December 5, 2013
Yesterday I posted a status on Facebook that said, “Advice, 5¢.” A few people “liked” this status, but I was very disappointed to find that no one actually solicited my advice – even for the bargain basement price of 5 red cents.
In the comic strip Peanuts, Lucy’s psychiatry booth was a running joke… so perhaps they thought I was joking? I do do that. I joke a fair bit. It’s the only way that I know how to make this cruel, cruel world a bit more jovial.
I wasn’t kidding about giving advice. I think I am (possibly) wise beyond my years. I am like an 85 year-old woman… in many ways (thriftiness, love of hard candy and housecoats/slippers).
I should make it clear: I have no formal training. Actually, I do have some formal training (in screenwriting, improvisation, sketch comedy, photography, art history, and I also took a one day course in first aid), but not in a subject related to giving advice or counsel.
However, I think I have a lot to offer as an “Advice Giver” (or whatever you want to call it). I enjoy being consulted. I enjoy giving my opinion. I enjoy giving encouragement. I also enjoy writing people reality checks.
For instance, I knew a young lady (let’s call her Terry Periwinkle). Terry wanted to be a singer. Call me sharp, enlightened, discerning, perceptive, thoughtful… (just don’t call me late for dinner)… I had heard Terry sing and I knew immediately that singing was not her forte.
I tried to encourage Terry into accounting or veterinary medicine, but she refused. One day Terry said she’d like to buy me a root beer. When Terry put the coins in the vending machine, a lone nickel bounced into the coin tray. She pressed the nickel into my palm and said, “keep it”. I knew Terry was too prideful (and vain, and pompous) to “ask” for my advice… and that this was just an elaborate ploy to solicit my advice.
So, I was forced to be honest with Terry…
I told Terry her voice sounded like a cross between a baby crying and nails on a chalkboard, combined with an electric drill and just a hint of smoke alarm. I told her she was unlikely to benefit from vocal lessons.
I also told Terry she didn’t have the looks or personality to be a singer. Everyone (except Terry) knows that you have to be good-looking, or at least average looking with a hot bod. I also reminded Terry that she doesn’t know how to read music or play a musical instrument.
I also told Ms. Periwinkle she also didn’t have “it”. When she asked what “it” was, I told her it was an indefinable quality similar to charisma or glamor. She has neither – so I was honest and told her so.
Well, I think you know where this is going.
Terry went ahead and tried out for American Idol. She was a contestant last season. She was eliminated week seven.
She could have alleviated a lot of heartbreak and suffering had she listened to my sage advice.
You may be wondering why I am now offering this service to the world. That’s a good question and it deserves an honest answer. I need the money.
For five cents, I will give you my “two cents” (I still come up three cents ahead).
November 27, 2013
I was thinking about roommates today, and then I got thinking about how glad I am not to have them anymore.
I mean, I kind of have a roommate now. I’m married to him. We share a house, a bed, and a tube of toothpaste. It’s like having a roommate… except I want to hang out with him on a regular basis, I am happy when he comes home, and I will always give him the bigger half of a Mint Chocolate Aero bar.
I did not have that relationship with any of my other roommates. In fact, I came to dislike many of them. And, I told them so… on post-it notes, and to their faces.
It turns out many roommates feel that they are entitled… to leave their “crochet projects” on the living room floor for three weeks; to watch Jeopardy every single night (and I like Alex Trebek as much as the next gal); and to eat exactly half (or more) of a Mint Chocolate Aero bar (just because they pay exactly half the grocery bill).
In college, I had my first “roommate experience” – in that I had four of them. We were five peas in a “pod”, in student housing.
I came to realize a few (ten) things:
1. Don’t leave your magazines out if you don’t want people to do the crossword puzzle.
2. A sock on the doorknob means: “class is in session”.
3. The bathroom will not get cleaned until all parties agree to said cleaning of bathroom, and hire cleaner to do said work.
4. A chore chart never works (and will in fact breed contempt).
5. Don’t leave your toothbrush in the bathroom (or in a visible location), if you don’t want me to use it against you*.
6. You can’t trust people (who you thought were your friends) not to use your expensive conditioner.
7. Cheese Whiz is not a dairy product. (This is unrelated to roommates, but is something that I learned in college.)
8. People will use your eggs if you don’t label each of them.
9. It helps if all roommates speak English (not Japanese).
10. When you drink too much vodka and Clamato juice, stay on the linoleum!
I don’t know how I managed to have roommates for so long. Seven years of roommates felt like six years in a penitentiary (and not one of those good ones with televisions and hair salons).
Thank God for marriage (mainly because it means that you don’t have to have roommates anymore – but also because being married is wonderful… and you get to “play house” like you did in kindergarten, except with more kissing and utility bills).
* I have (on occasion) used roommate’s toothbrushes against them. Meaning, when roommates have crossed me, I would dip their toothbrushes in the toilet** as a means of silent (but strangely satisfying) revenge.
** The toilet was always “clean” – but it’s still a toilet, isn’t it?
November 22, 2013
There was a recent article in the Daily Mail (a trusted UK newspaper) that said Brits spend six months of their life talking about weather… averaging 49 hours per year. If you are keeping track, that’s nearly one hour per week (almost 14 minutes per day), devoted to weather.
I initially thought that statistic sounded very wrong. But, then I lived in England for three years.
The Brits are obsessed with weather. They talk about it all the time.
And, to be fair… they need to stay on top of it. The weather literally changes every three minutes. You could be walking through lovely Richmond Park gazing at the grazing does, when you hear the crack of thunder and need to run for cover.
I may not know much about Doppler Radar – but I’m pretty sure England weather forecasters know even less – because the forecast is always WRONG. You will dress for sun, and get rain. Or you will dress for rain, and get sun!
Having lived in England for three years, I will say that you need to carry an umbrella AT ALL TIMES and a spare pair of underwear AT ALL TIMES (the underwear is unrelated to the weather forecast, just a handy tip for those with urinary tract issues).
Someone once told me that if it starts to rain, just pop into a pub for a pint of ale (or beer) and when you come out again the rain will have stopped. This turned out to be a FACT. (And yes, I developed a drinking problem while living in England.)
The article also said that Brits discuss weather to alleviate awkward silences.
Anyway, it’s 18 °C in Burbank, California today.
(They’re right… it does alleviate awkward silences. Like that one, just there.)
Since moving to California (the Golden State), I have noticed something (other than my address labels read: California). I have noticed that I have a lot more time on my hands… approximately 49 more hours… every year!
Californians don’t talk about the weather. They look up. The sky is blue. The sun is shining. There is no rain. There is a small amount of wind. There is nothing more to say.
Now, when there is an awkward silence (and there always is), I have to just let it be super awkward, or start talking about how much I love sheep.
November 14, 2013
It’s very hard to be an optimist when you’re feeling slightly pessimistic.
I moved to Los Angeles on January 2nd. I had just completed my Masters degree in Creative Writing (*ahem*, with Distinction) from the University of London. I arrived full of confidence and expectation. I felt that the possibilities were endless, the world was my oyster, etc.
That was 318 days ago.
10 months. 45 weeks.
In that time I have accomplished nothing. I mean, I haven’t just been sitting around all day watching Undeclared on Netflix, if that’s what you’re thinking (although I have been doing a little of that).
Okay, perhaps it is not entirely accurate to say I have accomplished nothing.
I have accomplished some things…
Like, getting our home set-up. My husband and I moved to Los Angeles with six suitcases (to clarify – they were not empty suitcases, they did have things in them), so acquiring things has been a priority. I’ve had to buy important things like… scented candles, toothpaste, bulk gin from Costco, etc.
And, I have written some stuff… like, blog posts (weekly, like this one you’re reading right now), three spec scripts (sample episodes of a TV series), three original pilots (TV shows created by yours truly), and I started another screenplay.
And, I have read a lot of books about writing, which can be helpful… when you are avoiding writing.
And, I have also taken Sketch comedy writing with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and improvisation with The Groundlings, which was something I always wanted to do – even though it scares me so much that I occasionally black out (and am awoken to thunderous applause).
But, it’s been 318 days. I expected something really wonderful to have happened by now.
Okay, perhaps it is not entirely accurate to say that something really wonderful has not happened.
A few really wonderful things have happened…
A TV spec I wrote (Modern Family – The College Jeans) was a Quarterfinalist in Final Draft’s Big Break Competition, and a screenplay I wrote (Magnus the Magnificent) was a Semifinalist in the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. And, ABC (the American Broadcasting Corporation asked me for a second writing sample).
But, that’s really only three wonderful things… 318 days, 3 wonderful things. That’s really only one wonderful thing every 106 days. I expected more (I expected 4 or 5 wonderful things).
I must admit, sometimes I find it hard to maintain my enthusiasm.
But, as I said… I am an optimist! I see the glass as half-full (I see a lot of glasses half-full – of gin – because I’m in the middle of drinking them).
I also know that if 318 days have passed, it means that there are 47 days left in this year! Something wonderful could still happen!
And if this year passes, there is always next year… and the year after that! But not the year after that, because if something really wonderful doesn’t happen by 2016, I’m going into dentistry.
November 8, 2013
In January, I moved to Los Angeles from England. I’m not English (or British, or Norwegian for that matter), I’m Canadian – but I lived in England for three years.
I don’t miss England.
I don’t miss the constant rain. I don’t miss the perpetually gray sky. I don’t miss the “damp” (black mold and mildew covering every surface), or the “draught” (AKA, “draft”… a cold current of air, in every room of every building in the entire country). I don’t miss Wimbledon. I don’t miss the monarchy. And I really don’t miss the class system that ranks people according to their economic and social status.
I don’t miss England!
Okay, fine. I miss it a little bit.
I miss cheap cheese. I miss the lush, green countryside with sheep grazing in it. I miss the pubs. I miss the castles. I miss the history. But most of all, I miss the Sunday Roast.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, I should start by saying the Sunday Roast is an institution.
Let me clarify.
I don’t mean that the “Sunday roast” is the name of a place for the care of people who are destitute, disabled or mentally ill.
That would be a very strange name for such a place, and it would also be very confusing for people who are looking for a traditional British meal.
What I do mean… is that the “Sunday roast” is an established custom for the Brits. Most pubs and restaurants only offer a roast on Sundays, foregoing their usual menu for this staple.
The Sunday roast is an occasion. You go out. You sit at a table amongst friends (instead of sitting in front of the TV, alone). You use a knife and fork (instead of a spork), you use a napkin (instead of your shirt). It’s almost like Christmas.
And it’s delicious. The Sunday roast consists of roasted meat, potatoes, vegetables and a Yorkshire pudding with gravy. What’s not to like?
You could almost overlook the rain, gray skies, damp, draught, Wimbledon, monarchy, and classist system…knowing that you were going to eat a delicious roast dinner each week.
October 31, 2013
Hate is a strong word, but I really hate when people say that they are going to give it 110%.
First of all, it is impossible to give 110%. The percentage is a fraction based on the whole possible amount.
You can give 100%.
100% is the maximum possible percentage of what you are capable of doing. You are not inflation or the NASDAQ. You are just you (not that there is anything wrong with that).
Second of all, if you are going to throw improper ratios around, you may as well make it worth my while. Tell me you are going to give me 400%. Then I’ll know you really mean it! An extra 10% means nothing to me. And frankly, now I’m offended.
Thirdly, let’s be honest, we are all working at about 60% of our maximum. None of us work very hard for very long. If we get in four solid hours of work, we play Candy Crush the rest of the day. Am I right, or am I right?
If I worked at 100% of what I’m capable of, it would definitely throw off the earth’s rotation.
To prove my point… (and I do like to do that)
Let’s say you are one of those strong men… that participate in those strong man competitions to determine the World’s Strongest Man.
And let’s say your name is Vytautas Lalas and you are from Lithuania (stay with me) and you are participating in such an event. You have a lot of competition, as there are a lot of other strong men from places like Iceland and Poland and Estonia that are also competing for the title.
And let’s say that you all compete in such contests as the Truck Pull, where you must pull a vehicle 100 feet… with your hand; or the Squat, where you must lift 900 pounds of bricks straight off the ground; or the Keg Toss, where you must throw kegs of increasing weight over a 14 foot wall; or the Fridge Carry, where… (you guessed it)… you must carry a fridge on your shoulders.
You want to win, you trained for this (presumably by pulling vehicles, throwing kegs, lifting fridges, etc.), and you are going to give it everything you’ve got!
Like, possibly 100%, or at least 99%.
That’s what Vytautas Lalas did… and now he’s the World’s Strongest Man, officially.
So, next time someone says that they are going to give it 110%, give them a look of consternation and refer them to any High School math textbook.
October 24, 2013
Talking about the birds (and the bees) can be awkward.
Birds have feathers and pointed beaks, and bees have stripes and sharp stingers. I don’t know much else about these creatures, so it’s awkward to have to talk about them (and pretend that I know more about them than I really do). Once you cover the main bits (birds… with the flying, and bees… also with the flying) there isn’t that much to say.
The other kind of “birds and bees” references the mechanics of sexual intercourse, procreation, love, and relationships… and it can also be super awkward.
My parents never had “the talk” with me. I had to glean information about sex and relationships from movies, television, my older sister, my friends, drunks in the park, etc.
From what I gathered, sex (and subsequent relationships) always started with a woman in a negligée and a man in a smoking jacket, drinking champagne from champagne flutes*, surrounded by scented candles*, with a Barry White soundtrack*. It involved a lot of tongue-kissing* before the gentlemen suggested they move “somewhere more comfortable” (the bedroom)*.
* This has not been my experience.
I was under the (mistaken) impression that a real relationship meant grand romantic gestures (trips to Paris, fur coats, pink motorcycles, etc.) and looking sexy all the time (obviously, I’ve got the looking sexy part down – I’m currently wearing jogging pants – but the grand romantic gestures elude me).
In my experience, a real relationship actually involves checking your partner’s teeth after they’ve eaten spinach, booking them dentist appointments, buying them underwear, getting the car washed, paying the gas bill, and keeping the home fires burning (whatever that means).
In other words, it’s not all Barry White and champagne from France.
And, if it was Barry White and champagne from France all the time, it wouldn’t be as exciting as Barry White and champagne from France some of the time. The special is what makes it special.
And, also, because…. the mundane is kind of special too. Getting into your pajamas as soon as you get home from work, cuddling on the sofa, drinking seasonal ales, watching three episodes of Breaking Bad in a row… that’s also pretty good.
No one tells you that. They don’t make movies about that.
Also, the drunks in the park don’t talk about that (mostly stories about dead dogs).
October 17, 2013
One of my favorite books *ever* is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. For those of you not familiar with this classic children’s book, let me be the first to say… I’m sorry. I’m sorry you never had the privilege of reading this book and experiencing the magic of Charlie, Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompas first-hand. Your childhood would have been much better for knowing.
I dreamed of such a place… an enchanted (and psychedelic) wonderland… with a nut room, a fudge room, a chocolate egg sorting room, a bubble room and… the chocolate room… with its edible candy mushrooms, lollipops, candy canes and the river of molten chocolate.
Such a please could not exist, I thought…
But it does.
I was lucky enough to visit Maison Cailler with my husband and parents last fall. It was magic from start to finish. Walking up to the grand facade, I felt just like Charlie Bucket walking up to those Wonka factory gates…
We had heard that they give tours of the factory, but we had no idea what we were in for. We were escorted down a long hallway, and then ushered into a darkened elevator. Our guide waved good-bye and then the doors shut. Total darkness. Then the elevator began its descent… We laughed, out of nervousness, unsure of what was ahead…
The doors opened and we were transported to an Aztec cocoa ceremony… with smoke and lights and the aroma of roasting cocao beans wafting through the air.
The history of chocolate tour continued… through a series of rooms with secret passageways and animated sets… Every door revealing a secret.
Every room a new adventure.
The tour ends in the tasting room… where all Maison Cailler chocolates are on display, and you can sample as many as you like.
We all left with a stomach ache and we all declared that we were not going to eat chocolate again for a very long time. …And then we bought loads more chocolate in the well-stocked gift shop.
If you are in Europe, I suggest going to Switzerland. And if you are in Switzerland, I highly recommend going to the canton of Fribourg. And if you are in Fribourg, then you may as well head on over to Broc-Fabrique. And if you are in Broc-Fabrique, you would be INSANE not to visit the Maison Cailler chocolate factory.
Sometimes, when I imagine heaven… I think it might be a lot like Maison Cailler. And then I try my very hardest to be very, very good.
October 2, 2013
If my husband asks… the best day ever was definitely our wedding day.
But, really,… (really)… the best day ever was Roald Dahl Day.
Roald Dahl has been my favorite author since I was 7 or 8. The first time I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I was transported to a magical land with Oompa Loompas, an eccentric chocolatier and a cast of crazy characters.
When I heard that Gipsy House was open once a year (on Roald Dahl’s birthday – September 13) to raise money for Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, I was (very) keen to visit. I marked the day on the calendar and as it approached I got more and more excited.
It was better than I could have EVER IMAGINED.
We travelled by train to Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. We arrived to Gispy House early in the morning. The volunteers were still setting things up, but welcomed us in.
This is the gate to Gipsy House:
This is the front door of Gipsy House:
This is Roald Dahl’s writing hut:
This is the inside of Roald Dahl’s writing hut:
This is Roald Dahl’s car (they had it for sale to raise money for his charity. If I had had enough money (or any money) I would have bought it):
This is me holding one of his books, with a picture of him standing in the exact spot…
This is me with Roald Dahl’s widow Liccy:
Liccy brought some of the books from their bookshelf and added them to the sale. I bought all of them. Many were original editions that had sat on the Dahl’s bookshelf for many years. She signed “The Twits” for me.
This is me in the caravan from Danny the Champion of the World:
This is me in the Wonkamobile:
This is Roald Dahl’s gravestone in the cemetery in Great Missenden:
It was the best day ever*.
*My wedding day was a close second.