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This is a test of the emergency blogcasting network. Had this been an actual blog post, you would have been riddled with random thoughts and goofy images. This concludes our test.

Gotham Writers

Recently, I signed up for a course with Gotham Writers. Sadly, it did not involve blogging in the Batcave. I mean, what’s even the point? If you’re going to call yourself Gotham Writers…

Bah. I’m over it.

…not really.

Every week, we have assignments that address a certain aspect of writing. This particular class is helping me with my short story/novel writing. I have been focusing on screenwriting over the past two years. This focus became apparent when I participated in NaNoWriMo. I had become TOO economical with words. I had learned to leave out scene painting details because that is not the job of a screenplay. I had learned to leave out character thoughts and back story for the same reason. My “chapters” were averaging one to two pages and were hardly what I would call engrossing. This class is helping me find some balance.

The thing it is NOT helping me find, however, is an audience. At the start of the year, I had wanted to make that my focus. I’m not interested in driving up numbers on my social media or collecting legions of fans or anything. I just would like my writing to have a life outside of my own computer. Writing without an audience is basically journaling and I burned out on that in my Tori Amos-obsessed 90’s teendom.

Blogging was filling that hole for a while, but I don’t have the drive to keep up with it as much. Most of the things I enjoyed blogging about can be succinctly summarized in a tweet, a vine, or a tumblr post. Screenwriting is tricky to share because one kind of needs to learn how to read screenplays as much as how to write them. Novel writing is great, but let’s face it, it is going to take me a WHILE to get anything to the point of publication…

So that leaves me with short stories. The thing that is great about this writing workshop is that each week we have to write a short story and our assignments are limited to 500 words. That limit forces me to craft a beginning, middle and end and not amble on through a word forest with no end in sight.

So far in this class, I have five short stories. I think I will share them here. I will probably edit them and expand the ones that really pulled on me, but my hope is to get something narrative up on this blog for people to read.

Oh, and I have created an “in-between” theme for this blog so that it is easier to read than it was. I don’t mind the dark background throughout my site when I am trying to call attention to a video or an image, but for reading large blocks of text, it is a bad idea.

Facebook Freeze

As I stated yesterday, I am trying to get more of my writing actually out there in the world. To do so requires energy and time. These are two things that a single mom with a full time job doesn’t exactly have in spades. As I struggled to keep my eyes open getting my words in at 750words.com every night before midnight, I wondered if I had my priorities straight.

“I don’t have time to write.”

I find myself saying this too often. I still manage to get my daily writing in, but I know that’s the bare minimum if one really wants to be a writer. And to be honest, I need to write about more than what happened in my day and the things I am going to write, you know, when I have the time…

I also hear other people saying this. A lot. In fact, almost more than any other creative endeavor, I hear people referring to themselves as writers, but then admitting that they don’t actually write. I’ve had three such conversations this past month alone. What is going on here?

The simplest answer is that when people ask us what we do, many of us don’t want to give them the “day job” answer. We want to tell people who we are in our minds, what we WANT to do. I get that. I used to hold a grudge against my day job because it wasn’t film making. In my mind I was Steven Spielberg, not Mark Zuckerberg (how I learned to love my inner computer nerd and rule my code with pride is an entirely different blog post, but not quite in the scope of this one, so I will leave it). Not only that, but “I’m a writer” sounds so cool. It just makes a person sound smart, doesn’t it?

I’d wager there is something else going on with writing, and it’s kind of the biggest obstacle. Writing is hard. It is really hard. Most people don’t realize this until they actually sit down to maintain that blog or write that novel or screenplay. We all learn to “write” from a very young age, so we are under the impression that it is easy. Hell, if a SIX-YEAR-OLD can do it…

“Hey I know grammar! I can write! I’m going to move out to Hollywood and be a screenwriter! Easy money! All I have to do is write ninety little pages and I can get $100K for it, right?” Yeah!

BrianDoesHollywood2

No. I have met a lot of people who are “working on a screenplay” out here in Los Angeles. I have met a few who have actually finished one, fewer still who have done more than one draft of it and VERY few who have done anything with what they have finished. It’s not just because Hollywood is so tough, it’s because what they are trying to do- even before they go pitch it to a heartless executive- is actually really, really hard. Writing takes a lot of time and focus. I can write ninety pages of words with no problem. You won’t want to read them. I doubt anyone is going to want to make a movie out of them.

Focus is the hardest part. For me, anyway, “writer’s block” is just the inability to focus. Sometimes writing involves some research. Thankfully, we have the Internet and all of the information in the world is at our fingertips. Unfortunately, we have the Internet and all of the information in the world is at our fingertips. One harmless little search for flower metaphors can turn into me fantasizing about owning a vineyard in France. I will feel bad about the diversion and buy a book on writing from Amazon to alleviate the guilt, only to look at the clock and realize it’s time for bed.

Researching aside, nothing is a bigger focus stealer for me than social media.

“I was wondering when she was going to get to the point of this.”

Right. I enjoy clicking on the links my friends post on Google+. They are mostly of the geeky and informational variety. I can handle scanning my twitter feed a few times a day and sending out my own tweets. However, nothing is more time sucking than Facebook.

That girl I went to high school with who I haven’t spoken to since 1993 just had a baby. How cute! What else has she been up to? This one guy I met once at a party in Hollywood is posting some horrifically nasty political garbage and the comments are priceless. I will write my response. Wait, I will edit it before I post it because it might not be nice. I will delete it because I don’t even know any of these people. I haven’t been able to write anything, so I will go check out my writer friends’ profiles. Oh, look! They are on Facebook, too. Well, I feel better now. Look at this story about this heart-wrenching thing that everyone is rallying behind. Oh, wait, it’s fake. Now look at this story about how that story was fake and how anyone who believed it was stupid…

On and on it goes. I had been spending less and less time on Facebook. I had mostly been posting pictures of my baby for friends and family (and that dude I met at that party and that high school “friend” who… wait… we didn’t go to high school together at all! Who even IS that person with the new baby?) Lately, I started to notice that a lot of my real life conversations were revolving around things that had been posted on Facebook, either by me or by my “friends.” All 415 of them (yeah, I don’t actually have 415 friends).

So I wondered, what if I just quit facebook altogether? It’s taking up a lot of time that could be better spent finishing and publishing those writing projects I have (two novels, a screenplay and a pilot, to be exact). I should focus on being a better writer (or coder, but like I said, that’s a post for another day). After a couple of days of wondering how best to end my relationship with Facebook (should I warn people, should I just pull the plug, should I post my reasoning?), I just pulled the plug after the new year.

So far, so good! I am still alive. People still exist. I’m fine not knowing what football games people are going to be watching this weekend. I’m sure most people will be just fine not seeing my posts bragging about my mad home ice cream making skillz. A “like” on a post can give us the false sense that hundreds of other people care about our day-to-day lives just as much as we do. I

It’s been making me reevaluate how I might use Facebook, should I choose to come back (deactivations, unlike deletions, are temporary and can be undone anytime, just in case you were wanting to try the same experiment). There are a couple of friends I have thought about contacting, but have realized that the only way I was ever in touch with them was on Facebook. I should change that. Not only that, it can be a useful tool for writers! Before this week, I would have posted a link to this blog on Facebook. This writer does want readers, after all. I won’t be doing that for this post, however. Which makes me a little sad.

Though I also won’t be doing the subsequent infinite scroll down my news feed that will occupy my brain for an hour or so. Hmm. Maybe I will pull out my outline instead…

Inactivity Log

Okay, here is the thing. I am a web developer. I am also a writer. As such, I never work on my blog because these two personalities are always screaming conflicting things. When I get a blog post written, I hit publish, step back to take a look at my site… and am mortified by how bad it looks. A good sixty or so percent of the people reading this might think I’m being crazy, but I build web sites for a living. I know how they are supposed to look and this one violates so many of the rules and suggestions out there that it makes me irritated at myself.

“So redesign your web site,” you tell me. Of course! I would LOVE to. Here’s the thing about that, though. Web technologies are always changing. I learn the “best way” to do things, redesign my site and then take another contracting gig that shows me an even BETTER way to do things, and on and on it goes. It takes a lot of time to redesign a site. And when you are working on other people’s sites for eight hours a day, there is little time left for yours.

And because I have so little free time, I feel I should spend it writing. So, I am left with this constant battle going on in my head. Use my spare time to write or use my spare time to redesign my site?

Lately I have chosen to use my spare time to write. Looking at the timeline on this blog, you might not believe me. That’s because I don’t write where anyone can see it. I write at 750words.com daily and won NaNoWriMo this year, writing a 50,000+ word novel during the month of November. It feels so satisfying to get all of that writing done, but the major problem is that no one can see it.

In the case of my novel, that is a very good thing at the moment. The story changed about four times while I was writing and the whole thing is a jumbled mess. The hefty job of rewriting and editing is now upon me. In the case of my words at 750words.com, that is both a good and a bad thing. Much of that writing reads like journal entries and I don’t necessarily want to share (nor do you necessarily want to read about) the inner workings of my mind. A few of my entries have actually been short stories, thoughts about life in general, and “practice” blog posts, though. Those entries should be read.

Enter 2014. A new year. This year, I am trying a few things. I gave up facebook for one (so far, so good). Getting back in shape is another. The most important resolution for me this year is to get my writing “out there.” I will work on redesigning my site, but in the meantime, I am not going to be idle with the blog posts anymore. I still want to finish up my extras stories (I have a couple of really great ones). I have short stories that I want to publish and I now have two NaNoWriMo novels that are begging to be edited and distributed. It’s relatively easy to self-publish these days, so no more excuses!

Yes, my blog is a bit difficult to read. No, my site is not responsive yet. I will work on that when I can. When the site design updates, the blog posts will too (ah, the beauty of WordPress), so I am just not going to worry about it. Presentation is huge to me, but content is as well. Right now, I am focusing on content.

Now that I think about it, that is a lovely metaphor for why I put a hold on my Facebook account!

Baby On Board

(Easily one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons…)

For the past nine months, I have had a baby on board. It’s been a wild ride full of ups and downs (thankfully, more ups than downs) and many surprises. This journey is almost at an end. I am standing by for either that first contraction or word from my doctor that she needs to induce, so I decided to write about my experiences to keep from losing my mind…

I get many of the same questions wherever I go. There’s the standard “so, what’s your major” trio that tends to happen when I am standing in line or waiting in an elevator. They usually come in this order:

1. When are you due?

2. Is it a boy or a girl?

3. Is this your first?

The answers, in order, are April 9th, boy and yes. Usually, after these questions are answered, there is a polite “congratulations.” Sometimes this is followed by a bit of advice or an anecdote if the person has their own children. Sometimes these tips are welcome: “being a parent is an amazing experience” or “here is the name of a friend of mine who is an experienced doula.” Sometimes they aren’t: “say goodbye to your life” or “that’s a terrible name- you should pick names from the Bible” (a verbatim quote. Tip: never discuss names with people and never discuss babies with crazy people). Occasionally, the questions are just shocking. “How old are you?” was rude and confusing, particularly since it was asked because I looked “way too young to be having a baby” (only in Los Angeles). “You’re not carrying twins? That’s a HUGE baby!” almost got a little old lady kicked in the shin. I have had the urge to smack one or two people, but I’ve yet to do it. That leads me to some of my own little surprises about pregnancy. Maybe these are myths, maybe these aren’t, but these are a few of the pregnancy stereotypes that didn’t quite fit me:

Pregnant women are crazy. Are they? I’ve seen so much about the “crazy hormones” that us pregnant women get. I think a lot of it is to make people feel better about being insensitive assholes. Typically on an internet Q&A forum:

Q: HELP!! My wife/girlfriend got angry at me and says I never help around the house but I totally did the dishes once last week! She used to be so happy and carefree and let me do whatever I wanted and made me sandwiches all the time. What is going on?!

A: Relax, bro! It’s just hormones. Women just go inexplicably crazy when they are pregnant. It’s for sure nothing you are doing.

I only had four real emotional breakdowns and they all had VERY valid reasons, one of which included being in my third week of fighting a terrible virus while simultaneously being 9 months pregnant and unable to take most medications, lie in a comfortable position or sleep. At all. Between coughing fits, I was pummeled with tiny fists and feet begging “why are you shaking my house so much, mom?!” I felt terrible because I was horribly sick, but also filled with guilt whenever I would cough, sneeze or blow my nose. I was terrified of going into labor in such a state. I was… quite justifiably… a little emotional. Nah. I’m sure it was just hormones and I was probably just upset about getting fat or whatever…

I do admit that my BS tolerance levels are at an all-time low, but I don’t attribute this to “crazy hormones.” It’s not comfortable being pregnant and it never lets up. You are building a new person 24/7 for nine months and you’re already not getting your usual amount of sleep. You need help. You’re nervous, excited, scared, responsible for every step of that little human’s growth and in a great deal of physical discomfort. You can’t have a glass of wine to unwind and I sure didn’t get to do any of my usual “stress busting” activities (see photos, below).  Hormones were the least of my concerns. Sure, there was the occasional “silly” tear shed for pet food commercials and at movies that weren’t tragically sad, but hey, if you don’t cry during that Sarah McLaughlin Humane Society commercial, you probably don’t have a soul.

Those tears fell LONG before I was pregnant! Which leads me to my next myth:

Pregnant women have wild food cravings. No again. This was another of those FAQs for which I never had a satisfying answer for anyone. Yeah, I love potato chips with a jalapeno pepper slice and dipped in ranch dressing, but I created that little concoction years ago. I had a woman approach me in the grocery store when I was buying ice cream: “Wow! Do pregnant women seriously crave ice cream?” Well, sure. But, uh… do you not? (By the way, being pregnant is apparently like wearing a giant sign that says “PLEASE APPROACH ME AND START A CONVERSATION!”) I probably ate more peanut butter than usual, but otherwise, my diet was pretty much the same. The only exception was my miserable first trimester. That was the only time I had real food aversions. I could not abide chicken. I couldn’t eat it, smell it, look at it or even think about it without feeling ill. Most of the foods I craved at that time were either starchy (bagels) or sugary (lots of fruit- especially mango and watermelon). I didn’t ever wake my boyfriend up in the middle of the night and insist he go get me Pad Thai with a side of chocolate cupcakes and pickle juice. Most of these food preferences were less about a “craving” and more about wanting to eat something that wouldn’t make me feel sick to my stomach. Which leads nicely to:

Morning sickness is bullshit. I don’t mean that it doesn’t happen, I mean that “morning sickness” is cruelly misnamed. My nausea usually came at night, right about as I was leaving work. It came off and on throughout most of the day, as well. It was paralyzing. The worst part is, I didn’t actually get sick, I just felt like I was constantly on the verge of getting sick. Though I will admit, hearing about Kate Middleton’s horrible affliction made me complain a little less. Because these symptoms lasted weeks and came rather randomly, I couldn’t really take time off of work, but I had to cease most of the activities I normally would have been able to do in that first trimester. Most notably, this:

Courtney Hoskins on Aerial Silks

And this:

Courtney Hoskins Stunt on Rope

And this:

Courtney Hoskins on Flying Trapeze

Sigh… I know I will get to do these things again, but I have really missed them over the past nine months.

We live in an advanced society and people aren’t weird about pregnancy anymore. Um. No. I’ve had all sorts of obstacles to overcome with this. I’ve dealt with loads of outright discrimination and this strange mix of over and under-reaction to my physical activities. I have had to explain to people how my baby is not- even by scientific definition- a “parasite.”  Yes, there were people (coworkers, even) referring to him that way. Even if you WANT to make that argument, don’t make it to a pregnant woman whose feelings about her own pregnancy you do not know. It’s not clever or cute. I had one guy at work get outright angry at me because after a meeting, some of my coworkers lingered to ask me questions about my (newly announced) pregnancy. As our meeting was clearing out, this guy barked, “come on! We have to do a conference call in here in ten minutes and you girls are over there talking about PREGNANCY!” I guess us “girls” don’t get that you need a solid ten minutes of no lady talk before a room is fit for a conference call. Also, for the people who are “grossed out” by pregnancy: you were once a fetus too. Grow the eff up. Yeah, it’s not always pleasant and it’s sometimes gross, but I don’t need you explaining why it’s okay for you to be offensive and make me feel like I should be hidden under a tent. Oh, and while we are at it:

I don’t have a clue what I am doing. Apparently. I’ve never read a book on pregnancy. Never looked it up online (what is Google?) I don’t have a doctor I can talk to. I have no maternal instincts. I’ve never even known anyone else in my entire life who has been pregnant and can tell me things about pregnancy (e.g. my own mother). I am SO HAPPY you know everything about my “condition,” person I hardly know! Please enlighten me. One woman tracked my every movement every day: Did I know I couldn’t eat feta? I should probably sell my cat because of her litter box? I should probably leave my boyfriend because he will be just like her ex husband? My showers are too hot? No wait… too cold? I should see my doctor more often? I shouldn’t get my hair dyed? I shouldn’t drink coffee? I should eat more, even if it doesn’t seem appetizing? I wish it ended there, but this woman had me wondering if I should just quarantine myself. As if it’s not stressful enough that so much of the information out there is conflicting.

It’s all by the books. Except the books say different hings. And why in the world are fetuses measured against the size of produce? I suppose it’s because us ladies spend so much time doing the grocery shopping and wouldn’t be able to envision “golf ball sized” versus “baseball sized” or some other consistent size comparison. But seriously, what the heck? Here is an example of how one baby app sizes up my growing kid:

Week 4: poppyseed. Okay. Yeah, I got that. He’s tiny.

Week 5: appleseed. Yep. I can see that.

Week 6: pea. Again. Pretty consistent. He’s pea sized. Got it.

Week 7: blueberry. Um… wait. I just grabbed a handful. Some are smaller than peas. I don’t…

Week 8: raspberry. Okay? Is he not growing?

Let’s jump ahead to week 11: lime. Okay. That’s bigger than a raspberry. Got it.

Week 12: plum. Week 13: peach. Wait wait. Are we talking about organic fruit or…? Son of a bitch. I give up. Right now, I am at week 39: watermelon. Well, hell! THAT’S gonna hurt:

watermelon

Next week, I will be at week 40: jackfruit. Whatever the f*&$ that is. Why do I even want to envision him as something edible anyway? Maybe that’s why people dress their babies as food for Halloween.

I’ll get by with a little help from my friends. This one is true. My friends have really been there for me. Sure, there were a couple who shunned me (pregnancy is not contagious, you know) and acted like my professional and social lives were over, but by and large, my real friends and family came through for me. Sometimes the love was almost overwhelming, but for those of you who have been checking in on me, inviting me to hang out, reminding me that I can ask you for help, driving me to my appointments when needed, cooking me food: you are all wonderful and I love each and every one of you. You kept me sane and happy. Which leads me to my final point:

Pregnant women are smug. Hmm. I was feeling a lot of things: tired, happy, sad, brooding, worried, alone, scared, overwhelmed, gassy, bloated, lazy… Sorry Garfunkel and Oates, but smug just wasn’t one of them!

 

 

 

 

A Piece of the Pi

This shot took me DAYS to set up and render. I made it for my demo reel so I could get a job at Rhythm + Hues in 2006.

R+H created Babe, Richard Parker from Life of Pi, Aslan, the Geiko gecko and countless other memorable CG characters. They recently filed for bankruptcy (a disturbing trend amongst VFX houses lately). Pi won best VFX tonight and when the rep started thanking R+H, they not only played him off stage, but they muted his mic. R+H got no mention from the cinematographer (who, let’s face it, owes many of his gorgeous “shots” to the VFX) to even the director, who only expressed that he wished VFX could be cheaper.

People are under the impression that CGI requires nothing more than a button press. Computers are a tool, just like a pen, but it still takes real artists to pull it all off. I spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours learning these skills and I consider myself to be nowhere near the caliber of the people who pulled off Life of Pi. I struggled to find work when I moved out here and was SHOCKED at what people were willing to pay. Luckily, I had other skills to fall back on, but I miss this work and would like to think that I could someday return to it AND support my family. And for my friends who are struggling to find that balance, I hope it gets better. Without the VFX artists, many of the most profitable movies would be nothing more than a couple of actors standing in front of a green screen. I hope to see a reverse in this trend and respect to the artist.

Since I couldn’t show up in person to stand with the artists, I have to settle for making a point via the internets: https://www.facebook.com/VfxSolidarityIntl and @VFXSoldier on Twitter are two great sources of more information.

Science and Television

Ah, Futurama! One of the few things on television that actually fact checks their science references… and takes great pleasure in ripping apart things that don’t.

The recent meteor event in Russia has made me wish that newscasters and blog writers had Morbo sitting next to them whenever they made some lame joke or speculation about some scientific phenomenon.

I suppose the news stopped being objective and checking their facts a long time ago, and about more than just science, but the confidence with which newscasters and writers present their scientific “facts” really irritates me.

I don’t claim to be a science expert, but it is a passion of mine. I studied astronomy and physics for a while and almost made a career out of it. You don’t have to get that far into science, though, to know how to do a quick cross-referenced Google search. And if you are about to explain some scientific phenomenon to a worried public, you should consult a scientist. Otherwise, you end up saying stupid things like this:

(Please ignore the fact that this video clip is coming from a UFO playlist- it is a very much identified falling object.) First of all “I tracked those meteors…” No you didn’t. You simply did a Google search to see if there were any meteor showers that happened to be taking place when the footage was captured. Also, meteors don’t actually come from constellations, they just appear to. Constellations are apparent arrangements of stars many light years away, not throwers of fireballs. And while the name “Quadrands Muralis” is obsolete, constellations do not “go extinct.” We just decide we don’t like them anymore. Then we have “they are often hard to see because the northern sky is usually cloudy.” That’s right. Clouds like to gather in the north… for… strategic… science purposes. Forget that “The Northern Sky” is relative to where you are standing and… you know what, I’m not even going to dignify that statement with further commenting.

Actually, the women who were joking around were absolutely right! This was, in fact, a Russian rocket body that entered the Earth’s atmosphere, broke into pieces and fell to the ground. I suspected it was something like this the first time I saw this footage. First of all, it is moving pretty slowly. Meteors streak and burn up quite a bit faster than this. Secondly, if you compare the colors and the shapes of the fragments to actual man-made objects burning in the atmosphere (sadly, the Columbia footage comes to mind), this what it looks like.

Then the facepalm moment. “I mean you know it all, Tomer. YOU’RE OUR METEOROLOGIST?!” A. Meteorology is not astronomy. B. Please see my comment about “northern clouds.” An actual weather scientist should know better.

The reason the recent Russia event reminded me of this was that I am getting sick of every streak of light being attributed to a “meteor shower.” I wish the above footage is what a meteor shower looked like! It would make those chilly early morning trips to the mountains so much more exciting than the 10-15 quick streaks you actually end up seeing.

Early reports of the Russian meteor were that it was a meteor shower or even… meteor rain? I’m sure everyone has seen the footage a million times at this point, but here it is again:

Okay, some quick vocabulary (from NASA):

Asteroid: A relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun.

Comet: A relatively small, at times active, object whose ices can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas.

Meteoroid: A small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun.

Meteor: The light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes; a shooting star.

Meteorite: A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and lands upon the Earth’s surface.

So, an asteroid or a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere where it become a meteor. It either burns up or it makes it to the surface as a meteorite. OR in the case of the Russian event, it’s a bolide, or fireball or in this particular case, a “detonating fireball.”

Pretty cool, right? Contrast that with a meteor shower. Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through clouds of debris from comets. Yes, you can have all of that excitement in a meteor shower, but usually what you have is tiny streaks across the sky over several hours. Still cool, but not quite as spectacular as either of the two videos above. They are also global events (you can’t have a Russian meteor shower, for example) and come like clockwork every year- not just randomly.

And meteor rain? That… doesn’t exist, actually. At least, not in scientific terms.

So the next time a newscaster attributes some weird thing in the sky to a meteor shower, I want Morbo there to tell them:

Extras Gig #3: Castle

Me on Castle... Kind of

A while back I thought it would be a good idea to chronicle some of my extras gigs in my blog. Then all the social networks, my day job as a web developer and my noveling and screenwriting efforts made maintaining my website seem more like a chore than the fun thing I used to do. This is a return to that. I’m not going to make the promise that I will regularly update (a promise that I will inevitably break), but I would like to get back in the habit.

As for extras work, it was a super fun thing I did when I first moved out to Los Angeles and could afford to fart around before getting down to business. I don’t mean to diminish the life of the full-time professional extra. It’s actually a tough way to make money and if you can do it regularly, you are magic and I salute you. Yes, it’s quite possible to make your living being a “blur” as people will so kindly refer to them (hey, ninjas are blurs too, and NO ONE messes with ninjas), but I had other aspirations and other obligations. Sadly, my blur days are becoming just that… So I want to write about them before they are gone.

My first gig was 100 Questions. A very short-lived sitcom on… some network. I don’t think my scene ever made it onto the small screen, but I basically had to sit in a pants suit and fake sip a fake martini. I’ve already written that story. I’ve also already written the Cold Case story, so you can catch up on those if you so desire.

My third extras gig was Castle. NOW we’re talking! Though I don’t watch it regularly, I do enjoy the show- especially the Nathan Fillion part of the show- so I was excited when they told me I would be in it. They informed me that I would be a New York subway patron. Sweet! I can play that! I lived in New York for almost four years. I know from ridin’ the subway, yo! I decided to go method for this one.

On that note, one thing you should know, should you desire to be an extra or find yourself on set one day: background work is NOT acting. No one appreciates your efforts to stand out. You are “background talent.” Your goal is to blend in (see earlier ninja comment). Also, no one on the set really wants to hear about all of the acting you do, the workshops and schools you attended, the people you have met… Actually, scratch that. Some people do want to hear about that. And they are sitting at that table over there. Not at my table, where I am clearly trying to read American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

Yes, I was being crabby on the set that night. It took far too long for me to find parking and meander through the trailers to find the 2nd AD. Plus, this was a night shoot and I’d heard rumors that we might not get done until four in the morning. There was also limited food for my then-vegetarian self to eat and I was starving. Knowing every eatery nearby would be closing soon and I would be reduced to eating chips and fruit snacks for the next six hours filled me with dread. On top of that, I found out that the scene we were shooting would have NOTHING TO DO with Nathan Fillion. At all. I have this annoying curse of being where he is- sometimes EXACTLY where he is- and never getting to see or meet him. More on that later.

While I was sitting at one of the few tables that had adequate reading light and feeling sorry for my(let’s face it, pretty spoiled)self, I got a call. When I answered it, the voice of my dad’s partner answered back and I suddenly got very nervous. Don’t get me wrong, we get along great and I love talking to her, but it was a bit odd to get a call from her late at night, knowing that it was three hours later where she was. As it turns out, I had reason to be nervous. My dad had suffered a heart attack. Now, I do love suspense, but not where my family is concerned, so let me just spoil this and spare you: he’s fine. Everything turned out great. However, that information would not come to light for another few weeks and the rest of my time on set was spent worrying about him.

I felt trapped. He would need a surgery and I wanted to fly out for it, but I was unable to do anything about it. I alternated between distracting myself with my book and researching flights on my ten-percent-battery-life phone. I decided the best thing for me to do would be to just finish out the night and go home. Needless to say, much of the evening was a bit of a blur after that. I remember walking with my book, trying to look like a New Yorker. I was depressed and self-occupied, so I think I pulled it off quite nicely.

The one detail I do remember from the night is that I was selected to be one of the subway patrons who would go through the turnstile right as the bad guy jumped over to escape Beckett. Since my face would be in the shot, I had to pretend like I noticed, but not really care. Much like I would have reacted in New York had I seen someone jump over the turnstile. The turnstiles the actors were to jump over were very clearly marked with tape. We were told that we could go through any of the other turnstiles, but that we had to stay out of the way of the marked turnstiles.

When the first take came up, I found an unmarked turnstile and set my intention to walk through it. I headed toward it (without looking like I’m heading toward it) and BOOM, the bad guy jumps over the unmarked turnstile. Any look of shock I had as this actor came hurtling at me uncontrollably was completely genuine. They called a cut. No one blamed anyone (mostly because it wasn’t my fault… they have no problem yelling at extras, but tend to hold back with the talent), but I was much more cautious about approaching the turnstiles on subsequent takes. I mean, I would love to be a stuntwoman, but that’s a completely different pay grade with a totally different set of rules and insurance requirements.

I did manage to make it in the shot, at least- see above picture. This was season 2, episode 18. I’m that blur that looks kind of like… well a rather gothy New Yorker. And see that green blur? That’s my copy of American Gods (that book really did help me get through that shoot).

I was later used in three other shots, but never made it onto the screen. It’s pretty amazing. With the exception of two people veryone you see on the screen was an extra or a stunt person. Some of them got paid more than others. I got paid about $80 to be there that night, and I was on the lower end of that price range so… do the math. It’s expensive to put bodies in scenes!

Scientific Mysteries – Rain in Los Angeles

Recently, “winter” started in Los Angeles. What this means is that for about four days, I had to break out my winter coat (read: hooded sweatshirt) and think about maybe carrying an umbrella around with me. I had to weather-proof my apartment, mostly by taking the fan out of the window and verifying that the heater I had never used actually works. My sunglasses were rendered nearly useless as I only needed them about 40% of the time I was outdoors. Despite all of that, me and my fellow Angelinos managed to make it through.

I heard on the local news that this weather was responsible for countless traffic problems. Being from Colorado, where I had to drive my 1988 Honda Civic while dealing with weather phenomena such as hail storms, tornado warnings, blizzards that dump a foot or more of snow,  sub zero temperatures and black ice on a fairly regular basis, I found it hard to relate, initially. I assumed the problem was psychological. Upon further study (and my gradual SoCal acclimatization), however, I have come to the conclusion that the weather- and probably science- is clearly to blame. Here are some of my findings:

1. Turn signals no longer work. How else can we account for the complete lack of them? I hypothesize that either the precipitation seeps into most vehicles’ electrical systems and attacks only the turn signal functionality, or that the rain droplets somehow refract the light from  turn signals so that they go unseen by the drivers behind or around them. Both of these explanations satisfactorily explain why visual signals are rendered useless, but horn-honking functionality remains unaffected.

2. Braking can only be applied forcefully and suddenly. Gradual braking is not an option, possibly due to the coefficient of friction approaching zero when there is moisture on the road. Sudden and forceful braking must be applied to overcome this. Another possibility is that the rain droplets refract light around objects and intersections, making them essentially invisible to drivers until they are literally right there and have to turn or stop.

2. Drivers can no longer see lines on the road, read road signs, or see traffic signals. I believe this is due to the refraction of light through the rain droplets.

3. The laws at intersections no longer apply. This isn’t as much of a scientific problem as it is a legal one. I still haven’t learned what the alt-weather laws are at four way stops, so this is probably just my fault. That or refracted light through rain droplets either cloaks vehicles completely, or alters our sense of time and space, making us unable to determine who arrived first and has the right-of-way.

4. Perspective changes and varies dramatically from person to person. An acquaintance claimed that he couldn’t see ten feet in front of his vehicle while going seventy miles an hour down the highway on his way in to work. This cannot possibly be the case, as visibility was not limited and it is impossible for any vehicle to move at seventy miles an hour on an L.A. freeway during rush hour. Yet he believed it so fervently and dramatically, that altered perspective (possibly due to refraction of light waves by rain droplets) is the only explanation.

5. Wifi and cell phone signals no longer work. Okay, this one isn’t related to traffic, but a guy in a hotel was explaining to me that this was the reason the internet service that I was paying $9/day to use wasn’t working and he couldn’t refund me. And also my calls like NEVER go through and sometimes my tweets get held up for ages. What the hell, science? The only thing I can think of is that the signals used in such devices are some how “refracted” through the rain droplets and re-routed to people who don’t have AT&T or Time Warner Cable.

6. The world essentially ends. Seriously. I didn’t feel like going to the beach, people had to cancel their flying trapeze and paddleboard classes and I totally didn’t feel like eating at Pinkberry. This is most probably due to the refraction of joy out of life by rain droplets.

You might detect some sarcasm in this post (and a lot of refraction). It’s not that I don’t appreciate that relatively speaking, a couple of days of rain is a monsoon and forty degrees is freezing, it’s just that, well come on, SoCal. You are where the weather forecaster stands when talking about weather happening in the rest of the country.

Why We Fight

Because they tell us to.

Because if we can get worked up to believe that the opposition represents an affront to our most cherished beliefs and that their policies are “evil,” we will get worked up enough to put the other side into power, which is exactly what they want. We can do their fighting for them. If we can blame “the other side” for all of our problems, we feel like we have an enemy we can defeat. If only things were that easy.

We aren’t as different as politicians would have us believe. Heroes and villains sit on both sides of the political aisle, and have throughout history. Most of that posturing is their fight, not ours. On top of that, no one person elected can fix or change everything. Lincoln alone did not end slavery, that was a long-fought group effort. Civil rights and women’s rights were fought and won because groups of people came together and worked for change, not because one person or one political party made it happen, no matter who sat in the Oval Office at the time.

I’m not going to deny that certain issues are important to me and that I will fight for them. I’m not going to deny that crazy people run for office and get elected on both sides, or that there are candidates that I support in full. I just get disheartened when people claim that they have lost faith in the entire country or in all of humanity because of the outcome of one race. We are greater than that.

We vote for more than a President. The President can’t act alone. Your vote yesterday mattered for so many reasons. Senators, congresspeople, DAs, council members, state and local issues… your vote does not stop at the top and it may even speak more loudly the bottom. Nor does your ability to affect change end when the voting booths come down. If you want change and feel strongly about it, don’t wait for some figurehead to do what you hope they will, go work to make it happen. Work with people instead of against them. Put party labels aside and don’t resort to name calling or violence. Change starts with you. Run for office. Volunteer. Write. Do whatever you can to fight for what is important to you. It matters.

Not only that, there is so much more to life than political bickering. Take a break from fighting and arguing about abstract ideals and issues and appreciate the life and people around you.

We won’t be here forever.