he'd post all the entries (& I asked him to use my pseudonym from that short film I did). Maybe I had a chance at this gig.

But I knew even if I had worked on it for weeks, I didn't stand a chance, once I saw the fine drawings of other applicants -- let's face it, I'm Michael and by comparison they're Michelangelo.

The final decision will be posted on February 2nd. Cross your fingers, but I think it's gonna be a while before we can see "MMM: The Animated Series" on the Cartoon Network.

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