When Comedy Becomes Commentary

Normally, I don’t do April Fool pranks. It’s too common. But I got this idea in my head a while ago, and I decided to run with it today.

Background: About 10 years ago, I spat out a small bucketload of plays. It was a nice run. Most of them were short, two were full-length, and they all got some stage time. One play, Dinner for Several, won a comedy competition sponsored by a small theater in Florida. Flew me down for a reading and everything. Nifty!

That play hasn’t seen a stage since (I think) 2009. So this morning my Facebook page featured this:


The kudos started flowing.

People were happy for me.

People were not keying in on the name “Hiroshi O’Malley.”

See, that’s the first clue. That, and the fact that today is today.

And then it hit me… This is how we interact now on social media. We skim. We gloss. We do the quick read, snap out a quick response or tap the “Like” button and we move on to the next yummy morsel being spoon-fed to us by our newsfeed. These people, my friends who’ve known me for years,  were not reading my post in its entirety. They were not clicking that “See More” link—because why bother? I said a happy thing about me, so the correct social media animal response is to say “Yay!” and go look for clickbait. What was above the fold was enough. They did the right social media thing.

And thus missed the whole payoff:


Yes, the “Bridgeport CT Work Release and Community Service Theater Collaborative and Rehabilitation Center.” Not to mention “off-off-off…etc.”

It started as a joke, but it’s turned out a little sad to me. Don’t get me wrong—it’s nice to know that my friends would be thrilled to see my work on stage again, but getting this glimpse into our too-much-input, gloss-and-go culture isn’t a good thing. Our interactions are cheapened, our understanding diminished. The longest reply from someone who took a moment to throw me some congrats is three words long. And while Facebook played a part in my joke by putting the “See More” tag in a pretty much perfect place, it’s also responsible in part for the overload that pretends to connect us, but which really just makes us that much more superficial.

No foolin’.






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My 2016 Resolutions

Rekindle gangsta rap career. Check on availability of name “MC AARP.”

Stop talking about buying a squid and just buy the damn squid.

Push for prayer in schools, but only in Esperanto.

Re-re-re-nominate “Safety Dance” as our new national anthem.

Back the drawing board with haggis-based clothing line idea.

Thumb-wrestle more.

Go for a drive in the country. (Note to self: decide which country first.)

Develop plans for a national professional hot-waxing team league. Sell television rights.

Finish script for autobiographical film. (Note to self: Add laser eyes and city-levelling fight with giant monster. Consider using new pet squid.)

Stop pickin’ at that thing.

Lose the tramp stamp.

Bake more things that don’t need baking. You know, just to see.

Ask William Hung for success tips.

Improve intellectual appearance by carrying around books in languages I don’t understand. When people ask about them, raise one eyebrow and say, “Oh, yes, indeed.” Then walk away.

Create internet.

Write more pointless blog posts, and hang onto the idea that people might read them.





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5 Things to Know About Things You Didn’t Know About

All around you, things are happening that you don’t know about. In case you’ve ever wondered about them even though you weren’t aware of them, here are five things you should know.

  1. They Were Really Important. In a recent study, more than 73% of people who were there at the time called the things you didn’t know about “groundbreaking,” “vital,” and “like, seriously, wow.” This figure is up 6% from a similar study conducted in 2012 by a duck who could speak, which is pretty impressive.
  2. They Are Probably Going to Happen Again. Statistically speaking, things you don’t know about happen at the rate of 6–9 instances per hour. (O’Rourke, Mitchell and Harris, University of Cantab, 2011.) In the time it takes you to read this article, something you don’t know about is more than 85% likely to happen. If not, it will happen within about 8 minutes after you’re done, probably right after you leave the room.
  3. You Are Better Off Not Knowing. Honestly, it’s just going to complicate matters if you know. I mean, don’t you have enough to worry about? With that thing you’ve got going on with that so-called friend, and the whole work thing?  I think the universe is just cutting you some slack for a change. Some of this crap could seriously nudge you over the edge. Maybe just freshen up that drink and check social media one more time. Someone may have posted a kitten video.
  4. It Will Be Turned Into A Movie At Some Point. Several well-known entertainment magazines and blogs note that the new trend in Hollywood is turning things you don’t know about into feature films. This comes on the heels of the industry finally realizing that you can’t drag every half-loved sitcom out of the mire of the 70s and 80s and turn them into successful films, unless you’re counting the first Brady Bunch movie, which was pretty good. So although you missed the thing you didn’t know about when it actually happened, you will soon be able to revisit it in a highly stylized fashion, possibly as a vehicle for Shia LaBoeuf.
  5. There’s Always Another Thing. Here is the great truth about the things you don’t know about: there are things that you know about that other people don’t, and there’s a strong likelihood that another thing you will know about is going to happen soon! Although an in-depth study from The Whitney Corp. in 2005 places the ratio of things you don’t know about to things you know about at roughly 6,132,500:1, “…that big ol’ number has to come around eventually, right?” (“Proto-Gaussian Imperfections in Strategic Numeric Models of Things People Don’t Know About Most of the Time,” p. 27.)  So get out there, face the day, and get ready for something to happen that you just might know about!


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Let’s Talk About Carol

While it’s true that it’s been a long time since I felt like I had a story in me that I needed to tell, I am still plagued with a bad case of Writer’s Eye. You know it–that weird little mental aberration that makes you pay attention to something small and (to most other people) insignificant and then try to blow it up into something that it’s not. You take a simple item or situation or moment and you yank it through your twisted creative mind and hope that a story or something comes out the other side.

Once you’ve contracted it, by the way, there is no cure. It’s a lifelong sickness.

Which brings us to Carol.

I was leaving a meeting the other day when a note on a whiteboard calendar triggered my sickness. It immediately lodged in my head and started growing. Problem was, I didn’t have my phone with me right then. But I knew I’d be going back and snapping it. I had to. The Writer’s Eye said so. And it wanted me to share it with you, to maybe trigger your own raging affliction. (This, of course, is different than the affliction that tunes me in to glaring typos. Also untreatable.)

Looking at it without applying the filter of Writer’s Eye, this was clearly a joke. Carol is of an age she no longer wishes to admit to having reached, so this will be it. But the wording…

Oh, my writerly friends, the wording leaves us open to so many interpretations, so many directions, so many possibilities. I invite you to explore them and ask yourself: Who wrote this note? Whose calendar is it? What did they mean? What does it mean for Carol?

Because, you see, the 15th of the month is…



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“à Monet”: A Moment of Poetic Relapse Inspired by a Museum Visit

Standing there looking into your

La Seine a Vétheuil,

taking in each streak

and slip, the layers

and the lines,

I want ask,


how could you tell

when all the colors,

every last one among so many,

so small, so perfectly placed

were exactly

where they needed

to be

at last.

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At first I thought it was smoke, a sudden billow of it, startlingly big, up ahead on the other side of the highway. I thought maybe someone’s radiator had blown. But it was brown, a dirty ochre in the late afternoon light, and then I knew that it was dirt. Before I could really process it, though, the minivan came shooting through the scrub trees in the median strip, airborne and sideways, spinning horizontally once, twice, and slamming to the ground. I pulled over. Not sure what I could actually do but knowing I had to do something—or at least try—I dodged the slowing traffic, took advantage of the rubbernecking, to get to the median. Others had stopped as well, a dozen or so of us coming down the slope to the upside van. I got down on my hands and knees and looked inside. It didn’t occur to me until later that what I might have seen could have been terrible. Instead, there was the driver on his hands and knees on the roof of the car which had now become its floor. He was conscious and talking to a man who’d gotten there before me. There wasn’t much blood. It was pretty amazing. As a woman hurried toward the car shouting that she was a nurse and not to move him, I got up and looked over the skyward-facing undercarriage, looking for leaks, sniffing for fluids. The windows had blown out, and there were clothes scattered all along the median. Clothes, and opened cans of Natural Light. One, three, six… Popped open, the tabs snapped off or pushed in. Eight, twelve. Shards of window glass a Bruins shirt, jeans, a can, another can. I headed up the rise and skirted traffic to get back to my car.

It would be great to think he was a dedicated recycler.

I’m guessing that’s not the case.

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Write Like Clotho, Edit (Sort Of) Like Atropos

atroRecent evenings have found me cloistered up in my office doing something unusual—writing in complete sentences. Succumbing to the potent combination of needing to write something with more substance than a “50% Off Entire Store” sign and needing money, I’ve hopped back into the world of freelancing. Truth be told, a former employer reached out to me to ask if I would. The idea of chasing after freelance opportunities wears me out. So there it was, placed in my lap, and I’ve been enjoying it.

Especially the editing part.

If you wander back far enough through the deeply engaging screeds that form the Hash ‘n’ Eggs compendium, I’m sure you’ll find me spitting out my favorite quote about writing. It’s from James Thurber, and it’s “Don’t get it right, get it written.” In short, get the info down, worry about the mechanics later. But oh how I love the mechanics of it all.

The assignment I’m working on was meant to be a 1500-word piece where I interviewed several jewelers who work in alternative materials. There were some questions the editor wanted asked, and of course other questions come up in conversation. Having worked with this magazine before, I know they love their technical details, so I was asking about those, too. I did three interviews, felt like I had to add a fourth.

In retrospect, three should have been enough.  Because suddenly I was sitting on a 3000-word document.  Okay, 3600. People talk, you know?

Semi-sidebar here: If you ever want to understand how non-linearly people speak, record them in conversation, then play it back and type out everything they say. If you’re still sane by the end, congratulations—you can be a journalist.

Even at three interviews I was well over count. Three people talking about themselves and I can only give them 500 words each? Probably not happening. And four? Goodbye, expected word count. So I typed my little hands off, and stuffed all the words into the Q&A format the editor wanted.

Then, with a gleeful laugh, I got down to editing.

I got it written, and now it was time to get it right. Looking back up to the headline of this piece, and how I shall now brilliantly tie mythology to the craft, here’s how I approach the process. My first order of business is to get all the words out. Whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, plays, whatever, get the words out that you think are right. Here, you are like the Fate Clotho, whose job it was to just spin out the fabric of life. (Substitute “stunningly wonderful writerly thoughts” for “life,” ok?) Not her job to decide how much ended up getting used. She just spun the living bajeezus out of it, just as when you’re setting down to write, you empty your own bajeezus tanks onto the page. Say what you think you want/need to say. You’ll correct yourself later.

We can hop over Lachesis, who measured it all out. Lachesis kind of got the short end of the stick in this story, because no matter what she thought was the right amount, she’d get trumped by her a-hole sister, Atropos, who out of the clear freakin’ blue nowhere would jump in and cut the fabric short. Atropos was kind of like a drunk girl with scissors and some issues that she’d just take out on Lachesis’ work.

You need to be Atropos when you’re editing. Sure, you love the words you’ve spun out but they don’t all belong there. You need to go at them mercilessly, asking yourself word by word whether or not they work. If there’s even a moment’s hesitation, kill it. You can always Undo later. Where Atropos was totally arbitrary (because Ouzo does that to a person), you are purposeful. Still vicious on yourself, but purposeful. Your goal is to leave not so much as a stray thread on the fabric of your story. Give your inner Clotho and Lachesis the finger, and trim that sucker down until it’s perfect.

Me? I Atropos’d about 600 words out of the piece in one sitting. I had given myself some distance from the article, then came back at it to see what these people said that just didn’t advance the narrative. Sure, it’s still over count, but when I submit it to the editor, I can honestly say that what I’m handing over is as trim as it’s going to get.

Then I’ll go back to resharpen my scissors for next time.

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