Writing
How Star Wars: The Radio Drama Pre-Copied Special Relativity

Today I started listening to Star Wars: The Radio Drama produced in 1981 by NPR. It’s five hours long, so it includes several original scenes not even hinted at in the movie, including one that prefaces the film’s opening encounter between Princess Leia and the Empire. In it Leia is confronted by Lord Tion, an Impreial Doofus who tries to get into her pants.

I immediately noticed an eerie similarity between the performance of John Considine as Tion and the performance of James Urbaniak as Mr. Wandell in my own sci-fi radio show, Special Relativity. I created a short video with a side-by-side comparison of the two. It’s uncanny. Listen:

As I edited the clips, I realized how strangely alike these two scenes are. Leia (played by Ann Sachs) and Nox (played by Alex Borstein) both confront men they disdain. Wandell gets all smarmy because he’s afraid Nox is going to kill him; Tion gets all smarmy because he wants to boink Leia. Mine ends with an exploding tripe bomb; I think Star Wars does too.

As far as I know, neither James nor I had heard Star Wars: The Radio Drama before, so this isn’t copying. Special Relativity does involve time travel, so I’m obligated to think this might be some sort of pre-copying on the part of the Lucas people. Either way, it’s clearly a sign that I’m sitting on a multi-billion dollar empire. Finally.

I Make Web Sites for Writers and Artists. Here’s a New One.

Henry BialHere’s another web site I designed and built, this one for the author and performance-studies powerhouse Henry Bial. A professor of theater and the director of the School of Arts at the University of Kansas, Henry’s latest book is Playing God, a history of the Bible on the Broadway stage. According to his new blog, you can get a copy for 30% off when you buy it from the University of Michigan Press using the promo code UMBIAL16.

I spent a long time as a Very Qualified Internet Professional, and now I enjoy making custom sites for artists, writers, and other creative types who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to have them — like this one for the great crime writer Jason Miller. (Not to mention the home for my radio show Special Relativity.) If you’re one of those people and would like me to help make your web dreams come true, email me.

Pull the Mask Off of OCD
NOTE: Irrational anxiety is not a necessary part of life. Help is available, and the International OCD Foundation is a great place to start looking. Click here for the history of my own OCD and to learn and why you have nothing to fear.

Being an unemployed TV writer, especially an unrepresented one, consists mainly of being ignored. I write scripts no one reads, send emails no one responds to, and spend my days sitting alone at home waiting for a passage to materialize in the void and a hand to come through it and tap me on the shoulder.

It was with that feeling that I woke up yesterday morning and the thought popped into my head that it could make no possible difference to anyone if I didn’t get out of bed. No one would notice. The world would spin happily along outside not pausing to think about me, or if it did, because it was deleting me from its phone contacts, it would assume I was happily doing whatever it is I usually do. It wouldn’t care. So I stayed in bed. I laid there, sad and hurt that no one cared whether I was alive or dead, and refusing to see a reason to face another day during which it made no difference whether I was conscious or not.

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Stuff I Liked in 2015, pt. 5 – Twitter

I regularly curse Twitter for harboring pettiness, selfishness, and casual cruelty, but the truth is that, for every moment of those, there are many more moments when the incessant cleverness of the people I follow keeps me company and pulls me forward when nothing else does. My new year’s gift to you is 25 of those moments.


23 more tweets →

Stuff I Liked in 2015, pt. 4 – TV

2015 was more about the shows I intended to watch than the ones that I actually did. That list is far longer and probably far better. But, no one cares about the buildings Christopher Wren only intended to build, and if there’s a reason I do these lists, it’s to compare myself to Christopher Wren. So here are 10 shows I enjoyed this year.

ArcherArcher (FX)
After last year’s failed experiment of Archer: Vice, Adam Reed et al. returned to format with the show’s funniest season yet. I love how, hiding behind the dick jokes, this show secretly strives to succeed as an animated action-adventure (and does).


Blunt TalkBlunt Talk (Starz)
I’m cheating by including this one because, not having Starz, I only saw the first two episodes, but they were so remarkably hilarious that it would make the list even if the other 18 were dogs. I sincerely almost shelled out my monthly Lexapro money to Time Warner so I could see the rest. The excellence of SirPatStew aside, let’s talk about how Executive Producer Seth MacFarlane uses his clout to get other people’s great ideas on the air.


Brew DogsBrew Dogs (Esquire)
This year’s winner for my favorite little known, digital cable, unscripted series, Brew Dogs follows a couple of Scottish microbrewers around America, drinking and creating regional beer. It succeeds by conquering the two elements that usually conquer similar shows: rather than comprising eight minutes of interesting stuff orbiting in 36 minutes of dark matter filler, each episode of Brew Dogs is crammed with interesting and inventive content, guided by likable hosts who can actually handle the material the producers hand them.

Six more shows →

Stuff I Liked in 2015, pt. 3 – Movies

Looking at the list of movies I enjoyed the most in 2015, it occurs to me that it’s a list my 12-year-old self would’ve carefully curated in his imagination as some kind of unattainable ideal. 1Even more so when considering that I also bolted out the door to see a new 007 movie this year. As a Very Mature Adult, that makes me a little disappointed in myself, especially in light of the mass societal infantilization that befell America as Star Wars approached. But the writer Mark Leyner once said that it’s the responsibility of artists to provide joy, so I’ve decided to happily accept a year of joyous, purely cinematic movies about how we become better individual humans.

ChappieChappie
Yeah, that’s right; I’m picking Chappie. This movie became the butt of so many jokes that I’m not sure anyone actually saw it. I can’t blame them, since no one could look at the trailers and posters without thinking, “Number Five is alive!” I wouldn’t have seen it myself it hadn’t shown up in the $2 theater on an afternoon when I was feeling particularly sad and sorry for myself and needed to step out of my life. Chappie turned out to be the perfect remedy, because it’s designed to remind us that being an adult necessitates understanding and dealing with our emotions in hard ways that most of us are unwilling to tackle. The moment when Chappie finally becomes a grown-up is the most touching one I saw this year, and I sat alone in the dark and cried.



Inside OutInside Out
Speaking of movies about dealing with adult emotions. Maybe the most impressive thing about Inside Out is that someone thought to produce it– to create a movie not just to induce feelings in children but to make them recognize and begin to understand their feelings. As an adult struggling with my own mental health, my psychiatrist told me something that I’d wished I’d figured out decades earlier: that one’s goal shouldn’t be to live on a plane of eternal happiness, but instead to experience the normal range of emotions that humans require. Luckily kids now have an experience as enjoyable as Inside Out to get them started on that idea.

Six more movies →

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1. Even more so when considering that I also bolted out the door to see a new 007 movie this year.
Stuff I Liked in 2015, pt. 2 – Books

I don’t like to call myself an intellectual, but in 2015 I easily read more books than I watched episodes of Tiny House Hunters. Here are some of the most interesting of them, from any year.

22693282Down Don’t Bother Me
by Jason Miller
Full disclosure: I designed and built Jason Miller’s web site, but that doesn’t have anything to do with why his book’s on this list. I have plenty of friends and clients whose work I don’t pretend to like. Down Don’t Bother Me is on here because it’s as enjoyable a crime novel as you’re going to find this year, by an author with a true voice and an equally true sense of place. One hopes that Slim can manage to find trouble all over rural southern Illinois the way Miss Marple managed to find corpses littering rural England so we can have more of these books.

557743Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War, 1941-1945
by Leo Marks
This is the book I was reading on a bus in Brooklyn in 2001 the morning I saw a plane fly into the World Trade Center. A decade and a half later, I finally finished it, in a year when we again need what it offers: a testament to the necessity of intelligence and creativity when faced with dire situations that seem as if they need them the least, and to the necessity of determined compassion when it’s hardest to give.

Four more books →