Aspect Ratios

It’s short film competition time at work again. This year, in an attempt to prove how social-media-savvy and cloud-friendly we are, the decision was made to have the entire competition on Instagram, which meant a 15-second limit across the board. This was fine by me, although I’d never used Instagram before. I made a few films, downloaded the app onto my tablet, then immediately began cursing the name of Instagram and anyone who had anything to do with it.

In a holdover from its hipsteriffic origins, Instagram seems to think it’s too good for the rest of the Internet – it wants you to do everything via its mobile app, which makes editing and uploading anything other than a few seconds of shaky crap shot on your cellphone a chore. And it’s square. Fucking SQUARE. Who the fuck shoots square movies? After making a few, I copied them to my tablet and went to upload them, only to realise that I was going to have to go back and reformat them all.

You can see the original entries here, but I’ve put them all up on YouTube in HD widescreen format as God intended. Below are the “real” versions of each film, with a bit of director’s commentary.

How to Tie a Tie

Not a lot to say about this one – just a couple of sight gags finishing on a sweet, sweet 80s reference.

The music at the start is the delightfully-named “Moondots and Polkabeams” by Podington Bear.

Bobble Cats

The bobble cats were a gift brought back from Japan by a friend. They are fairly maddening to watch and I’d had the idea to do a short just alternating between zooming in on them and zooming in on my reaction for a while. Then I was browsing through the Free Music Archive and came across “Caliente! Caliente!” by Mam Patxanga and knew I need to find an excuse to use it for something. It seemed a good fit here. (I used Audacity for the distortion at the end.)

This was the only one I couldn’t crop to a square for Instagram, so it had to get letterboxed, with the exception of the final shot of the diabolical cats. I’m not sure if it works better or worse like that.

Sad Phone

Every year, the competition results state that you can’t use anything that would violate copyright, and I try to be a good boy and comply. (Yes, the How to Tie a Tie one uses “Oh Yeah” by Yello, but fuck it, it’s only three seconds.) The submitted version of this one used another track from the Free Music Archive (“There’s Probably No Time” by Chris Zabriskie), but we all know that when it comes to a shot of someone staring wistfully at rain on a window, Sarah McLachlan is the only real choice.

The “rain” was actually me spraying a hose on the window, or, for the shot taken inside the house looking out, my five-year-old son spraying a hose on the window. He had fun. The rain sound effect was added later – do you like how I used different sounds for the outside and inside shots? And made it quieter for the sad face close up? Little details amuse me.

(More than one person mentioned that they didn’t realise the image on the phone in the last shot is a sad face with a tear – guess I didn’t make it distinct enough.)

Bananas

Sticking with tradition here – every year has featured a film that involved me writing at my dining table, so I figured I should do it again for this one. The banana puppetry was supplied by me and my wife (for the shots where you can see me as well as them). Every one who sees this lot seems to have a different favourite. I think I like Bobble Cats the best, myself – I think this one is the weakest.

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The Pod is Cast

It’s probably worth mentioning that, while posts here are becoming fewer and further between, I have been working on another project: a weekly (we assume) podcast on philosophical issues in conspiracy theories featuring me and Dr. Matthew Dentith, PhD. (He is a doctor.)

Episodes will appear on Matthew’s site as we do them, or you can subscribe to it on iTunes, just like a real podcast.

So there you go – go give it a listen and then stop judging me for my laziness here. I know you’re judging me – I can feel your judgement. It feels like home.

Handle with Care

A recent conversation between me and the missus:

“Ah, my old hockey shirt – I haven’t worn this in ages!”

“You like that thing?”

“I would wear nothing but this shirt if I could.”

“You’d be naked from the waist down – like a Frenchman?”

“But wearing a hockey shirt.”

“Like a… French Canadian?”

…rapetastic escapades…

My wife, ladies and gentlemen – quick with a quip; quicker with a crude cultural stereotype. But it’s not her seething racism I want to talk about today – I’m back on punchlines again. As I’ve mentioned more than once here, I tend to build blog posts around punchlines, either by working backwards from one or by stapling a few together with a crude series of segues. And sometimes, when that all seems like too much effort, I’ve just thrown out a random punchline and left it up to you to imagine context for it (see above). Because it’s hard for a punchline to exist without context; without setup. Some comedians, such as Steven Wright, specialise in one-liners, building their entire routines out of them, but by and large a good punchline needs to be set in place. A context-less punchline can backfire on you in a nasty way, which brings me to the Roast Busters.

If you’re reading this, you’re almost certainly familiar with the Roast Busters case in New Zealand, but I’ll recap (if only to reinforce the delusion that this blog is read by more than a handful of my personal acquaintances). The case concerns the rapetastic escapades of a couple of local teenage fuckheads who took to gloating on Facebook about having sex of dubious consensuality with drunk and occasionally underage young women. There’s a lot more wrong with the case than just their reprehensible actions: the police have been less than energetic in their responses to it (which has nothing to do with the fact that one of the guys is the son of a policeman, nosiree) and it brought to the fore a lot of the victim-blaming that’s seemingly unique to cases of sexual assault. I don’t have anything like the knowledge to say anything of value about the case that hasn’t already been said by others; it has, though, provided a nice example of the dangers of a carelessly handled punchline*.

At the time, Metro magazine, which had been quite vocal in condemning the actions of the Roast Busters group and the culture that enables them, published the following as the first entry in its regular “20 Questions” column:

After the Roast Busters saga, should there be a new criminal charge: “Drunk in charge of a vagina”?

I can see what they’re going for there. They’re trying to say that the Roast Busters case has shown that a lot of people seem to believe that being “drunk in charge of a vagina” should be a crime, but that’s not how it comes across – on first read, it sounds like Metro itself is advocating the charge. My thoughts on first reading it were “Wait, what? They can’t mean – oh, I see…” – a lot of people quite understandably didn’t get past that first reaction, and Metro copped a lot of flak. I’d have thought their stance up until then would have earned them a little more good will, but the fact remains that they misjudged their tone more seriously than the radio ad I once heard for the Auckland Drape Company** and they can’t blame anyone else for that.

I’ve got some sympathy for Metro, because I can see that “drunk in charge of a vagina” is a punchline that could have worked elsewhere. (I’ve read commentary on this joke which claimed that the humour just comes from “hur hur – he said ‘vagina'”, which I think is completely wrong. As I’ve said before, jokes seldom rely on a word just being inherently funny; this sort of humour comes from the juxtaposition of a controversial word against an otherwise innocuous phrase.) I can’t imagine that anyone would have had a problem if it had been a throwaway joke in the middle of a column – “…one thing the case has highlighted is the attitudes of some people, who seem to think that ‘drunk in charge of a vagina’ should be a new criminal charge…” or whatever. But no – whoever came up with that particular bon mot was too attached to it to not use it, and instead presented it in a format completely lacking in context where it fell flat. (Metro’s editor did himself no favours by publishing a response that amounted to saying that anyone who has a problem with the joke just doesn’t get it, which, while possibly true, misses the point.)

I don’t have enough confidence in any of my punchlines to throw them out there without context (even if that context is just “hey – look at this punchline.”) My depressingly large Evernote folder of half-developed ideas for posts includes a separate file of one liners that need a home. If I’m lucky, I’ll come up with an idea for a post that will naturally accommodate one of them, but for some of them that may never happen. They’re not all gems, but there are some I’m proud of to the point that I’d really like to just get them out there for the sake of it; thanks to Metro’s comedic fumbling, I now have more than enough incentive to make sure that I never do that unless I get really bored and lazy. Oh.

* I’m hoping that enough time has passed since the case broke last year that I can pedantically overanalyse a joke relating to it without being overly insensitive. Like I say, I’m not equipped to handle the real issues here, but I don’t want to give the impression that they’re less important than a bit of comedy theorising.

** Seriously.

Happy Birthday, Blog

Simple fact: if you’re a middle class white person and you have a baby, you will be given a golliwog for it by one of your older relatives who believes that “traditional” is the same as “not racist”. You won’t want to offend them, so you’ll just throw it onto the kid’s pile of soft toys and make sure it stays hidden in the back of his bedroom. Until the child is sick and vomits onto his pile of soft toys, and you have to wash them all so they don’t smell like puke. And then you have to dry them.

self-indulgent wank

I’ve always been annoyed by the First World Problems meme – I find it mean-spirited and patronising – but I have to admit that “not wanting to hang a golliwog on your washing line for all the neighbours to see” almost certainly qualifies as one. Dirty laundry? That’s fucking cultural dirty laundry*.

Only slightly lower down the scale of trivial problems is “thinking you really should write something on your blog even though you don’t really feel like it”. I see this is post number 54, so I was able to average one a week this year – not too bad, considering child-induced lack of sleep put me out of commission for September, October and most of August. (This week we started not feeding the youngest back to sleep at night, to try to get him sleeping through – we’re seeing progress, but my thoughts currently feel like they’re being translated by the Nelson Mandela’s Funeral Sign Language Guy.)

I started this site one year ago today after Caitlin Moran told me to (sort of). To get myself started, and to forestall the sort of excuse-making that usually ends these endeavours, I filled space with a few posts on reasons why I don’t write and reasons why I should, and then tried my hand at stuff that wasn’t self-indulgent wank. And then went back to self-indulgent wank because, let’s be honest, the Internet isn’t good for much else. I tried a bit of opinionating, but it turns out I only have, like, two opinions, so that didn’t last. Reviews were a good source of inspiration/filler – coming out of the Christmas/my birthday season I should have material for a few more of those, I guess.

So I suppose I’m optimistic about 2014. 2013 was the Tough Year for a new child – one income, so money’s always a worry; poor sleeping; eternal vigilance and so on. Work, on the other hand, has been quite interesting, to the point that it was one of the reasons I stopped writing for a bit. This year looks to be even more interesting, hopefully not to the point of “that’s enough now no really stop stop fucking stop it for a second.” With any luck, the plusses and minuses will cancel out and I’ll just amble along putting out one or two pieces a week here.

Is that another resolution, or just a statement of intent? Whatever – that’s 500 words; I’m going to lie down for a while.

* In a previous life as a web cartoonist, I’d occasionally post some of the more glaring examples of old-timey racism as a semi-regular “Mock the Past” series. This one attracted the attention of some well-meaning (yet anonymous) soul who patiently explained how Golly wasn’t racist at all and was just a well-loved children’s character who was erased from history by guilt-ridden liberals with “issues”. A character who happened to look exactly like a grotesque caricature of an African person speaking in broken English – I’m sure that was just a coincidence.

My Personal Set of Mistakes

If you’ve ever watched the extras on the DVD of The Aristocrats (and you really, really should), you’ll have seen Kevin Pollack’s bit where, as well as doing the world-class Christopher Walken impersonation that made it into the final cut, he does another take in the style of Albert Brooks, and afterwards talks about how he’s funnier when he’s being Brooks than he is when he’s being himself. I get that a bit when I read or hear work by someone who’s faster or smarter than me – for a little while afterwards it feels like my brain’s taken on their style and I end up somehow being quicker or cleverer than I actually am, if that makes sense.

…I’d physically shrink to the size of a child’s fist.

The other day I listened to this Caitlin Moran interview, and hearing her talk a mile a minute to Tim Minchin I could actually feel my thinking accelerate. Briefly, I imagined what would happen if she and I ever conversed and we got into some sort of a feedback loop where I talk faster and she talks faster and I talk faster and eventually the conversation just becomes a high-pitched keening that future generations have to play back slowed down to make sense of. Light bends around us and existence flickers and reconfigures itself as our dialogue generates a sort of vocal Large Hadron Collider that causes the spontaneous creation of world-ending miniature black holes, rendering everything and everyone you’ve ever loved to drifting, lonely atoms. “The Aristocrats!”

(As appealing a fantasy as that is, in actuality my personality tends to expand or contract to fill the gaps left by those around me. I have been in social groups where I was the outgoing one, but by and large I’m surrounded by people with bigger presences than mine, to whom I have taken pride in playing the time-honoured role of Straight Man. Paired with Caitlin Moran, I’d physically shrink to the size of a child’s fist.)

I’ve been thinking about what influences me, especially when I write. I’m quite sure I could harness my tendency towards mimicry by deliberately reading or listening to someone I like then immediately setting to writing once my head’s fizzing with their style, but that feels somehow like forgery. Better to just present an amoebic conglomeration of all of my influences in more-or-less reverse chronological order, which I gather is how everyone else does it – after all, “the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources,” which is a quote I just made up now myself.

Someone – I think it was comic book creator Erik Larsen, but I could be wrong – said that style is just your own personal set of mistakes; the specific ways in which you fail to be perfect. I try to keep my pattern of stylistic theft unique to me, although sometimes one influence will bubble more closely to the top than the others – every now and then on this blog I’ve written something and thought “OK, that’s Charlie Brooker – I am 100% aping Charlie Brooker right there”*. Then there’s Garth Ennis (mostly when I’m swearing, although I spent a fair bit of the late 90s unconsciously writing in a dodgy Irish accent) and of course Warren Ellis. Occasionally I’ll affect his “horrible bastard” voice, which I do kind of half-heartedly since I’m not anything like a horrible bastard, so I can’t really pull it off. I can’t really deliver Caitlin Moran’s manic positivity either, but experiencing it always puts me in the mood to be creative.

If I had to point to a single piece of writing that influenced me more than any other, though, it’d be this: When I was a kid – probably not much more than 10 – I read a Marvel comic that had a “fill-in-the-blanks” style interview with one of the writers or artists at the back. I forget who was replying; all I remember is their answers. Basically they were just a complete smartarse, giving answers that technically fit the question but had nothing to do with its intent – “Q: The last movie I saw was… A: 90 minutes long. Q: The last book I read was… A: $8.50.” and so on. Thinking back on it now, it comes off as annoying and self-indulgent, but at the time it completely opened my eyes to how humour and language can work. So much of what I write today comes down to “what’s the obvious thing to write at this moment; what’s the usual way of putting this? OK, now do something else, just to fuck with it.” Thank you, anonymous Marvel staffer – your name may have been lost to the mists of time, but your spirit lives on in the blog of some guy somewhere.

I can’t really put a finger on my cinematic influences – when it comes to movies I just regurgitate the various tropes that a lifetime of couch-potatoing has infused me with. That’s not entirely true – Purple was specifically based on Look Around You and the Friendface ad from The IT Crowd, and I’d have much less success making ten second films if I hadn’t watched everything 5secondfilms.com has done – but mostly it’s just “I know what movies are like, so… do that.”

I don’t have that approach to writing – I try to be more of a “craftsman”/”wanker” and actually think about which word to use when and why. Weird, then, that at the age of 37, I still have no idea how to write a decent ending to a blog post. Look at this concluding paragraph for instance – it just kind of trails off and gom flimp mfffggghhh.

*In fairness to myself, Charlie Brooker has been on an influence on me from before I can remember. It wasn’t until recently that I read his Wikipedia entry and realised that he’d had a hand in just about every bit of media I’d enjoyed since childhood, starting with Oink! in the 1980s.

In which I am a fucking genius

OK, so that was quite the hiatus. I don’t feel any need to apologise, but by way of an explanation:

  • This article by Charlie Brooker. One columnist kickstarted my enthusiasm for writing here; it’s probably fitting that another would euthenise it.
  • I started on a big documentation project at work, which meant that I had little desire to do more writing when I got home, and much less idle time to work on posts at my desk when no-one was looking. Not that I ever did that.
  • The main thing, though, was my old friend Lack of Sleep. Being kept awake by Baby #1 waking up at night was draining enough; being kept awake by Baby #2 and then hauled out of bed at 6AM by the now four-year-old #1 is enough to keep me in a permanent state of mental fuzziness, which is far from conducive to creative writing.

But I’m breaking silence now, because the company I work for just had their annual short film competition, and I got a few entries in for the 10 Second category.* Might as well show them off here, with a little director’s commentary added.

Writer’s Block

Semi-autobiographical. This was the first one I submitted – just a simple idea I thought of that would be easy to do. The only real reason it’s there was to motivate me to do more (see: lacking creativity). I thought the shot of me was nicely composed, even though it was only like that because I had the camera sitting on the edge of the table and couldn’t move it any further back to get a wider shot.

One Wacky Summer

This was inspired by a Twitter conversation I had a few weeks earlier on cliched endings. My interlocutor is, frankly, funnier than I am, so it ended up being one of his ideas that I most closely ripped off (competition rules against copyrighted music prevented me from actually using “California” so I went with something generically feel-good). I had a hard time deciding on what the line of dialogue should be – I wanted it to be a total non sequitir, with no relation to the bloodshed at all, but anything I could think of just came off as ironic (or didn’t make sense as the final line of a film). If you’re familiar with the work of RSJS, you won’t be surprised to learn that he supplied the blood spurt. We did a couple of takes, and while the one I used wasn’t the most successful (the timing’s not quite right and you can see that the spurt comes from a different location than where I stabbed), it was the prettiest to freeze on.

The Making Of

I was surprised how well that pan worked. If you go frame by frame, it’s very obvious where one shot ends and the next begins, but in motion it all flows together – largely a result of shooting it handheld in front of an indistinct backdrop that already had a bit of movement in it. I didn’t make either of those decisions with the pan in mind, but I’ll take credit for them anyway. Of course, the decision to shoot it outside meant that the sound was terrible (and worse, inconsistently terrible), but fuck it – look at that pan! RSJS on the camera once again.

Josh’s Time Phone

I don’t know if this one really works. It’s meant to be a little time loop gag – the reason I get hit by the ball is that I’m distracted by the call from myself warning me about the ball, which prompts me to make the call, etc. etc. Not sure if that comes across, but still, it won the 10 Second category – either everyone got it or they just like seeing me take a ball to the face. I also forgot to put my jacket back on for filming the last shot – how cute: Baby’s First Continuity Mistake. Again, I thought the last shot was nicely composed, even though I just jumped in front of the camera and had no idea how it was going to come out.

And finally, before the judging took place, the organisers sent out an email asking all of the entrants to record an acceptance speech that could be played in the other offices if we won. This is what happens when I’m given the brief “Pretend you have won and go crazy…cue lots of gushing, over the top Oscars style acceptances”:

Powerful stuff. In defence of the awful image and sound quality, we were given one day’s notice, so I had to film it that evening in crappy light. The whole thing is edited together from a single shot – I was afraid that I might move the camera if I stopped and started it, and it needed to stay completely still for the split screen to work. I ended up sitting down, doing a few takes of that bit, then jumping up, changing clothes and doing a few takes of the other bit all in one go. The split screen worked OK – Josh 1 managed to stay on one side of the split and Josh 2 on the other, although the shadow Josh 1 casts on the wall went across the split – I had to do a bit of a pseudo green screen effect to soften it. Not bad for about 20 minutes’ work. The hardest thing was getting the boy to stay quiet while I was filming.

*In typing the first seven words of that sentence, I made four typos. Just saying: tired.

Updatery!

I’ve noticed two interesting trends regarding this blog. One is that whenever I put up a column here, within days I’ll come across an article or a cartoon or an opinion that would have been an ideal thing to reference, if they hadn’t come to my attention just too late. The other trend is that I’m incredibly tired and lazy.

I’m incredibly tired and lazy.

With these in mind, now seems like a good time to stop and revisit some of the things I’ve written recently, as a way of shoehorning in the more recent material I’ve encountered.

Much like my Viking forebears*, I’ll begin with rape. Not long after I wrote about humourlessly dissecting humour, Cracked.com published their 4 Questions People Debating Rape Jokes Should Ask Themselves. Some good points made there, including one of the things that bothers me when people talk about rape-based humour, which is the idea that rape is off the comedy menu on account of it happens a lot, as though it’s just a numbers game as to whether or not something is an acceptable object of humour. Have a read and see what you think.

If I were less convinced of my towering insignificance, I’d wonder at the number of times a Cracked article has related to something I wrote a few days before. It was not long after I suggested that the Toy Story toys were forced to listen to Andy masturbating for years that the exact same point showed up in one of their Photoplasty contests. Obviously, I’m not such a searing genius that this point can’t have occurred to other, like-minded people; similarly, there are plenty of introverts out there, so it’s no surprise that after I wrote about the foolishness of telling people to be more confident, I almost immediately stumbled over this cartoon, which hits the nail on the head with the conviction of a toolbox serial murderer. And it was scant days after that when those wacky bastards at Cracked.com listed the 4 Things Movies Always Get Wrong About Awkward People. The money quote for that one would have to be:

I know this is going to be hard for dynamic and interesting extroverts to believe, but some people are happy being introverts. Shy people don’t stay in on a Friday night because they’re broken, they stay in because they get more enjoyment out of reading at home than they do out of going to a sweaty bar or crowded party or loud concert or violent, I don’t know, quinceanera. Quiet people avoid talking in large crowds not because they don’t know how to talk, but because they prefer listening. Shy and awkward people are not looking for you to save them because they don’t need to be saved. Why do we throw around the phrase “She really helped him break out of his shell” as if that’s a good thing? If a turtle breaks out of his shell, he will die.

Yep.

The next one is entirely self-inflicted. It wasn’t long after I indulged my pet hate of made up swear words that my search engine referrals started filling up with the likes of this:

Screenshot_2013-06-30-15-36-49

To anyone who’s arrived here wondering what the made up swear words on Defiance are: FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU AND ALL THAT YOU REPRESENT ON THIS MORTAL PLANE – THOSE WORDS WILL NEVER BE SPOKEN HERE.

And finally, last night I saw Pacific Rim, which gives me the chance to throw back to my Iron Man 3 review, where I said “if Pacific Rim isn’t wall-to-wall robot punching none of you will ever hear the end of it.” Well, I don’t know about “wall-to-wall”, but there was certainly no shortage of robot punching there – there pretty much had to be, considering the plot, characters and dialogue were nothing to write home about.

Some of the fights are over too quickly (some of the giant robots are barely seen in action before they get stomped on), and they tease us in the opening sequence by saying “yeah, so those Jaeger robots spent years beating the shit out of giant monsters, but we’re not going to show you any of that – we’ll just skip to the point where the programme’s being shut down and there are hardly any left.” Nevertheless, there was much gorgeously rendered metal-fisted mayhem as the mighty bots pound on, stab, shoot at and incinerate an array of increasingly freaky monsters. I don’t think there were any moments that topped the “hitting in the face with a ship” bit that was spoiled by the trailers, but there were plenty that came close. And the human stick-fighting sequence, while coming worrying close to the “you do not know someone until you fight them” bollocks from Matrix Reloaded, was a lovely bit of fight choreography.

So yes, no need for “none of you will ever hear the end of it”. The Internet breathes a sigh of relief.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATES: I almost forgot to write about Pacific Rim without mentioning the fact that it’s called “Pacific Rim”. Best I can come up with so far is “Pacific Rim? Sounds like something you have to pay extra for at a Tongan brothel! Am I right? Heyooooo! And so forth!” Yeah, I should have put more thought into it, but see above re: tired and so, so lazy.

*I have a ginger beard, so I’m assuming there must be some Viking somewhere in my genes.

Why I’ll Never be a Hollywood Screenwriter

I’ve spent the last week ailing with an increasingly severe headache, which eventually escalated to something that a doctor described as “migraine-ish”. (Might’ve been “migraine-like”. Definitely not “migrainey” – I’d have remembered “migrainey”.) So again I’m going with the “gag that I can’t be bothered assembling a full column around” routine. Comme ça:

Sure, I’d probably be good at it

The 500-1,000 word piece seems a good limit for me – anything more than that becomes a chore very quickly. Writing a novel sounds like a colossal drag, and crafting a screenplay, from all that I’ve heard and read, is nothing short of hellish.

Besides, I could never write screenplays for a living. Sure, I’d probably be good at it – I’d have a few early successes and soon I’d find myself being brought on board bigger and more prestigious projects, but eventually I’d be in charge of writing the screenplay for the latest Tom Cruise Jack Reacher installment. And I’d have no choice but to include a plot point where Reacher uses his military expertise to craft his own special ammunition, which he would obviously name “Reacher rounds”. And then I’d fill the script with dialogue like:

“What are you going to do about that crime boss, Jack?” “I’m going to give him… a Reacher round.”

“That scumbag needs a Reacher round and I’m the guy to give him one!”

“You bad guys sure look satisfied with yourselves – well let’s see how satisfied you are after I give you all some of my famous Reacher rounds!”

“What? WHAT!?”

And then I’d be murdered by a Scientologist death squad. Nope, I’m definitely doing myself a favour by steering clear of that particular vocation.

On Naming One’s Genitals

A combination of child-induced sleeplessness and dentistry-induced infection has been sucking the creativity out of me fairly effectively for the last week and a half. I’ve given up the idea of a proper post for now (I toyed with a video entry, figuring it’d be easier to just ramble out my ideas instead of crafting them into grammatical sentences, but it turns out I’m too run down to form coherent speech either). Instead, an insight into my writing process.

…not even worthy of a pull quote.

I’m not one for giving pet names to my undercarriage, but, having just re-watched Tremors, if I ever did need to name my testicles, “Val and Earl” would be top of the list. Of course, the problem with that is that I’d have to continue the theme when naming my penis, and the only real possibilities would be “Stumpy” or “Rhonda”.

And that’s how most of what I write starts out – a punchline in search of a setup. Normally I manage to build a post out around one such a nugget, or cobble a few together if I can find a connection between them, but at the moment that just feels like too much work. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve sat in front of Evernote lately, trying to work a few notes into a full-length post, only to have my brain actively recoil at the suggestion. So this is all you get for now – not even worthy of a pull quote. Back once the antibiotics have run their course.